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It's Time To Talk About The Past

Posted on January 12, 2010 at 9:13 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
Usually, the good thing about blogs is that you don't have to wait until the next day for reaction.  News happens and within moments, analysis and commentary is waiting for your eyes, ready to fill the gap that comes after a big story.

Yesterday, I was out of the office when the story broke.  I've talked in this space many times after his hiring as hitting coach about how Mark McGwire needed to have a press conference before spring training, that I would have liked to see it before Thanksgiving, at least before Christmas.  However, after seeing the explosion of reaction, waiting until after the holidays, after the Hall of Fame selections, makes a lot more sense.  This story was going to suck all the oxygen out of the baseball world.

As admissions go, I will say it appears that it's a sincere and complete one.  There's no "I only used once" or any other excuses.  He admits when he used them, including '98.  Which is, of course, the biggest reason anyone is even worried about this.  He also addressed his congressional testimony and the development of the phrase that hangs around his legacy, or did until yesterday.

How might the last few years have been different if he'd been given immunity from prosecution?  What if he'd been able to sit up there and say, yes, I took them, this is why, and I hate that I did it?  Would that have changed the atmosphere of the last half of the decade, pushed more players to the forefront?  Would McGwire be seen as a pioneer, a trend-setter of some sort?  We'll never know.

McGwire does say that he doesn't believe steroids helped him hit home runs.  It's hard to swallow that, though there could be something to the hand-eye coordination claim that Mac says.  It's pretty fair to say, though, that the added strength helped a few fly balls find the stands that might have otherwise found outfielders' gloves.  How much, though?  That's what's hard to quantify.  I doubt he'd have hit the famous shot that tagged the Post-Dispatch sign 545 feet away, necessitating a band-aid for the ad.  But take 10% off that shot and it's still a home run.

That's one of the most frustrating things about steroid use.  Even if you know a player is taking them, how much is due to the steroids and how much to their natural talent?  McGwire hit 49 home runs as a rookie, years before he took any steroids.  So obviously the talent is there.  How much was it augmented by steroids?  If we knew a rate that we could go back and discount stats by, I think there'd be less of a general angst about the whole thing.  But we don't and we can't.

The current squad of Cardinals seem supportive and it doesn't appear that these disclosures are going to affect his hitting coach job at all.  If nothing else, Albert Pujols seems to be behind him.  You can go a long way in St. Louis if you have El Hombre in your corner.

The apologies weren't enough for some, though as Bernie notes, it really should be.  It's fairly easy to be judgemental at times, but McGwire was as open as he possibly could be on this.  He didn't just read a statement of apology and take off.  He did lots of press, answering all questions that came his way.  Maybe some don't like the answers.  That's not the way it goes, though, when you are telling the truth, or at least the truth as you see it.

As for me, it really boils down to this headline.  I'm disappointed, but in no way could I really be surprised.  I was actually a little surprised how hard the news hit me when I checked my e-mails yesterday and had the text of McGwire's comments and management's reactions.  It's not that we haven't known this was likely coming, but still, having no way to deny it any longer, or if not deny at least give the benefit of the doubt, made for an uncomfortable afternoon.

1998 was a magical year, and even if the memories are tainted by the news of yesterday, they are still wonderful memories.  The drama, the back and forth, the constant following of the chase.  Those memories are still there and something I'll still share with following generations, even if there is that footnote that goes along with them.

I recorded an interview with Joe of Motor City Bengals for his podcast This Week in Detroit Tigers Baseball and he asked me how fans would have their perceptions changed by the news.  I told him I think most everyone had this built in to how they viewed McGwire.  Some may be more willing to forgive now that he's come clean.  I think maybe a few will feel more harshly toward him, but not many.  It's not like he's fallen off a tall pedestal.  That happened long ago.

I also don't think it helps him with the Hall of Fame.  McGwire's biggest claim was power.  If that is affected, I think people look at him and say, "He couldn't do it without help, he doesn't need in."  Like Pete Rose, people clamored for an apology for years.  Once it came, the cause was gone and the player had no shot at the Hall.

That's fine, though.  While I might, as a Cardinal fan, like to see the redhead in the Hall, I can understand keeping him out.  I do think that this cleansing will help his job performance this season, because reporters have less reason to talk to him about that.  He's put it out there, he's answered the questions.  At least from the baseball point of view, it's time to move on.

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

interesting mcgwire article^^^

1998 is not tainted in the least to me. I specifically recall conversation about steroids that year. The suspicions were there then and I still enjoyed the show. That he admitted it really is not news to me. My view on Big Mac hasn't changed since he signed with the Cards.

I agree with your analysis, C70. For a similar point of view, see the essay I posted on the McGwire controversy, "Confessions of a Home Run King in an Unforgiving World" at:

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