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BenFred: More bad news for Bonds and Clemens is even worse for Cardinals Hall of Famer McGwire

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St. Louis Cardinals 2022 opening day

Former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire waves to fans as he circles the stadium during opening day ceremonies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Thursday, April 7, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

SAN DIEGO — A Hall of Fame cycle that seems poised to bring good news for one former Cardinal and Cooperstown hopeful in Scott Rolen has presented some bad news for another, if you read between the glaring lines.

Cardinals Hall of Famer Mark McGwire was not in the eight-candidate pool considered by the inaugural Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee before Sunday night's announcement of Fred McGriff as a unanimous selection, but the performance-enhancing message sent by that group was heard loud and clear.

McGriff, a five-time All-Star and six-time top-10 MVP finisher whose Cooperstown case gained popularity among those who wanted to see him rewarded for playing clean in a steroid-tainted era, was selected by 16 of 16 committee members. This comes after the 59-year-old never received more than 39.8% of the vote during his time on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Meanwhile two PED-tainted titans of the game failed to score even four votes from the committee.

Don Mattingly, Curt Schilling, who is controversial for other reasons, and Dale Murphy all received more votes from the committee than the controversial Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

This committee was harsher on PED types than baseball writers, who have trended toward becoming more forgiving year by year, vote by vote.

All-time home run leader Bonds got as high as 66% before he fell off the BBWAA ballot. Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Clemens got as high as 65.2% on the BBWAA ballot. McGwire never got higher than 23.7% during his 10 years on the writers’ ballot, and he had dropped to 12.3% by the end of his time there, declining even after his admission of steroid use.

When McGwire appeared on the 2017 Today’s Game Era Committee ballot, he received fewer than five votes. His case has not been examined by a committee since, and his omission from this year's group of candidates was another bad sign for those pulling for Big Mac.

McGwire, unlike some other users, came clean about not playing clean. The 12-time All-Star, World Series winner (1989), rookie of the year winner and three-time Silver Slugger still ranks 11th in all-time home runs (583). He has been welcomed back to baseball in various roles. He is a Cardinals Hall of Famer, and always will be beloved by most Cards fans.

McGwire said himself back in 2012 that he has to deal with never making into into the Hall of Fame, but there have been moments in recent years that made it fair to wonder if the tide could be shifting. It's no longer up to the writers to decide. With the message delivered to Bonds and Clemens this week, it's clear that if it ever happens — and there is a very good chance it never does — it's going to take a long, long time.

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