Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Juicy Big Mac

With Monday's admission of steroid use, Mark McGwire provided us with the "no duh" moment of the week. So, here it is Mark, "No duh."

Beyond that, we can say that you played this one right. Your steroid use was sparse, experimental, and for recovery purposes. Well-played Mr. McGwire. Well-played. These excuses are easily received and forgiven. You chose the Petite-path and for that you will - eventually - be welcomed back into baseball.
I also believe that you did a good thing for your new position as the Cardinals Hitting Coach. The team doesn't need that season long distraction and the steroids buzz you would bring. Joining the team as an admitted and repentant "user" increases your cred as a coach. Besides, you don't seem to handle media scrutiny particularly well and now you can keep them off your (huge) back.

I'm not sure if it was the right move to not announce this in a book. You could have cashed in and you may still. But no one has ever questioned your classiness and it's been reported that you retired with a two-year, $30 million offer on the table. That's good money. Better than book money no doubt.

But the big question is: how does this affect your Hall chances? Mark (deep breath, look down, sigh, look up) you no longer have a chance at the Hall. That became clear when the voters gave you just 21.9% of the vote. Do you really think admitting what we all knew will jump you to the requisite 75%? I'm sorry, it just won’t.

So your history book has been written. You oohed and ahhed us for a few truly amazing summers. And they were amazing. I remember missing number 62 because my mom was driving me to Hebrew school. Do you know how upset that made me? Not to mention I missed number 62. People dropped what they were doing to watch your at-bats. Your swing was compact and brilliant. Conversely, there was nothing compact about your home runs.

And then the steroids leaked. It started with Caminiti, but no one would believe a cokehead. Then Fainaru-Wada and Williams went after BALCO and Bonds. Out came Canseco's second-grade reading level book and it was a good laugh. Until it wasn’t. Finally, congress and Senator Mitchell (no seriously, the actual US congress) got involved. And you were just there to talk about the future.

Let me be clear Mark, this is not entirely your fault. In fact, we’re all at fault. The fans cheered, the owners turned a blind eye, and – perhaps the most arrogant of all – the baseball writers glorified you. The same men who waxed poetic of your heroics now vehemently refuse to vote you into their Hall. Please, they didn’t know? You were ten times their size and saving baseball, not to mention their jobs. They too built the steroids era and, just like you, wont stand up and say it.

Ultimately, your history should read: prolific home run hitter who admitted steroid use. Whether you used to improve (you still deny) or to recover (your admission), Mark: you were better than the others. Yes, you tainted the numbers, the most sacred thing in baseball. But the Hall of Fame is about talent AND accomplishment. You achieved both and belong.  

Unfortunately, you’ll never have your July afternoon in Cooperstown.


  1. Excellent post. McGwire carries the sins of the entire era and there's something unfair about that. Sadly, the magical summer of 98 now has a taint to it that won't come out.

    Still, the real question is -- would he have put up Hall numbers without the juice?

  2. In 1987 Mark McGwire had 161 hits--the most of his career--and drove in 118 runs. In 1998 he only had 152 hits but drove in 147 runs. That demonstrates a marginal boost in power. However, he was also walked 162 times in 1998 and just 71 times in 1987.

    No matter how you slice it he is still a career .263 hitter with zero MVPs. On the other hand Eddie Murray is in the hall.

  3. What would happen if the Cardinals go on to win the World Series due to a surge in offensive production that all the players attribute to McGwire's coaching? Does he make the Hall then?

  4. La Russa has said that, "Mark's in such great shape, I would consider pinch hitting him." If that goes down, his Hall of Fame status gets re-started and the whole five-year thing begins anew. So, McGwire as player-coach, success in both fields? Presumably clean? Now there's some controversy.

  5. Then Jay Mariotti calls them liars and insinuates that Mark McGwire was probably pushing steroids on the players; then he proclaims that he would have been in Major League Baseball if he had taken steroids.