Thursday, February 25, 2010
Little Mac betrays Big Mac, becoming the literal Bash Brother
Mark McGwire’s little brother, Jay McGwire, has written a Jose Canseco-esque book that chronicles the Mac brothers’ steroid use throughout the mid 1990’s. Wow. Jay was a body builder who obviously not only had the means to obtain steroids, but also the word of mouth if not direct education of how to use them. Quite frankly, I’m shocked this information wasn’t brought to light before. Not that Jay was scribing a book, but that Mac’s brother was a serious body builder. While everyone just knew McGwire was an obvious user, I think the knowledge that his little brother was winning body building competitions in California probably would have given some evidence or indication of what McGwire was doing, extremely circumstantial (evidence) of course. I’m sure there’s been other players with body builders for brothers, but probably not players that were shattering homerun records that had stood for over 30 years and whom weighed in at 260 pounds.
Jay apparently details the unique substances (steroids) they used during that time, as well as in what quantities. Jay also corroborates that Mark initially used them for health purposes, but vehemently denies that he didn’t also or at least eventually use them for strength.
LaRussa and McGwire also say they don’t plan to read the book. LaRussa said: “What’s the point? It’s stuff that’s already been gone over a bunch of times. I don’t know what it’s going to change.” I think he’s probably telling the truth. They probably won’t read the book. But, given LaRussa’s access to an advanced copy, that’s not to say he hasn’t already read the book. And it’s my opinion that it’s not stuff that’s “already been gone over a bunch…” What have we gone over? As far as I know, this is the first time intimate knowledge of what McGwire was using has been available.
Apparently, Mark McGwire said the word “sad” about 7 times during the media session where he answered questions. I wholeheartedly agree. This is sad. The whole situation is sad. It’s sad that the athletes don’t understand just how forgiving American people can be. If McGwire told the truth in the first place, the book wouldn’t be so damning. It’s also sad that his brother has betrayed him. Truth or not, I can’t imagine in a million years doing such a thing to a sibling, no matter what fiscal benefit I might claim by doing so. I’m deeply saddened that this is one of the ways that the ‘truth’ is coming out. I certainly wouldn’t have preferred to get confirmation this way, not that I needed confirmation. Anyone with any common sense has to know that McGwire was a heavy user, and the sole purpose was for strength. Weighing 260 pounds when your natural weight is probably about 200 to 220 pounds isn’t particularly healthy.
I doubt that I will be the only one that has similar feelings about this. I actually and finally have found reason to feel sorry for Mark. Not because people will know what he actually did. It’s because his brother has betrayed him. Mark obviously has deep regret and reluctance to speak candidly about the past. He probably has a great deal of shame regarding his use, the Maris family, the 1998 HR chase charade and the fact that he took so long to admit it. He probably also feels a great deal of shame about not coming completely clean, because for some reason he feels he can’t. Or maybe, because Mark has denied it for so long, he to some degree believes that he was using it for health reasons and it really didn’t help him. I can’t say. All that I know is that this is a sad day for the McGwire’s, for baseball and really (not to be too melodramatic) for mankind. Why? Because at this point it appears to me that one brother is betraying another over two things: money and a game. The money, the lies, this is not what baseball should be about. Baseball should be about going out in the beautiful sunshine and throwing a ball around in the grass and dirt. It should be about making diving catches, hitting triples, double-switches, head-first slides, hit streaks, ball caps, bubble gum, seeds, hot dogs, legends…the list goes on, but it most importantly should be about fun. That’s how Willie played it. Spring training, exhibition, it didn’t matter, he always played it with grace and bravado, like it was fun. Why? Mays said, “That’s the onliest way I know.”
I did see one sliver of silver lining in all of this, however. According to reports, Jay will devote a large portion of the book to the personal battles he fought which were a result of his steroid use. He says that he had deep depression, suicidal thoughts and a plethora of health issues deriving from steroid use. This included fatty tumors in his nipples, elevated liver enzymes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. That’s something that absolutely needs to be told to the athletes of tomorrow so they understand the repercussions of steroid use. That part of the book will be a far cry from that of Canseco’s iterations. Canseco rather fervently endorsed the use of steroids, essentially saying that in the right doses and combinations, they were extremely healthy and beneficial to not only the body but the mind for self confidence. I share Jay’s take on steroids, not Jose’s.
The next chapter in all this, in my opinion, actually began not after the Little Mac news hit the press, but yesterday. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a rugby player had tested positive for the use of HGH (human-growth hormone) via a blood test. MLB released a statement that it was considering testing players in the Minor Leagues for human-growth hormone. The MLB Players Association released the following statement:
Human growth hormone is banned under our Joint Drug Program. Discipline has been imposed against players who have been found to have used HGH. We do not test currently for HGH, because no scientifically validated urine test exists. Our program calls for immediate and automatic implementation of urine testing for HGH once a scientifically validated test is available.
The Joint Program, negotiated several times with the Commissioner's Office, does not call for blood testing of players. Blood testing raises serious issues not associated with urine testing. Nonetheless, the Association has previously said that if a scientifically validated blood test for HGH was available, we would consider it.
This week, a British rugby player was suspended as a result of a reported positive blood test for HGH. This development warrants investigation and scrutiny; we already have conferred with our experts on this matter, and with the Commissioner's Office, and we immediately began gathering additional information. However, a report of a single uncontested positive does not scientifically validate a drug test. As press reports have suggested, there remains substantial debate in the testing community about the scientific validity of blood testing for HGH. And, as we understand it, even those who vouch for the scientific validity of this test acknowledge that it can detect use only 18-36 hours prior to collection.
Putting these important issues aside, inherent in blood testing of athletes are concerns of health, safety, fairness and competition not associated with urine testing. We have conferred initially with the Commissioner's Office about this reported positive test, as we do regarding any development in this area. We look forward to continuing to jointly explore all questions associated with this testing -- its scientific validity, its effectiveness in deterring use, its availability and the significant complications associated with blood testing, among others.
The Association agrees with the Commissioner's Office that HGH use in baseball is not to be tolerated. We intend to act without delay to ascertain whether our Program can be improved as it relates to HGH. In so doing, however, we will not compromise the commitment to fairness on which our Program always has been premised.
Obviously, the Players Association is probably going to do everything it can to protect its players. If they wanted to do what was best for the sport, they’d do everything they can to determine if the test is valid, and implement it as immediately as is possible. Obviously, that won’t happen. This is a wonderful opportunity for both MLB and the Players Association to make amends and prove that they have changed, and they do support a clean game of baseball. But when their statement is riddled with words like “scrutiny,” and that blood testing “raises serious issues,” and “significant complications,” but they “would consider it,” but only after they determine “its effectiveness in deterring use,” and there remains “substantial debate” in the testing community towards an HGH blood test, well I just don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling they are going to go into this without clawing and screaming the entire way. That’s no matter how valid this particular test may prove. Why is that? The players are using them. I (we) don’t know whom is using HGH, but rest assured they are. It’s almost laughable that in the outset of the statement the PA says, “Discipline has been imposed against players who have been found to have used HGH.” And how exactly is anyone to find that a player has used HGH when no testing is being done? Prior to 2003 an unknown (and likely very large) number of ball players were using the other performance enhancers knowing there was no consequence and absolutely no possibility of being caught. That very same thing is happening now with HGH. No test, no problem.
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to hear that an HGH test was available. It seems to me an integral and imperative step in actually cleaning up the game of baseball. I sincerely hope the test is valid, MLB will immediately implement a test and the PA will abide by it. Until that actually happens though, I’m going to be exceedingly pessimistic.