Big Mac With a Side Of Juice: Mark McGwire's Incomplete Confession

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst 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

I'm somewhat conflicted in my reaction to the news recently reported by the Associated Press that Mark McGwire has admitted to wide ranging steroid use during his career.

On one hand, it was obvious that his admission comes much too late to be very satisfying. So much testimony had been revealed about the beef producing habits of the "Bash Brothers," including the tainted, though inescapable, accusations of Jose Canseco, that I'm considerably less shocked than when I heard that George Michael was gay.

And I wasn't all.

So part of me just wants to say, "Well Duh," and move on.

Part of me is so sick of all this steroid garbage that I want to tip my cap to McGwire and say, "Good for you for coming clean," even while recognizing that not being "clean" is exactly why his credibility has come into question.

And maybe it's because the wisp of grey that's crept into his red goatee, and maybe it's because of the lines and the hint of a jowl that now mark his aging face, but the sap in me somehow feels sorry for him. He's been swept up in the "steroid era" and is probably no more guilty than half the league.

"I wish I had never touched steroids," McGwire said in a statement. "It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."

When framed that way, it's easy for us to swallow this type of sentiment, particularly when a seemingly contrite McGwire claims he was going to tell us all along.

"I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come," McGwire said. "It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected."

So yeah, I give McGwire some props for coming forward, and I give him props for never lying to our face.  Rather than outright denial, McGwire has largely hid from the media lest they ask him the question, and he avoided perjuring himself at the 2005 congressional hearing by saying, "I'm not here to talk about the past."

That was pretty much when we knew for sure that he had taken steroids, because an innocent man would have had nothing to lose by saying, "no, I never took steroids."

But his confession coming out now, after so much time has elapsed, also has the taint of false contrition.

It's coming out now because McGwire wants back in the league.

It's coming out now because by accepting the job as the Cardinals hitting coach, he is also granting the media access to him and he knew that sooner or later, and probably repeatedly, he was going to be asked the question.  Therein lies the enigma of McGwire.

Obviously he's a man that doesn't feel comfortable lying, at least not in the sense that most of us are more familiar with.

He wasn't willing to look the media, the country, and the throng of fans in the eye and say, "I didn't do it," and for that I'll give him credit.  We're all too familiar with Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez who had no problem floating that garbage out there only to confess later (and still not fully) when it didn't work.

But what Mark McGwire still doesn't understand is that his entire career was a lie.

Big Mac, do you remember unabashedly shattering the league's long standing home run record?  Wasn't that a lie?

Big Mac, do you remember the Sammy Sosa hugs, the media mugs, and the endorsement plugs?  Wasn't that a lie?

As seems to be fashionable these days, McGwire also seemed to single out his many injuries as the sole reason for doing steroids in the first place.

"During the mid-'90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years," McGwire said in the statement. "I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years, and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too."

"I thought they would prevent injuries too," being the key phrase.

If he was taking them to prevent injuries then he was taking them all the time, and just must not have noticed how his body swelled, how his bat speed increased, and how his numbers shot through the stratosphere.

So in the spirit of the A-rod "confession" that admitted steroid use after he had been thoroughly busted, Mark McGwire is coming clean, but not completely.  While he's coming clean enough for us to get off his back, he's stopping well short of the whole truth.

Big Mac with a side of Juice, was one of the biggest lies ever told in the history of the game.  One that encouraged many others to "lie" when they saw how effective it could be and one that continues to taint the sport to this day.

Mark McGwire damn near invented the steroid era.

So though I'm glad you finally decided to come "clean" Mr. McGwire, I don't think any of us are convinced that there isn't some dirty laundry still left in the closet and I doubt that the game will remember you as a bringer of truth.

If anything, we'll accept your statement, tardy as it is, and do our best to forget the history you so befouled with your numerous lapses.