Spring Training is finally upon us. Today, pitchers and catchers reported to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida. The first official workouts will begin tomorrow. The entire coaching staff also touched down. Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan, and yes, Mark McGwire all arrived at the complex. As expected, McGwire created a buzz as soon as he arrived. Photographers, writers, and video crews swarmed the batting area as McGwire worked with Cardinals hitters in the cages. He avoided comment from the media until his day was finished. The day included workouts and extensive coaching staff meeting as the Cardinals layout its Spring Training plan. Finally, McGwire gave the media time at the end of the day.
For about 12 minutes, he answered questions ranging from coaching to steroids. McGwire looked calm as he answered each question in a quietly. When talking about his duties as the hitting coach, McGwire smiled and looked sincerely excited when talking about his job. I know I have hammered him pretty hard, but today’s interview made him a little more human. His facial expressions and thoughts expressed a deep love for the game. It was easy to see and hear the excitement he had to be back in baseball. “It’s going to be cool. It’s a little different, but I mean the unfortunate thing is I don’t get to play, I just get to teach,” McGwire said. He smiled throughout and it was cool to see him open up a little bit.
If only he could do the same with steroids. While he was sincere in talking baseball, McGwire gave little insight into his steroid use. He apologized again much like he did a month ago. Maybe over time, he will warm up and give us more information. Right now, I doubt it. If he really wanted to end the steroid issue, he would answer every question and lay it all out there. He remained adamant that he only used steroids for injury recovery. He also talked about his apology to the Maris family. In a way, his call to the Maris’ proves his guilt. If he truly believed steroids didn’t help him hit home runs, he wouldn’t have called them. He knows he messed up and he admitted it to the Maris family. I’m sure he didn’t say, “Sorry – but I still would have broken the record.” Now, he must admit it to the world. There is nothing left to lose.
Another positive for McGwire in this mess is that he can use it as motivation in his new job. While the world bashes him, all he can do it coach. In a way, he can prove his work ethic all over again in a different role. He should set out to be the best hitting coach in the game. And he appears ready to do that. McGwire said, “I’ve told some of the guys, listen, if you want me here at 5 a.m., I’ll be here at 5 a.m.” So, the best way for Mark to move on if he won’t talk is to do his job. And do it well. He has to prove himself all over again in the coaching profession. It certainly won’t be easy for him to win everyone over. He’s going to have to work harder than ever to be great. This is his chance at redemption.
I hate what he did. I hate how he handled the confession. I still think a ban should be put in place, at the very least for the Hall of Fame. So, unless he comes out with more information I’m ready to move on from the McGwire story. I liked bits and pieces of his interview — but as I thought about it, Pete Rose kept popping into my mind. No one loved the game more. No one knew more about hitting or probably baseball for that matter. McGwire is a novice compared to Pete, but Pete will never get that chance. I know he would have been smiling that cocky smile today if he had the chance to coach again. Major League Baseball still needs to do something about the steroid era, Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe, and any others. The league shouldn’t pick and choose whom to forgive. McGwire lied for five years (really nine or ten if you count his retirement when there were whispers). Pete lied for 15. Both were liars and both stained the game. What’s the difference?
Until then, good luck to McGwire this season. I just wish he would come clean completely. He’s already gone halfway. The rest should be easy.
(Video embedding was disabled by WPBF. Here’s the link.)