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Is Big Mac Hall-automatic?

MAILBAG: Nov. 18

Q: Do you honestly believe that Mark McGwire deserves to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? He is, without a doubt, a prolific player -- but he is short of 600 home runs, his career batting average is less than .265 and his season home-run record has already been broken. Also consider that by the time he is eligible for induction his numbers will be surpassed (and perhaps even dwarfed) by the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez (among others). -- Bill, Cambridge, Mass.
Mark McGwire
Opposing catchers have watched Mark McGwire go yard 583 times.
-- I'm not a batting-average person, but while I point to his OPS numbers, I add that when one considers what he did for baseball in 1998, his total numbers and home runs, he'll make it. But is he Gehrig? No, of course not.

Q: I'm a 19-year-old St. Louis Cardinals fan with a friend who is a Baltimore Orioles fan. We have begun a huge debate. So I'm writing this to see what your side of the story is. Who was more responsible for bringing fans back from the dead after the strike? Cal Ripken Jr., for breaking the streak? Or Big Mac for breaking the home-run record? -- Nick Beckmann, St. Charles, Mo.
-- No one is solely responsible, as the audience wasn't back in '95. It was a lot of factors, including Ripken, McGwire/Sosa and the outstanding run of Joe Torre's Yankees.

Q: I feel the Cardinals should stay away from Jason Giambi and go for a much more complete player (such as Moises Alou). By acquiring Alou , the Cards could keep Albert Pujols at first base (his best defensive position) and feature a complete outfield with a tremendous lefty/righty batting order with speed, average and power. What are your thoughts? -- Brian Scott, West Palm Beach, Fla.
-- You have a good point, although there is a big age difference between Giambi and Alou. My feeling is that if Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is willing to pay -- and there are no other alternatives on the immediate horizon -- Giambi is his for the signing. If Manny Ramirez can get $160 million for eight years, Giambi can get $17 to $19 million times seven.

Q: Why doesn't MLB look at the NFL and its salary-cap structure? Look at how the NFL has made parity happen in recent years. I am baffled on why Bud Selig continues to let the major markets dominate and not let the smaller markets even try to compete -- Steven Waldvogel , Flagstaff, Ariz.
-- The players association believes only in free market, except for arbitration or other ways it benefits them.

Q: Is Bud Selig the worst commissioner in the history of baseball? First, he kills off the World Series one year, and then just a couple of days after the greatest World Series since 1991 he announces plans to kill off two franchises. Your thoughts? -- Sheila Kremer, Eagan, Minn.
-- Much of his problem is that he presents himself as if the sky is falling. He will be under considerable fire this winter, and I don't know if he will survive.

Q: I'm afraid that whatever happens with the Florida Marlins and a potential contraction will impact the Portland (Maine) SeaDogs. What measures can be taken to assure that quality, well-run minor-league affiliates that have strong fan support and economically benefit small-town America are not left out in the cold? -- Mark, Columbus, Ohio (former Maine resident)
-- My guess is that there are several teams that would die to be in Portland. Worry not.

Q: I've been hearing news of some possible trades involving Scott Rolen. The two that I've been hearing most: Rolen for Ken Griffey Jr. or Rolen to the Yankees for a few pitchers. Have you heard anything about this? As a Phillies fan, I would love to see Griffey come to the Vet so I can go watch him play! -- David Budinas, Schnecksville, Pa .
-- I don't think the Phillies will dare move Rolen now, and the Yanks aren't emptying their system for Rolen, when Henson five years from now could be better, got $18 million and can't be traded.

Q: I believe Tino Martinez's good numbers for 2001 (HRs, RBI, average) are undercut by his rather ordinary OPS and that any team that gives him a big-bucks, long-term contract will get burned. I believe he has entered the downward trajectory of his career. What do you think? -- C. Hughes, Westport, Conn.
-- Tino is a very good player and a great person, but his numbers are average for his position.

Q: Whether or not Jason Giambi wants to be in Oakland, I think that the strength of the A's is their pitching. As such, what is the likelihood of the A's using the money they would have spent on Giambi and signing Moises Alou to replace some of the offense that Giambi would have provided and Roger Cedeno to replace a likely overpriced Johnny Damon? -- Sidney Logan, San Ramon, Calif.
-- I don't think the current A's ownership will do anything with the money but stuff it into their accounts. Bad ownership, and the window is already closing despite the best Big Three in baseball.

Q: Now that the Dodgers have cut ties with Jeff Shaw, do you see them going after Jason Isringhausen? If not, what options are they looking at to fill the closer's role? -- Gordon Madding, Boston
-- Possibly Isringhausen, or Antonio Alfonseca, Armando Benitez ... lots of other closers.

Q: Once again, the Pirates had a disappointing season, their free agents were a bust and (with the exception of Brian Giles) their cornerstone players have been a huge disappointment. What direction is the team headed with free agency? And what does the future hold for manager Lloyd McClendon, Jason Kendall and Giles? -- Tom Hudzema, Mount Pleasant, Pa.
-- Everything is on hold until the contraction and dispersal-draft decision. Give the Bucs Vladimir Guerrero and another player and see what they do or what they bring.

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Dan Patrick: Outtakes with Mark McGwire (uncut)

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 So long
Mark McGwire retires: The exclusive interview with ESPN's Rich Eisen.
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