By Jake McCormick
The most controversial move of the MLB offseason, and the one with the most potential to blow up in a team’s face, did not involve Milton Bradley. Instead, it was a move that was going to require something that should’ve been done a long time ago.
Hiring Mark McGwire to be the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach meant that sooner or later, he would have to definitively answer questions about his obvious past use of performance enhancing drugs in order to allow the team to move forward. Predictably, the former slugger admitted his use Monday in a statement to the Associated Press.
Here’s an excerpt from the statement:
“I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season.”
This confession was as obvious as Mr. Garrison eventually coming to terms with his homosexuality when everyone else on South Park knew it before he did. McGwire needed to talk at some point, and it needed to be before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 18. Tony La Russa also has some ‘splaining to do, as he has stood by Big Mac throughout his resume of lies on and off the ball diamond.
Although the admission allows a full month of McGwire to field steroid questions and do his obligatory Bob Costas interview, his reputation has been so wounded by silence and time that he’s still closer to Roger Clemens than Alex Rodriguez in the minds of baseball fans. He’s lessened the impact of media pressure as he becomes a teacher of a craft that he ironically manipulated, but fans won’t be nearly as forgiving during the Cardinals’ 82 road games this year.
As for his chances at the Hall of Fame, it will take just one steroid user’s induction to open the gates for all the disgraced players. That player will not be Big Mac, but time has been good to less deserving players in their respective eras, and eventually the baseball world will have to write off the 1990s as simply an era where the whole sport was tainted.
McGwire is helping himself and the organization he represents by inviting and answering questions about the biggest issue preventing him from fully concentrating on his job as a hitting instructor. The return to the spotlight has only just begun for one of the most recognized steroid users of the entire era, and it’s a shame that the confession had to come only after he agreed to return to the MLB and not because he felt it was the right thing to do independent of his job.
Now let’s get these soft-lighted interviews out of the way and see what the guy can do as a teacher.