McGwire Addresses Past In Court Of Public Opinion

Tim FitzgeraldContributor IJanuary 11, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  Former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire pauses during testimony March 17, 2005 for a House Committee session that is investigating Major League Baseball efforts to eradicate steroid use in Washington, DC.  Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Allan 'Bud' Selig will give testimony regarding MLB?s efforts to eradicate steriod usage among its players.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mark McGwire admitted he used steroids at various points in his career today.

It's a statement many have felt is overdue.  Others felt it was a mere formality for him to get his admission and apology out of the way.  Between written accusations from Jose Conseco and McGwire's brother, the bottle of Andro in his locker, his physical appearance, and a couple of steroid dealers busted in California there was a lot of mounting evidence that McGwire used steroids.

Though his image took a hit, he took good legal advice in 2005 by basically pleading the fifth like an Enron executive.  Looking back, which scandal has had the worse affect on our country?  Also, McGwire avoided any criminal investigation and did not purge himself on Capitol Hill that day.  I bet Rafael Palmiero, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens wish they had taken the same path in their various court appearances on the matter. 

McGwire sacrificed how he appeared in the court of public opinion to avoid prosecution in a court of the Federal Government.  He was always a person who shied away from the limelight, so slinking away into the seclusion of his gated community was fine for him.  This was years before multiple admissions by players of a "loosy-goosy" environment or even the Mitchell report.  It's hard being the first at anything.

Now that steroids are something the baseball world knows for sure took place when  baseball owners and the players union allowed to happen for ratings and fans, it's easier to make the admission.  Baseball's gone through dead-ball eras, greenies and gambling.  The steroid era will be one of those dots on baseball's timeline.

The rage and disappointments over the mythical sanctity we put on individual records and a false sense of purity applied to our national pastime has subsided.  An understanding of how easy it was for players to use performance enhancing substances help us forgive as well.  Hey when we don't see any cops on the freeway and want to get somewhere in a hurry we drive fast, right?

We also get confirmation of why McGwire did it.  He always had power.  He was big-time prospect who didn't have to claw his way to the minors.  He was always a fairly big fella.  But for a while, he was always hurt. 

His home run numbers are what they are.  A lot of attention was drawn to the big sluggers of the steroid era due to the records involved, but we've learned pitchers and other marginal or non-slugging position players took steroids too.  So it's impossible to know how many less homers he would have had. 

If a pitcher who's fastball used to hit 89 now goes 92-93, but the pitcher still lacks control and movement, you better believe McGwire would hit that ball further.  Add in the other position players that may have gotten on base, or whose own efforts on other teams may have extended the game for McGwire to get another at bat, and we get an idea of how difficult it would be to re-calculate or put asterisks next to home run numbers.

As far as the hall of fame, I still get the feeling McGwire doesn't really care that much.  At some point he might, and if he does get in, it will hit him how big of a deal it really is.  But he does care about his new job as a hitting coach, and not being a distraction to the St. Louis Cardinals

For that, I thank him.  It's best to do this now, even if most people wanted it five to ten years ago.  Minus "the list" and some remaining legal procedures of a couple stubborn, prideful, and deceitful stars, the steroid era is almost behind us, and I can't wait for it be. 

Human Growth Hormone is still out there, but something always will be.  Athletes will always push the limits.  At least now baseball is making an effort to clean up the game, and regain our faith in them.  And now McGwire has as well.