No, being steroid-free is not keeping Fred McGriff out of the Hall of Fame

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Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times has a column today in which he argues that Fred McGriff is being penalized in the Hall of Fame voting because he didn’t take steroids and thus didn’t have big gonzo cartoon power numbers. 

At the outset, let me note that I think Fred McGriff should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While he didn’t hit 40 homers or go crazy like so many other players, it’s important to note that his career straddled two eras: the pre-1993 era in which offense was relatively scarce and the post-1993 era where lots of things — including but certainly not limited to steroids — caused offense to explode.  His numbers in the pre-1993 era were beastlike for the time.

And it’s the “for the time” part of that which is really keeping McGriff out, not his failure to take steroids (if in fact he didn’t, which we can’t really know).  If anything, writers in this day and age are more likely to give him a Hall of Fame bump than to dock him for his perceived cleanliness.

What’s really keeping him out is that those same writers are largely ignorant of the differences between the pre-1993 and post-1993 offensive context. They say “well, he never hit 40” even though 40 in 1989 is the equivalent of something near 50 in 1999 and discount him unfairly. The “he’s getting hurt because he was clean” line is a cover for the writers’ ignorance.  He wasn’t prevented from achieving Hall of Fame numbers by evil PED users. He had Hall of Fame numbers, but you guys just aren’t smart enough to recognize it yet.

McGriff is no slam dunk, and sure, there’s a chance I’m giving him too much benefit of the doubt because he was an important part of my favorite team, but I think he’s deserving and I think he’ll eventually make it.  The steroid stuff is just smoke.

Watch: Shohei Ohtani strikes out his first spring training batter

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Sure, spring training games don’t count toward anything “real,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Angels’ star pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani mowing down his first big league competitors.

On Saturday, Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers for his first official outing in an Angels uniform. After allowing a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, the 23-year-old righty settled down and issued a three-pitch strikeout to Nate Orf, his first of the spring.

It wasn’t the cleanest inning for the right-hander: the Brewers plated their first run on a walk, wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. Ohtani didn’t let things unravel further, however, and induced a pop-up for the second out before catching Brett Phillips looking on a called strike three to end the inning.

While the two-way phenom only lasted another two batters (a Keon Broxton dinger finished him off in the second), he’s already started to look like a formidable presence on the mound. Time will tell whether he can deliver at the plate as well — rumor has it he could feature in the Angels’ lineup as soon as Monday.