Despite exceeding a time-honored Hall threshold (500 homers) with his 583 home runs, McGwire is very much on the bubble because of the steroid era in which he both thrived and was tainted.
Though McGwire never admitted to or was caught using illegal performance enhancers, he was famously accused of doing so by fellow first-time Hall nominee Jose Canseco.
McGwire has never denied the accusation. His not doing so, most notably before a congressional committee examining illegal steroid use in baseball, could cost him when the results of the BBWAA vote are announced Jan. 9.
Veteran Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley perhaps illustrated some of the simmering condemnation when he told The Inquirer why he won't write McGwire's name on the ballot, now or ever.
"I thought his performance before Congress was a disgrace," Buckley said. "Whenever anyone asks me about his home run numbers, I simply say I am not here to talk about the past."
But, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com will reluctantly vote for McGwire in part, he said, "because baseball allowed all this to happen.
"We know he gave some horrible answers to some members of Congress. But in truth, we hardly know anything about what anyone in the sport may or may not have done.
"So to me, just as baseball allowed [spitball pitcher] Gaylord Perry to go out and win his 300 games - which got him to the Hall of Fame - it allowed McGwire and all of these players to compile their stats and break their records and earn their money and accolades based on those feats. So I think I'm stuck with evaluating what the sport allowed to happen on the field. Either the '90s happened or they didn't."
The approximately 575 writers aren't expected to struggle as much, if at all, on the Hall merits of Gwynn or Ripken.
Gwynn, the eight-time National League batting champion, and Ripken, the man who surpassed Lou Gehrig's legendary Iron Man streak by playing in 2,632 consecutive games, should easily gain the required 75 percent of the vote needed for induction. But will Ripken or Gwynn be named on every ballot?
No player has yet gained 100 percent of the vote. Not Babe Ruth. Not Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb or Ted Williams.
Canseco, Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and the late Ken Caminiti - an admitted steroid user - join Ripken, Gwynn and McGwire as members of the class of 17 first-time candidates.
Jim Rice and Rich "Goose" Gossage return to the ballot as the top candidates not elected a year ago.
Rice, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, fell 53 votes shy in his most recent attempt at election. Gossage, one of a host of stoppers hoping to follow Bruce Sutter into Cooperstown, fell 54 votes shy on the last ballot.
This is the 15th and final time on the ballot for Garvey, who was on 26 percent of the ballots cast last year. This is the 14th year for Dave Concepcion (13 percent last year) and the 13th year for Rice (65 percent) and Tommy John (30).
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Contact staff writer Claire Smith at 215-854-4577 or email@example.com.
Here are the baseball players on this year's
Hall of Fame ballot:
Rich "Goose" Gossage
*Cal Ripken Jr.
(*first year of eligibility)
Close to a Consensus
Here are the top 10 vote-getters in terms of percentage, in balloting for baseball's Hall of Fame:
Name Votes Ballots Cast Percentage
Tom Seaver 425 430 98.84
Nolan Ryan 491 497 98.79
Ty Cobb 222 226 98.23
George Brett 488 497 98.19
Hank Aaron 406 415 97.83
Mike Schmidt 444 460 96.52
Johnny Bench 431 447 96.42
Steve Carlton 436 455 95.82
Babe Ruth 215 226 95.13
Honus Wagner 215 226 95.13
- Source: http://www.baseball-almanac.com