After disappearing completely for 8 years save a Congressional Hearing appearance in 2005, Mark McGwire reemerged on Monday to finally tell us what we already knew, that he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade. While I must admit that I do appreciate the candor…wait. No I don’t really appreciate the candor. Why? Because there was no candor in any of his statements. 5 years for this? It is refreshing to hear an obvious steroid user admit his guilt, but only because it so rarely happens. It was also nice to see that he was remorseful. Even those who were caught red handed continue to parade around and risk their freedom in a desperate attempt to protect their career (see Roger Clemens). While it is nice to hear Big Mac finally admit it, his admission isn’t all that different from others’ silence and blatant denial. To me it seems his sole motive was not to finally tell the truth, but one last attempt to preserve his legacy while hopefully lessening the firestorm that was to come during Spring Training had he made the decision to continue to “not talk abut the past.”
Certain things that McGwire said stick out in my mind specifically. He said, for example, “I was given a gift to hit home runs.” He essentially said that he merely used the steroids to stay healthy (the Andy Pettitte defense) and that he would have hit as many home runs had he not used PEDs. I totally believe that. I believe that about as much as I believe that Brady Anderson didn’t use steroids in 1996 when he hit 50 HR’s despite only hitting 16 the previous year and 18 the year after and also amassing a slugging percentage of .637, more than 200 points higher than his career average. Like I said, I totally buy that. Maybe steroid use and the explosion of home runs in the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s was a coincidence. Babe Ruth set the record for home runs in 1927 at 60. His record stood for 33 years until Roger Maris broke it in 1961. After that, Roger Maris’ record stood for 36 years until it was shattered by not only Mark McGwire but also Sammy Sosa, in the same season. And had they not broken his record in 1998 they would have broken it in 1999 because Sosa hit 63 and McGwire 65 in that season. After that, McGwire’s record stood a total of 2 seasons when Barry Bonds* hit 73 in 2001 to break it yet again. So just to tally that up, it took upwards of 30 years between breaking of the single season home run records of Ruth and Maris, after which it took only 2 seasons to break it again and in the aftermath 6 names stood ahead of Maris (and 7 men in front of Ruth) who’d held the record for over 1/3 of the century. That’s probably just a coincidence. Steroids don’t help you hit home runs. It’s 100% hand eye coordination, a shortened swing and dedication to the hitting craft.
* Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball from probably around 1990 until 1997. In 1998, while McGwire and Sosa were tallying upwards of 60 home runs, he became just one of many great players and not the greatest player. So what did he do when that angered him so much? He juiced and turned his extraordinary human body into a super human body, the result of which was by far the greatest 5 year offensive run in the history of baseball. He was extraordinary. He was so good that it honestly seemed (watching as a fan) that with each and every swing he would hit a home run. When he swung and didn’t pelt the ball, it was met with actual surprise; this in a game of failure, a game where 3 out of 10 is impressive.
McGwire also mentioned how he had good and bad seasons while on steroids, and good and bad seasons while off steroids. While I actually do buy that (to a certain extent), what seems apparent to me is that McGwire wants to position himself in a way that he might still be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He wants people to actually believe that his career numbers are legitimate. And it is in this need to justify his own career that he is exactly like Clemens, Bonds and the others who hide behind the wall of silence and adamant refutation.
Big Mac also made very sure to apologize…a lot. To be honest, I don’t want or need an apology. What do I or any other baseball fan need an apology for? I was actually excited when I read the headline: McGwire admits to using steroids. I was genuinely looking forward to what this man had to say after being silent for so long. I even texted my brothers and baseball buddies. Unfortunately, that excitement faded quickly as I read the statements he made in his interview. What a farce. McGwire admitted the only thing that we all already knew; he used steroids. It’s the details and the extent to which he used them that the fans deserve to know to try and make sense of this era he so conveniently blames. He took no responsibility. He refused to be accountable for what he’d done.
I’ve already forgiven him, Clemens, Bonds and every other athlete that ever took steroids. I simply don’t blame any of them one bit. I do, however, expect some honesty. They all were faced with a choice. They could have stayed clean and either continued to be average, good or in some cases even great players later into their career. Or, they could take steroids and become great or in some cases superhuman players, like Bonds. Also, while they knew the stuff was illegal they also knew they wouldn’t be tested and thus there was virtually no possibility of ever being caught. What’s more? If they took they might stand to make $1, $5, $10 or even $50 million dollars they would not make otherwise. What’s truly refreshing to hear is Hall of Fame players (men like Mike Schmidt) who did not play in the era speak realistically about how even they would have been tempted had they played in such an era. It’s amazing that the only player to seemingly tell the whole truth is the most insecure and troubled of all of them, Jose Canseco. If you’ve ever read his book Juiced you might get an idea of what I mean. Jose is a man who clearly has immense insecurities and has lived his life trying to get the recognition and pat on the back his father never gave him. This quest for self worth also probably led him to the steroids which he obviously feels helped him on that life long journey. His delusions run so deep he truly believes that he’d have gotten nowhere without them, so much so that he’s convinced himself how healthy they are.
It’s a known fact that a good number if not a majority of the players during the ‘90’s and leading up to the Mitchell Report were using steroids to enhance their bodies and athletic abilities. They were using them to heal. They were using them to maintain energy throughout the grueling 162 game schedule (much like amphetamines of the 1970’s and ‘80’s). They were also using them to gain superhuman strength and aid in hitting home runs, despite what Mark or any other may say. Everything he said on Monday needs to be taken with an extreme grain of salt. Scratch that. Throw everything he said in the garbage where it belongs. It's my personal belief that the only real truth in his statements was, again, what we already knew. The rest was riddled with cop outs and wishful allowances. Even if a lot of it was half truths I'm not interested. I'd rather him stay silent then watch him selfishly and tearfully apologize and request forgiveness.While I completely agree that steroids won’t help a player with hand eye coordination and pitch recognition, statements he made like, "I did this for health purposes. There's no way I did this for any type of strength use" are absolutely laughable. Tell that to the Hulk like figures of the men in the World’s Strongest Man competition., because here, we’re simply not buying it.