Even worse than the slim chances, illustrated below, of being inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame on the first ballot, Mark McGwire must cope with the indignity of being compared to Dave Kingman. From the New York Times’ Jack Curry.

In a poll of 50 writers who are eligible to vote for the Hall as 10-year members of the Baseball Writers™ Association of America, only eight said they would vote for McGwire, a former first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics. Twenty-six said they would not vote for McGwire and the other 16 were undecided. A player needs 75 percent of the votes for induction.

Although the poll was limited to a fraction of the writers who will vote, it could be an ominous sign for McGwire. If this sample is remotely emblematic of how the remaining voters feel, McGwire™s chances of being elected could be flimsy.

“This might sound overly simplistic, but if McGwire did not feel the need to defend his career while appearing before Congress, why should I certify his career with a Hall vote? Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News said.

Steve Buckley of The Boston Herald said the refusal to talk about steroids would cause him not to vote for McGwire. œWhenever someone asks me to expand on my answer, I simply say, ˜I™m not here to talk about the past,™  he said.

Jeff Blair of The Toronto Globe and Mail, who said he would vote for McGwire, said: œPlease spare me the drivel about McGwire™s performance before Congress. Seems to me that stonewalling congressmen is an accepted fact of life on Capitol Hill.

A handful of voters said they would simply judge McGwire on what he did on the field, not what he might have done off it.

œThe steroids won™t enter into it, said Ray Ratto of The San Francisco Chronicle. œThe Hall of Fame isn™t a church. It™s the history of baseball, good and bad.

Other voters also questioned whether McGwire, regardless of steroids, belonged in the Hall. Joe Posnanski of The Kansas City Star was one of many voters who compared McGwire with Dave Kingman, the one-dimensional, swing-for-the-fences hitter who finished with 442 homers.

Posnanski detailed the remarkable similarity between McGwire™s and Kingman™s statistics before they turned 32. McGwire had 277 homers and a .252 average in fewer than 4,000 at-bats; Kingman had 270 and a .243 average in fewer than 4,000 at-bats. But McGwire had 306 homers in his next 2,528 at-bats.

œHe was closer to Kingman than Cooperstown, before his incredible power surge, said Posnanski, who said he was leaning toward not voting for McGwire.