>If you haven’t heard by now, Mark McGwire former slugger for the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals admitted on Monday to using steroids during his playing career. I tried to catch the interview with Bob Costas on MLB.com as it was happening, but, as usual, life got in the way, and I didn’t get to catch all of it. However, it is still available on their website here.

In listening to all the sports chatter that I could throughout Tuesday and reading through some of the reactions that are out there, a lot of thoughts have popped into my mind. I tried very hard not to write anything about this on Monday night, though I certainly wanted to. I opened up my blog three or four times before I finally started working out my thoughts, and even now I’m still a little cluttered in my mind.
The Statement
You can read the entire statement for yourself here, so this is just a few of the highlights. The major reason Mac used these substances is for health purposes. During the mid-90s, 7 stints on the DL caused him to miss 228 games, Mac used steroids to help him recover from injuries and to help him feel normal once again. He expressed gratitude for the drug testing program in today’s game, saying that he was glad they have cracked down on illegal substances.
The Interview
The interview with Costas was very good. I feel like Mac represented himself well. He showed true remorse for these actions. He was showing a lot of emotion, even coming close to breaking down more than once. The interview covered his use of illegal substances, his appearance before Congress, calling the Maris family, talking with LaRussa and his father about his use, and the Hall of Fame.
The Fallout
Let’s be honest here. Nobody is really surprised by this admission. McGwire has long been suspected of steroid use, and now it has simply been confirmed. In watching the interview, reading the statement and listening to/reading commentators, the response had been wide and varied. Here are some of my initial thoughts to what I have heard/read today:
  1. It is understandable why Mac used. I’m not condoning steroid use in any sense. It is wrong, simply put. Mike Golic made a great point on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio. The steroids help with a quicker recovery. For a guy who missed so many games and felt like he was constantly letting down his teammates, it is understandable why he would have taken steroids.
  2. Arrogance and confidence frequently get confused, and often it is due to the perspective of the person making the distinction. Mac was very adamant that he took low dosages and most of his home runs can be attributed to his bat speed, hand-eye coordination and natural ability. Many have called him arrogant and have said that he was just lying to himself. But isn’t he just confident in his ability to hit the ball? Wouldn’t you expect a professional slugger to be confident in his ability to hit the ball a long way? Could the steroids have helped him hit the ball a little further? Yeah, sure, they could have. But how many of Mac’s home runs just barely cleared the fence? So, he hit the ball 450 feet instead of 415. Either way, it’s still a home run.
  3. I’m tired of sports writers making themselves out to be the moral gatekeepers of baseball. There are a lot of reactions from BBWAA ballot writers (here and here and here) on whether or not they would vote for McGwire. Many are saying that they did not because it was uncertain, and now they will not because of his admission (in spite of the fact that several writers were calling for him to come forth with the truth, and then they would make their judgments on him). What this does is set a major precedence for future players. If any player has been accused, or admitted, PED use, then he should not be elected into the Hall of Fame. Who would this list include? Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez. None of these players should be allowed into the Hall of Fame if McGwire is not.
  4. Timing. One of the major questions that Greeny asked this morning was, “Why now?” McGwire hasn’t been legally culpable for these acts since 2006. The statute of limitations is up, and he has not been in danger of criminal prosecution for several years. Why didn’t he come out with this several years ago. I think the real answer to this is that it wasn’t like he was waiting for the legal ramifications to be up before coming forward. Watching the interview, it is clear that he kept this to himself. He didn’t even tell his parents, children or Tony LaRussa (who he refers to as a “second dad”) until the day of/before releasing the statement. It was because of the shame that he never came forward before now. But with Spring Training a month away and his new job as the hitting coach for the Cardinals, it is important for him to get this stuff out of the way so it doesn’t cause a distraction for the team. He was never in this position before.
  5. Dumbest Statement on the Issue: “Without McGwire paving the way with home run seasons of 52, 58, 70, 65 from 1996 to 1999 (after consecutive nine-homer seasons in 1993 and ’94), perhaps Henry Aaron is still the home run champion” – Howard Bryant. Why is this statement so stupid? It is a misrepresentation. Bryant makes it sound like he was a puny guy who could only manage 9 home runs in each of those seasons, and then blew up to hit 50+. Why did McGwire only hit 9 HR’s those seasons? Because in ’93 he played in 27 games, and in ’94 he played 47 games. I seriously doubt that he would have hit more HR’s than games played in those seasons. This is a guy who hit 49 HR’s in his first season in the league. There is no doubt that he had power. Nobody was surprised that he was a power hitter.
  6. Cheating in Baseball: There is cheating in baseball. Period. Sometimes, players get caught, sometimes they don’t. Why are people so focused on PED use, and not other forms of cheating? Many player have used banned amphetamines and have even admitted it (such as Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt). There’s no uproar about getting Schmidt out of the Hall. A spitball is an illegal pitch in baseball, but Gaylord Perry is in the Hall, in spite of his admission to using the pitch throughout his career. Stealing signs has been a part of the game as long as there have been signs, and yet, base stealers do it all the time. It’s not illegal, but it certainly is frowned upon in the game. Do you want to kick out Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson for potentially stealing signs (I’m not saying that they have, I’m just making the point)? Is your argument that they are illegal and therefore, the players shouldn’t be allowed in the Hall? Okay, well, I guess we should take away the eligibility of players who have been busted with DUI’s, or marijuana and cocaine use.
Okay, I know that this has been a lot. There’s a lot going on here. So, have I changed my position on McGwire? Do I think his admission of guilt should keep him out of the Hall? No, I haven’t changed my opinion, and no, I don’t think he should be kept out of the Hall. It’s not like McGwire was the only person in baseball history to have used banned substances. It’s not like he was the only person during the ’90s to have used. The bottom line is, as unfortunate as the term is, the ’90s will always be known as the Steroid Era. Several players, good and bad, used illegal substances during this time, and it wasn’t until baseball really cracked down on it that the game became much cleaner. In baseball, don’t we elect the best players of their era to be in the Hall of Fame? Don’t we try to get the top players of their day a plague in Cooperstown? McGwire was no doubt one of the most feared and talented players of his time. He was head and shoulders above many players that played around the same time. Yes, in spite of his transgressions, McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame.
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