Mark McGwire’s admission to steroid use yesterday did nothing but confirm the feelings I’ve had toward him for several years now. I always liked McGwire as a player despite the widely held beliefs that he was juicing. I was rooting for him in 1998 when he broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record.
My thoughts on McGwire did not change until March 17, 2005. That’s the day he uttered the now infamous words “Iâ€™m not here to talk about the past” when testifying before Congress about steroids in baseball. Though I appreciate that he did not lie by denying his steroid use that day (like Rafael Palmeiro and other users did) I still lost a lot of respect for him that day. After all, the comment made no sense. The whole idea was to talk about the past so Congress could see if they needed to intervene in Major League Baseball’s policies on illegal substances being used by its players. You can’t move forward without a proper perspective of the past.
Now McGwire has finally admitted his use of steroids and my opinion of him has not changed. I have less respect for him than I did when he was a player and I have mixed feelings about his Hall of Fame worthiness. But I’ve had those feeling since 2005.
When McGwire was named hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals in the fall I knew the day would come soon that he’d need to admit his steroids use. In order to have credibility with the players he’d be coaching he’d need to come clean about his dirty little secret. And better to take care of that in January and not wait for spring training or later when the issue would be a huge distraction to his players.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had the following to say after McGwire came clean yesterday: “I didn’t know anything except that I knew we ran a legit program and that Mark was a good example of working his butt off and getting his strength gains as a product of hard work. I did, and still speak to his character and integrity.” I don’t doubt McGwire worked hard. I don’t doubt his character either. I likewise don’t doubt the Cardinals were running a “legit program”. But this statement does not say what I needed to hear. That is that LaRussa did not know that McGwire was juicing. Absence of such a denial in confirmation that LaRussa knew and didn’t tell. I don’t hold LaRussa responsible and don’t blame him for not telling. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if LaRussa, who hired McGwire for the coaching job, hired him in part because it would force him to go public in an effort to put the past behind him and start a new chapter in his career and his life. (That’s just a feeling and not a statement of fact.)
Anyway, McGwire has finally confirmed what we’ve all been talking about for years. Now when will we get Barry Bonds admission?