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Home » Baseball

I'm Here To Talk About The Present

Submitted by on January 12, 2010 – 10:33 AM43 Comments

mark-mcgwire-congressThis is not what I wanted to hear.

I don't mean Mark McGwire's admission that he used PEDs itself.I did in fact want to hear that, no matter how belated, because the discussion needs to move on from side-by-side pictures of Barry Bonds's head in 1990 and 2000 — move on, specifically, to how we can put the statistics of the steroid era properly into context.The denial and the denials have gone on long enough.It happened.Players took performance-enhancing drugs.I don't like it any better than the next fan, but it's time to stop clutching our pearls and start running realistic numbers that will help us understand the performances we saw, enhanced or not.

The confession itself, then, the fact that it was made at last, I welcome, because air-quoting the word "allegedly" and shoehorning it into every conversation about McGwire had become absurd.

But I did not want to hear excuses about McGwire's injuries.I did not want to hear a recitative of the many McGwire home runs dating back to Legion ball, of which people still speak in awed tones.I did not want to hear about his maturation as an educated hitter.I did not want to hear an unprovable assertion that McGwire wanted to come clean five years ago, but let his attorneys talk him out of it.

"I took steroids.I had my reasons for doing so, but these reasons are not excuses, and in retrospect, they do not seem worthwhile.If I had it to do again, I'd make different choices.I apologize to [insert laundry list here], and I take full responsibility for my actions, including the decision not to tell the truth until now."

That is what I wanted to hear.

Watching Hot Stove last night, watching McGwire face Costas, I felt for the guy, because make no mistake — he's getting punished.He had to call his dad and tell him that he'd cheated and then lied about it.He had to call his kid and tell him that; he had to call the Maris family and tell them that; he had to sit, some more, with knowing that it was true. I get the impression that the prospect of this gauntlet is a large part of why McGwire dissembled for so long, that he would have to relinquish the rights to his family's pride; it's an appropriate consequence, but a grown man gritting his teeth and telling his father that he fucked up big-time is a painful spectacle.I have compassion for McGwire.

But I feel equal or greater amounts of impatience.I don't mind the idea of McGwire in the Hall of Fame, if his statistics support it, because whatever I think about it now, that home-run race in '98…have you ever seen footage of Secretariat in the '73 Belmont?You don't get quite the full effect on YouTube, but as Secretariat starts to open up that legendary lead on Sham, and as the camera struggles to keep any other horse even in the frame with Secretariat, and as the announcer is counting off the lead, stunned, "Twelve lengths — thirteen, fourteen lengths," you feel overcome by the achievement.It's just a thrill to see, to witness it, and that's how I remember that home-run race, hearing #62 on the car radio as I drove down the Major Deegan and honking and laughing out loud, and everyone else on the road honking too, happy for ourselves that we got to see it happen in our lifetime.You could argue that that memory is besmirched now; it has a shadow across it for me too, but I had wandered away from baseball somewhat in college, and then the strike happened, and that summer, the McGwire-Sosa chase, reminded me — and a lot of other people — why it is that we care about the sport at all.Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby, same feeling.Sometimes it's just fun, and sometimes it's downright dull, but now and then, it's a privilege.

mark_mcgwire_jose_canseco.211221132_stdI'd also note that steroids 1) were not banned when McGwire took them, if anyone still cares to split that hair, and 2) will not — cannot — make a Mark McGwire out of a Mark Belanger.The guy could already hit, and I think his contention that he learned plate discipline and mechanics over the course of his career is not incorrect, strictly speaking.

But it's not for McGwire himself, right now, to point those things out, and that he doesn't appear to understand that is annoying.It's not for him to sit there and tell Bob Costas, who was not born yesterday, that he thinks he derived no statistical advantage from his use of PEDs.It's not for him to insult Ken Griffey Jr. by overusing the unclever term "MASH unit" to whine about his injuries.Griffey got hurt a lot too, and if I recall rightly, 15-20 years ago, we talked about him as the best hope to break Maris's record.Hard to pull off when you only play 120 games a year because you broke your leg again and you stuck to Tylenol.Athletes get hurt; don't act like that forgives anything.Don't tell me a grown-up can't instruct his attorneys, who work for him, that he's giving a statement and hoping for the best instead of Fifth-Amendmenting the problem to the satisfaction of no one.And don't tell me about your goddamn Little League home runs.You want to leave things "in the past," start with shit you did at age 8, because the other thing 8-year-olds do is a lot of "but he started it" this and "it was like that when I found it" that.

Like Steve Carlton once said, "Never complain, never explain," and McGwire should have taken a page from the book of a guy who rehabbed by running in a vat of rice.I understand McGwire's position — he's embarrassed and sad, but also a little resentful that he stands to lose his entire legacy, which is also unfair in its way. But he should have confessed, apologized, left his chin open to shots for two weeks, and then said something like, "I regret, among other things, that my use of these substances makes it unclear what my numbers mean.I look forward to working with sabermetricians to find out how we put the numbers in perspective."Yeah, he'll get some blame he doesn't deserve, but he took credit he didn't deserve for some time — and the only way to make that right is to act like an adult and stop lying and spinning.A lot of people take as much issue with McGwire's refusal to tell the truth as they do with the drug use itself, and it adds up to his having no faith in us: either that we wouldn't know he was dissembling for years on end, or that we wouldn't be able put that in perspective with his successes once we found out the truth.Rogers Hornsby was a disgusting pig, but it's still awesome that he hit .424.

"I just wish I was never in that era," as though the era is at fault.I mean, shades of "that woman," no?Not what I wanted to hear; not what's going to help.The discussion is doors-deep in the same mudhole as two days ago, and the only new information we have is that McGwire really really needs to start using sunscreen on his neck.(What is that Candice Bergen nonsense?Did anyone else notice that?)

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43 Comments »

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …Why didn't I title this "Hey, Cut The Rebop"? I should have.

  • The Hoobie says:

    Aaaargh! I still cannot BELIEVE he said "I wish there had been drug testing." Oh, REALLY?! Well, unless Bud Selig Him-Fucking-Self put that needle in your arm or your ass or wherever, shut UUUUP! Don't piss away any shred of respect I might have retained for you through this by failing the first rule of being a grown-up AND the first rule of redeeming yourself: OWN. YOUR. SHIT.

    "I wish there had been drug testing." I just cannot believe a grown-ass man said that. That's like a drunk driver blaming his accident on the fact that there wasn't a cop at that particular corner. What the HELL?!

    Aaargh. I lived in St. Louis during 1998, and the home run derby was absolutely thrilling. What do I do with my "McGwire" Cards jersey now? I kept it, and kept wearing it (with an asterisk made of electrical tape next to his name, har), but now, I don't know… How strange that I should still have retained some respect for him even though it was pretty clear he'd used steroids and not 'fessed up about it, but when he says some Grade A Nellie-Ass Pansy Shit like this I just can't handle it any more.

    Sorry for the yelly all-caps. I am distressed.

  • MattB says:

    I'm sorry but I've never been a fan of the "it wasn't illegal when I was doing it" line. That proceeds from the assumption that use performance-enhancing drugs to give you a competitive advantage over everyone else is not inherently wrong.

    The unsportsmanlike nature of it derives from it being used to artificially boost someone's ability – not from it being against the rules.

    Even assuming the steroids didn't give McGwire a power boost – even buying his reasoning that they were to help him recover from injuries – that is a stats boost. After all, without the steroids, he wouldn't be able to play.

    And the old saw about "it was an open secret and everyone in the gym and locker room would talk about steroids and do steroids" doesn't cut the mustard either. It just means that the entire sport had no sense of fair play.

    Steroids are, at least from my standpoint, the functional equivalent of a corked bat. You still need to know when to swing the bat, but thanks to the hidden tech (just like steroids), you're getting a power boost.

    Big Mac was corking his bat – with a needle instead of a drill.

  • Randy's Girl says:

    All he needed was five words:

    "I was wrong. I'm sorry."

    The rest was pity party crap…

  • Hannah says:

    I was also bothered by hearing his excuses–so, SO damn quickly after the admission, like, I could barely get out, "Oh, well, at least good for hi–no, dammit, don't talk about the home runs you hit in high school, jackass." But I'm glad that you, as well as the other commentators I've heard in the last 24 hours, jumped all over that, too. I'm regaining my faith in the ability of sports media to hold people accountable for their murkier offenses.

    Now if people would just crawl the hell out of Brett Favre's backside, ignore their shadow, and declare and end to his deification, I might could stop screaming at the TV…

  • SorchaRei says:

    Thank you for the link to the '73 Belmont — that brought back some wonderful memories!

    As to the topic at hand, I'm with you. Stand up and say you did what you did, and that you take full responsibility for it. Let others sort out your legacy. If you had to call up your son and tell him you did this and then lied about it, give him the gift of showing him how a grown-up stands tall after that kind of mistake.

  • Josh says:

    I don't buy the "it wasn't banned when I did it" excuse either, because these guys were illegally taking these things. I mean, come on. If you're breaking the law, claiming it wasn't against baseball's rules doesn't fly.

    I also have real trouble with the claim that the numbers are still good because steroids didn't account for his work ethic, blah blah blah dedicationcakes. Because even the reason he 'fessed up to was to get him back on the field. How many more games does the brittle McGuire miss if not for the 'roids? Does he play enough to make 70 in 1998?

    I get that a lot of guys were juicing in the 90's, but a lot of guys weren't. And the self-serving justifications for illegal behavior are a pretty good slap in the face to the guys who were clean.

    Waiting on Sosa to 'fess up now too, I guess.

    These guys all make me tired. They only want forgiveness and acceptance on their terms and that's just not the way it works. I'm reminded of Pete Rose, who wants in the HoF so badly, and thinks that now he's admitted he bet on baseball he should be forgiven and let in. except he doesn't get that he lied to anyone and everyone for decades about it. And still whines that it shouldn't matter since he always played to win.

    McGuire is the same way. All he wanted to was to get back on the field. And it doesn't matter anyways, since 'roids didn't teach him how to hit. He still doesn't get it.

  • jive turkey says:

    "I [insert wrongdoing here]. I had my reasons for doing so, but these reasons are not excuses, and in retrospect, they do not seem worthwhile. If I had it to do again, I'd make different choices. I apologize to [insert laundry list here], and I take full responsibility for my actions, including the decision not to tell the truth until now."

    I think we all need a laminated copy of this in our wallets.

    And, MAN, I love that Secretariat footage. Amazing.

  • burntdude says:

    and we care about this why? so, some dude who swings a bat for a living, and made millions doing it, has come clean (although barely and under duress) about doing steroids. there are no ramifications other than public embarassment…i'm sure he's crying himself to sleep every night (note heavy sarcasm). if you think mark mcgwire gives a shit about what you think of him, i'm betting you're very wrong. he's only interested in his legacy and protecting his own interests with sponsors, etc.

    and what about all the ball players that stay quiet? no one will ever know…and it wouldn't change anything if we did. therefore, he should keep his stats. there's no way to prove when/where he did steroids, so how do you discount the stats exactly? there's no good answer…

    to note, mark mcgwire has not split the atom, cured cancer or done anything else notable in human history. even before this, he wasn't particularly worthy of idolization, imho.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    to note, mark mcgwire has not split the atom, cured cancer or done anything else notable in human history.

    Neither have you. Probably too busy reminding us that Mark McGwire is both unimportant AND too important to read this column, but now that that's out of the way, I'll expect to see some results.

    Seriously: this isn't on a par with the moon landing, but to those of us who care about baseball, it's a discussion worth having. If you feel it's beneath you, why not leave it there.

  • Pam says:

    It's cheating. Own up to it, plain and simple.

  • Jaybird says:

    Whether the setting is politics or family or sports or science or whatever, the whole "apologize-only-after-you're-caught-and-QUICKLY-snap-to-excusing-yourself" syndrome totally undercuts the value of the admission itself. That's not coming clean; it's copping a plea.

    Don't aim for being SUCH a big man that you can admit your wrongs, but only with about ten miles of fine print, and ONLY after you're busted, so that you can then duck your head and go all faux-penitent on us. You get NO cookies for that, y'all, unless they're frosted with ass-whoop.

    If he'd really been sorry, or really cared that it was wrong, he'd have apologized on his own initiative, without caveats, a whole lot earlier. The. End.

  • RJ says:

    I want to say so many things about this, but I can't even pick a direction.

    I'm not a McGwire fan (I'm a Yankee fan), but while he was playing, what few thoughts I had of him were positive.

    Part of me says yes, he was cheating to take enhancers (although at the time, they weren't illegal, right? Not a great excuse, but if nobody's saying, "This is not permitted," what's to stop someone who wants an edge and is incredibly competitive?). On the other hand, is it fair to say that steroids were so incredibly responsible for his athletic prowess? I'm not well educated on steroids, obviously, but is it fair to discount his achievements because of them? I really don't know.

    Personally, I wasn't at all surprised about this "revelation." It seems to me that nobody is "clean" these days in any of the major entertainment/sports fields. I'm just cringing in anticipation of the day that Derek Jeter's mistresses start coming out of the various nooks and crannies and selling their lurid stories. (I'm not saying I've heard anything. I'm just saying.)

  • B.E. Earl says:

    I remember getting caught up in the excitement of the home run race in 1998 as well. Got to personally see four of Sosa's home runs on a visit to Chicago one weekend. I couldn't believe it…he hit four home runs in the two games I got to see at Wrigley! I was amazed!

    Even then we all (the fans) kinda knew. We joked about it and we let it slide because we were seeing something "historic". But at least we fans can look back and admit we were wrong with no excuses or clarifications. We were partly to blame and we were wrong.

    Too bad McWhopper has to have it his way and can't just do the same.

  • attica says:

    I wished Wee Bob woulda honed in on how MM got started with the roids, how he got his stash, and stuff like that. Because the whole "I'm sorry I played in the steroid era," as if it was something that just happened to him, not something his own steroid use helped define made me strain my creduloceps. And rehab on that's a bitch.

    Also: Neck Pocks? How does that even happen?

  • attica says:

    Or, you know, "pox." Sigh.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    On the other hand, is it fair to say that steroids were so incredibly responsible for his athletic prowess? I'm not well educated on steroids, obviously, but is it fair to discount his achievements because of them?

    Like I said, steroids can't turn Rafael Santana into Rafael Palmeiro. I remember McGwire his rookie season; this was not a frail individual. He was already imposingly large and had a lot of power at the plate.

    PEDs do help the body heal faster, though, so he did gain an advantage in that regard — not missing games he otherwise would have, healing faster from injuries that otherwise would have kept him on the bench longer. I believe some PEDs also improve hand-eye coordination. We know they increase muscle mass and overall strength.

    Again, McGwire was a big, strong guy already, and the hand-eye skill it takes to hit major-league pitching…steroids will not provide that if you don't have it already. I think he would have been considered a very good player and a fearsome power hitter anyway, and might have gotten some Hall attention — but the question is how much of an edge the PEDs might have given him, or did give him, and how do we correct for that statistically.

    And I don't love saying this because I think the guy needs attention like it's food, but we can start by asking Canseco. He's problematic as far as his truthfulness, but if he were made to feel important to the project, I'm betting he'd be forthright about how much of an edge HE felt he gained, which might help us tweak the stats for everyone else.

    Steroids confer an unfair advantage in several ways. But how many times can we repeat that? We've got to agree to agree, figure out how to put it in context, and move forward, and I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks to doing that is that we don't know how much of an unfair advantage, exactly.

  • Marc says:

    Just to echo Sar's assertion that even though this may not be on a par with the moon landing, it is still an important discussion. I am not a baseball fan per se, but I certainly understand people's passion for the game. And as for it's relative importance, I would point out that there have always been competitive sports throughout human history in every part of the globe. Clearly, playing these games and the collective ritual of watching them satisfies a deep human need. So, Play Ball.

  • Sheila says:

    @burntdude: I'll expect to see you at the next meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Outrage (on the agenda: "How to get people to stop complaining about bad weather when THERE ARE CHILDREN DYING IN AFRICA, DAMN IT.") Thank goodness you get to decide what's important to other people.

    …oh wait.

    Maybe McG's not up on your personal radar, fine. But he hurt a lot of people (including his own family), and helped damage the reputation of a sport that means a lot to millions of people. So yeah, some people are going to be pissed and express it. Please try not to die of shock at human nature.

  • attica says:

    It's not that steroids, once taken, make you powerful like Popeye after a can of spinach. It's that they promote growth of muscle mass. Now, each weightlifting session creates microscopic muscle tissue tears — which is why you're sore the day after. On roids, the tears heal way faster, filling in with new tissue. So you're not sore. So you can weightlift everyday or twice a day without pain or soreness. So your muscle mass increases. So balls you used to hit to deep center or the warning track are now going out of the yard.

    The arguments that PED users 'had a great work ethic; nobody worked out harder' actually bolster the argument that PEDs were used, since working out that hard is actually contraindicated if you're not supplementing your muscle growth elsewise. Too much risk of injury without it.

    There's also a psychological component as well, with increased testosterone levels making you feel like you're king of the world, and the adrenaline high of weightlifting gets positive reinforcement. And in a male-jock environment like a baseball clubhouse, that's a significant thing.

  • Ashley says:

    RJ – Derek Jeter's not married, so no mistresses. Rumor has it that he's engaged with a wedding set for November, but as of now he technically doesn't HAVE any mistresses to come out of the woodwork.

  • Erin says:

    Yes–to all of that.

    And especially to the bit about his neck. Gross and weird and…weird and gross. Just wanted to mention it, since you asked if anyone noticed it. I certainly did. *shivers*

  • Ausim says:

    I don't have MLB network so I've only seen a few clips of the interview, but was it pointed out that the ONLY reason why McGuire came clean at this very late juncture was because he is the Cards hitting coach and the organization didn't want McGuire to be a distraction for the entire season? I could almost stomach a mea culpa if it was a genuine act of conscience but the dude only admitted to what EVERYONE knew — and willfully turned a blind eye to, I might add — only to get back to the game as the Cards hitting coach.

    Fundamentally, I have a problem with cheaters/cheating. For a grown man to equivocate and say that "Performance ENHANCING Drugs" may or may not have helped his performance is ridiculous.

    I have had many discussions with friends, families, co-workers about the Cards (Hello, St. Louis!) and McGuire and what to do about the stats, and have begrudingly come to the conclusion that this is the game that was played when it was played, so these are the stats. No fan of baseball is going to forget that McGuire was juiced when he broke Maris's record just as noone is going to forget that Bonds was juiced too, whether he mans up and admits it or not. The stat reflects the game — the good, bad and the ugly. At least, that's how I feel today. I'm sure I'll feel differently tomorrow.

  • MizShrew says:

    I'm not terribly informed about baseball, but my husband is a Cubs fan and I remember the home run chase, and seeing Sosa hit a home run at Wrigley. It was one of the things that made me see what people get out of baseball. The way the whole place, both teams, every fan, stood up, held their collective breath, knowing that every home run the man made was part of something so much bigger — that was amazing.

    And I don't think most people had illusions about the man's steroid use. He and McGwire were built like a pair of bulls, and you just don't get that big playing umpteen baseball games a season. You either live in the weight room, or you get a little chemical help. Or both. So I agree that it was and is cheating, but I also agree with Sars that it was some amazing stuff to see that season. I feel like there was a mutual "suspension of disbelief" about the steroids because people were so caught up in the home run race.

    But that brings me to a different question. There are medically-sound reasons to use steroids, and healing injuries is one of them. I'm not clear on why that use of the drugs would be cheating? Just using them to bulk up and gain speed/strength, sure. Totally cheating. But using them for their actual medical purpose? Can someone explain this to me? Honestly, I'm not being sarcastic, it's something I've always wondered when this discussion comes up.

    That said, McGwire would have served his legacy better by owning up to it and then stepping aside to let other people carry the debate. Otherwise it's just disingenuous.

  • Michael says:

    Sars,
    Thanks for the Secretariat reference. There's an iconic still photo taken from the infield. I tried describing it to my girlfriend when we were at the 2005 Belmont Stakes. You see Secretariat in the lower left corner of the photo with the grandstands behind him. Then you see empty space, then more empty space, then even more empty space, then you see second place.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Could someone explain why the analysts are falling all over themselves to praise LaRussa's handling of this? Wasn't LaRussa McGwire's manager…twice? On two different teams on which McGwire says he juiced? This is kind of like praising Kid Gleason's leadership of an embattled team, no? Like, you didn't notice your players consorting with GANGSTERS at the hotel, guy? Didn't want to put a stop to that shit, maybe?

    I'm certainly not saying it's impossible for LaRussa not to have known what was going on. But if he didn't, he should have.

  • Ellen says:

    @MizShrew: I think the reason the discussion comes up is because people automatically assume the worst, and sometimes people try to play the system. When I was an athlete in college I had to get a medical waiver from the NCAA because I was taking birth control pills that were prescribed to treat a medical condition, and while they are not performance enhancing they always resulted in a false positive result when I was tested in competition. There are also a lot of medications that are on the "banned" lists all over sports because they do enhance performance for those who aren't using them for medically necessary reasons, and athletes who do take them have to be vigilant about informing their sport's governing bodies about their use of these steroids – because it has become more common for athletes who didn't need those drugs using them to cheat and then try to claim they were prescribed for medical reason.

    Right or not, there are a lot of people who think that an athlete using a "banned substance" to treat a legitimate medical condition gives them an unfair advantage.

    @Attica – the neck pocks? Acne scarring. If you look at old pictures of Mac back in his playing days, you can see scars even then. They're really pronounced now, unfortunately.

    The admission does not need to be spun ad infinitum with tales of Little League, HS, AmLegion, etc. – more isn't always better, sometimes it's just more. Cut the Rebop, indeed.

  • Rhiannon says:

    A producer on Canada AM cut a mash up this morning that mixes McGwire's interview with the "there's no crying in baseball" scene from A League of Their Own. Tom Hanks's righteous indignation is awesome.

    http://www.ctv.ca/canadaam/ –it should be listed as one of Jeff's videos.

  • Nilda A says:

    @Sars. He knew. LaRussa is too much of a control freak of a manager to not know what was happening with the stars on his team.

    Hell everyone knew. Owners and players. And the freaking so-called Baseball Commissioner. Everyone turned a blind eye because it was easier for them, and they were all getting richer.

  • Patty says:

    Interesting (and refreshing) that no one here is clamoring to expunge the record book…sabermetricians can do some amazing things with numbers, but I don't see how you edit the steroids numbers. First, we'll never know for sure who all did and did not use and for how long. And second, they happened…you know? As much as I shudder to say it, maybe we just let the BBWA sort it out in the Hall voting.

    Not that I like having obviously tainted records, but guys have been trying to get an edge however they can since back when they played bare-handed. Sure, I think the steroid era is probably unprecedented in terms of sheer breadth and impact, but if we're going there, who's going to decide how many strikeouts Gaylord Perry had without the spitball?

  • DT says:

    Exactly, Sars. Exactly. I love The Vine, but stuff like this? Is why I read TN.

    Can I recommend that you start an apology writing service? Seriously, if I was ever in deep trouble for doing something stupid, I think I'd want your help…

  • MizShrew says:

    @Ellen: Thanks for the information and perspective. I can see where it would be easy to "cook the books," so to speak — get a Dr. to say it was medically necessary when it wasn't really. Just seems like if someone, say, breaks a leg, they should be able to use a prescribed steroid to get them healed up faster and not have people say they were cheating. I mean, that kind of thing is a pretty demonstrable injury with a fixed start and end time-frame. Or, like your situation, taking something for an unrelated ongoing medical condition. Not to say that any of this applies to McGwire, of course. It just comes up in these discussions and I was curious.

    Regarding the stats issue: I know this wouldn't resolve it really, but aren't there any studies out there demonstrating performance improvement with the steriods? Seems like there would be, and seems like some percentage deduction could be applied if so. Of course, studies vary, everyone would argue about the methodology, and on and on. So maybe it's best to leave the stats alone.

  • Melerin says:

    Never mind about the neck-wattles, did no one else notice the Joan-Rivers-level Botoxing? Dude's face looked like a bowling ball! Not a wrinkle to be seen anywhere, until you got past the jawline and WHOA GRANDPA. Compare it with photos from the hearing, only 5 years ago, where he had normal forehead lines and whatnot, and it's obvious Big Mac is still in the habit of injecting foreign substances into himself. From HGH to botulism.

  • Hannah says:

    I could be wrong (lord knows), but isn't the application of steroids different when you're using them for healing purposes than when you're using them to juice up?

    Bob Ley cut straight to the chase by asking McGwire why, in his healthiest (and most productive) years, did he continue to use. McGwire answered (kind of) that his body was breaking down. Again, I'm no expert, but I was under the impression that, while steroids on their own can be used for healing, you have to really work out hard in order to take advantage of the bulking-up aspects. So…was your body breaking down, or were you still working out like a fiend? Not that you can't be doing both, I suppose, but…I'm just not convinced that you can "accidentally" bulk up when you're using steroids for healing. (But, whether I'm right or wrong, I'd love to hear a scientifically sound explanation for how all this might work.)

  • [...] the Hall. Still, McGwire admitting it changes nothing really. Also, he sort of sucked at it — contrition fail. But he could have delivered Don Draper's apology at the end of season three, or one penned [...]

  • Fay says:

    My thing with this, is that what I'D have liked to hear him (or any of the confessed juicers) say is "You know what? Fuck you. All the players in the 40s-50s-60s were doing speed. If I get an asterisk, Aaron gets an asterisk." It's all so hypocritical. We forget that in decades past, people were popping amphetamines like tic-tacs. MLB didn't even ban them til 2006. I just don't like all this newly-manufacture outrage, as if no baseball "era" ever incorporated PEDs before.

  • Todd K says:

    I actually do hear that argument a lot (that players of earlier eras had greenies to give them a boost, so how is this different?); it just isn't one that cuts much ice with me. I'm fine with amphetamines getting swept out of the game under the stricter drug policies too, but amphetamines aren't anabolic steroids, and all substances are not created equal. Sometimes you have to make distinctions, and if the place you draw a line seems arbitrary to some, you have to trust that your decisions are governed by good sense and good data. I'd argue, in fact, that a big part of functioning in society, beyond sports, is in having the ability to make distinctions and abide by them. Strong coffee and alcohol are both going to have an effect on my mental state, but it's the law that I can drive under the influence of one and not the other, and I'm fine with that. If I'm pulled over and caught with a thermos of coffee, I'm getting treated differently from if it were a fifth of whiskey, or an eightball.

  • Waverly says:

    Steroids in sports are kind of like nuclear weapons, in my opinion. Either everyone should have them, or nobody should.

  • Sandman says:

    "Like Steve Carlton once said, 'Never complain, never explain,'"

    I keep forgetting who said "Never ruin an apology with an excuse." Probably someone who deserves to be better known (at least by me).

  • Josh says:

    LaRussa is a fraud, but sportswriters are either mesmerized by the "genius" or afraid of him, so they're (almost) all too chicken-ass to call him out on running two of the most steroid-ridden clubhouses in baseball. He's a putz and a jackass.

    McGuire's his guy, so he'll flat-out lie for him. Plus, of course, much of LaRussa's success is tied to McGuire, so he's clearly looking out for his own legacy.

    Also, regarding the PED effectiveness: yeah, McGuire was always a big guy with a lot of power, but he got a lot bigger over the years, after he started juicing. I'm sure it turned a few warning-track fly balls into HRs, but it's impossible to know for sure how many. But more importantly, it put him back on the field for a hella lot more games than he would have played.

    Olbermann bashed the crap out of him the other night on Countdown for his clueless "apology" in style, reminding people of all sorts of players whose careers were cut short by injury. I'm thinking right now about Barry Larkin (who has never been touched by a 'roids accusation) and is up for the HoF and one of the big knocks against him was how few games he averaged per season during his career and how rarely he played over 150 in a season. How many more games could he have gotten with the juice getting him back on the field? He was a great player who could do it all…if he'd added more pop to the bat and greater health he'd have been Derek Jeter before Derek Jeter (with 90% less drooling over him, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver!).

    What about McGuire's contemporary, Kent Hrbek? a terrific first baseman with good power, great D, solid average, took walks, etc. But started getting hurt a lot towards the end of his career and retired because of all the nagging injuries. How many more seasons might he have gotten with 'roids? (Hrbek only got tubbier, no one ever would tie him to 'roids) A few more HRs per season, a couple of additional years in the bigs…suddenly he's gone from being a franchise great to maybe an all-time great! But he was always behind McGuire in the AL, for all-star games (and even an absurd gold glove)…and one was clean and one wasn't.

    Blegh.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Maybe when he was a kid his mama never said "You don't SOUND sorry, mister! You apologize again right now!"

    (@Sandman, that's awesome.)

  • Jake says:

    So, PEDs improve hand-eye coordination. I bet Lasik helps. 'Roids helps recover from injuries? All that body armor that Bonds and Mac and Albert and a hundred others have to peel off before they can step away from the plate probably helps avoid injury. Painkillers – Tylenol, advil, rubbing dirt on it, or legally-prescribed Vicodin – help players play through the pain of injury. Even taping a sprain, wearing spikes, milling that cup in the end of your bat and machining that thing to the exact number of ounces you want improves performance. Do anabolic steroids do more than any of the rest of these? No idea. Probably. But so what?

    Yes. Whether it was strictly illegal at the time he did it or not, McGwire cheated. And that sucks. But it's cheating because we say you can do THESE things, but not THOSE. You can take any good medicine, but no bad drugs. Baseball has changed. It changed with the ball, it changed with sabremetrics, it changed with TV, and insane salaries, and goofily-shaped parks, and the DH. I wish that Mac had either sucked it up and gone whole hog on the appology, or kept his trap shut. But I also wish that we would really accept that – until they start playing nekkid (..uh, no), players are going to be doing things that enhance their performance, and all our "what about the children"ing is kind of disingenuous.

  • Sandman says:

    @Margaret in CO: "You don't SOUND sorry, mister! You apologize again right now!"

    Now that's what I call awesome! Is it so wrong that I have an image in my head right now of Mama McGwire twisting her grown son's ear, trying to make him behave like a gentleman? Ah, would that it were so.

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