Oakland A’s: The overrated Mark McGwire

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Former first baseman Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics stands on the field during the team"u2019s Hall of Fame ceremony before the game against the Texas Rangers at the RingCentral Coliseum on September 21, 2019 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 12-3. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Former first baseman Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics stands on the field during the team"u2019s Hall of Fame ceremony before the game against the Texas Rangers at the RingCentral Coliseum on September 21, 2019 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 12-3. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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Mark McGwire is set to return to the spotlight due to an upcoming documentary. It is another reminder as to how overrated McGwire had been during his playing career.

Back in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the world with their home run chase. Both sluggers took aim at the single season home run record, then held by Roger Maris. They would eventually surpass the record, with McGwire ending the season with 70 homers; Sosa with 66.

At the time, both sluggers were credited with helping Major League Baseball bring the fans back in. The disastrous strike in 1994 killed interest in the game, and fans were loath to return. However, McGwire and Sosa chasing history became must watch television, as they captured a nation’s attention.

Both are back in the forefront once again. ESPN will be beginning their documentary on the home run chase, and the subsequent fall from grace suffered by McGwire and Sosa due to their actions. Their stories will be told once more, with both sluggers having a chance at redemption. Likewise, their careers will come back into focus.

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Over his playing career, Mark McGwire did two things tremendously well – he could hit home runs and he could get on base. His 583 homers still rank 11th in major league history, and he is 43rd all time with 1317 walks. He was a tremendous slugger, but in reality, that is all that McGwire was.

It is fair to look at McGwire and see a one dimensional player. Yes, he did hit 583 homers, but he ended his career with only 1626 hits, with those homers accounting for 35.85% of his career hit total. McGwire also drove himself in for 49.9% of his career runs, and 41.23% of his career RBI.

McGwire did not exactly shine defensively either. He should have been a designated hitter, but was forced to first base in a quest to keep his bat in the lineup, first for the A’s and then with the Cardinals. Defensively, he cost his teams 25 runs at first, his 1998 campaign where he cost the Cardinals 16 runs at first particularly awful.

That is not to say that McGwire was a terrible player. He was a feared slugger in his prime, the type of player that could change the game with one swing of his bat. But that was really all he was, a player that hit home runs and contributed little else on the diamond.

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Major League Baseball fans should have a soft spot for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, especially considering how they helped bring the game back. But that does not change what McGwire was – an incredible slugger who contributed little else.

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