Mark McGwire finally came clean. McGwire was happy to finally get the truth out. The problem is that the so-called truth, was at best a half-truth. McGwire gave few details on his usage, and even tried to play the innocent victim, saying, “Looking back, I wish I never played in the steroid era.”
Interesting. Very interesting. Mark McGwire wishes he had never played in the steroid era. This coming from the man that was the steroid era. The man who was one of the founding fathers of the era. He began using in 1989! 1989 still had players like the newly elected Hall of Famer Andre Dawson playing the game. Ozzie Smith was still flashing leather. Wade Boggs was in the middle of his brilliant career. Steroids weren’t even part of the game’s vocabulary yet. But Big Mac was experimenting with the drugs. Sorry, Mark but you created the steroid era, and then thrived in it. Without you, the steroid era would have never taken off. And without the steroids, McGwire wouldn’t have either.
With McGwire, the steroid era took off like the balls took off from his bat. The era is now a black mark on the game, and it all began with McGwire and his bash buddies in Oakland. It’s hard to forgive him after that apology, if you can call it that.
Let’s take a look at the best of McGwire’s flawed thoughts:
McGwire: “I knew I was talented. I knew the Man Upstairs gave me the ability to hit this baseball, gave me the hand/eye coordination. My parents gave me the great genetics. But I was running into these roadblocks (injuries) by something I very much regret.”
Costas: “Would you have [accomplished all McGwire did] if you had never touched anything but a protein shake?”
McGwire: “I truly believe so. I believe I was given this gift.”
McGwire: “The only reason I took steroids was for my health purposes. I did not take steroids to get any gain for any strength purposes.”
Costas: “But didn’t you become stronger incidentally?”
McGwire: “For my health purposes.”
Costas: “Didn’t you get greater bat speed?”
McGwire: “I’ve always had bat speed. There is not a pill or an injection that is going to give me the hand-eye — or give any athlete — the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball. A pill or an injection will not hit a baseball.”
So, McGwire would have been just as great without steroids, but he took them anyway. Last time I checked, an injury makes you weaker, so the steroids made him stronger to get healthy again.
Plus, strength purposes were clearly the goal. While there may not be a pill to give an athlete hand-eye coordination, a pill can help send the ball an extra twenty feet over the wall. From a harmless fly out to a homer run is a big deal. McGwire can’t seem to see this.
He also said he was on the verge of retirement during the 1996 season. “I was so frustrated with injuries, I wanted to retire.” Steroids helped him extend his career and really build his legacy. Remember, 1998 was McGwire’s legendary year, the crown jewel of his decent career. Without steroids, he may have been out of the game and forgotten very quickly. With them, he was the face of baseball for a magical summer and would be remembered forever.
McGwire couldn’t keep his ego from the apology, and in doing so, sent baseball fans further and further from the truth. He tried to paint an innocent picture as a good guy trying to help his team. In reality, his entire career was built on steroids. He is the symbol and leader of the era even more than Barry Bonds, who was vilified at the end of his career.
Mark McGwire wishes he had never played in the steroid era. Baseball should wish he had never played; maybe there wouldn’t have been a steroid era. He wishes there was drug testing. Then, his career would have ended along with his home run totals. He may have struggled to reach 400, let alone 500 or 600.
The Tony La Russa Factor:
Perhaps even more troubling than McGwire’s answers is his manager’s. Tony La Russa claims he just found out about Mac’s steroid use. Apparently, he knew nothing. I don’t buy it. It seems that as McGwire is the symbol of the steroid era as a player, La Russa is his equivalent as a manager. La Russa worked with McGwire for 15 years and yet he had no clue what was going on. He now defends Mark, saying, “it is not like it was blatant that he was trying to cheat.” Really? Then, what exactly do you call it Tony? Or is it just part of your program as a manager.
La Russa loves McGwire. He managed Jose Canseco. He also oversaw the transformation of Rick Ankiel—from a pitcher to a slugging outfielder. What do they all have in common? That’s right, a link to performance enhancing drugs.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s time Tony La Russa felt some heat too.