In McGwire's third year as a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his vote total and percentage both dropped, indicating that it will be very difficult for the former Cardinals and A's slugger to gain entrance to the Hall. McGwire received 118 votes in results announced Monday, good for 21.9 percent -- a drop from 128 votes in each of his first two years on the ballot. A player must receive 75 percent approval from the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in order to gain enshrinement.
Another ex-Cardinal, however, inched a hair closer to baseball's hallowed ground when the 2009 voting results were announced -- though Lee Smith still is gaining no real traction. Smith, formerly the game's all-time saves leader, gained five votes from 2008 to 2009. Smith received 240 votes, good for a 44.5 percent share.
Neither man's numbers, of course, have changed one bit since their respective retirements. McGwire's 583 homers, 1,414 RBIs and .394 career on-base percentage are, on their own, Hall-worthy. But he has been alleged to have used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and his showing in front of a Congressional committee in 2005 did him no favors.
What is clear is that as time passes, those negatives have not faded in many voters' minds.
McGwire has mostly remained quiet since his retirement, but his former manager stuck up for him recently. Tony La Russa pleaded McGwire's case at baseball's annual Winter Meetings in December.
"This steroid issue, that's a matter of integrity," La Russa said. "That's one way to describe it, right? Well, it occurred to me, I know that I've never spoken much about it at all, but this guy did something that screams integrity. ... He had a contract in his hand for $15 million over two years, and he walked away from it because he didn't feel like he could play to that level. That, to me, there's a certain integrity for the sport, for self-respect and everything."
Smith, though he gained in raw votes, didn't really gain significantly either. His vote total is his highest since he's been on the ballot, but he still fell short of his highest percentage, which was an even 45 percent in 2006. Smith's share is barely higher than in his first year on the ballot, 2003, when he was named on 42.3 percent of ballots.
"You always wonder if you don't make it in the first five or six years," Smith told MLB.com recently. "Hopefully, people remember you, and you don't fall out of favor."
Another former Cardinal, Ron Gant, was one of three players on the ballot not to receive a vote. Dan Plesac and Greg Vaughn were also shut out. Players receiving under five percent of the vote are not eligible to appear on the BBWAA's ballot again.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.