"The Truth Shall Set Me Free," so says Mark McGwire after releasing his statement to the press yesterday that he was indeed a steroid user for the better part of the decade. It was McGwire along with Sammy Sosa who revived the sport of Major League Baseball from one of its lowest places in the history of the sport.
McGwire, who never tested positive for any illegal substance during his playing time, stood up before a Select Committee of United States Congressmen and said he would not talk about the past. From that moment on, McGwire has been vilified by the fans, the press, and broadcasters throughout the U.S.
What all of us learned yesterday for the first time was what went on behind the scenes of that committee meeting. According to McGwire, he had every intention of coming clean that day before Congress but his lawyers advised him in order to avoid prosecution he would need to get immunity. His lawyers met with the two key members of the committee, who could not promise immunity, so they all agreed that McGwire who refused to lie about his steroid use could say that he would not speak about the past.
Does that make a difference to anyone? It does to me. The committee knew what McGwire was going to say, and they agreed not to push the issue.
Perhaps, the most amazing part of his revelation was that Mark did not feel that his performance was accelerated by the use of steroids. His claim about taking low doses just to help heal his injuries and himself to "feel normal" comes across as either terribly naive or just plain stupid.
McGwire feels that if he were healthy and never took steroids he still would have managed to hit 70 home runs in one season and 583 overall. Really?
What Mark clearly does not get is all baseball players play the game going through a series of injuries. Some are obviously more debilitating than others and most of the players of the "Steroid Era" did not use performance-enhancing drugs to improve their game.
McGwire is going down the same road as Andy Pettitte did for using steroids to help heal injuries faster. So what became of Andy? He's still considered a star and a favorite on a Yankee team that has seen the use of PED's before.
What happens to Mark McGwire is anybody's guess. He may come out of this like Pettitte, Jason Giambi, or even like Alex Rodriguez whose play in the playoffs allowed people to forget his disclosure 11 months ago.
I have always been a fan of Mark McGwire ever since his rookie year in Oakland where you could not notice his awesome power and his ability to hit gigantic home runs. Now he will become the batting coach under his former manager and dear friend Tony La Russa who has been a consistent supporter of Mark throughout his career.
St. Louis is a baseball friendly town. I don't expect their acceptance of Mark McGwire will be met with animosity or cruelty. If Cardinals' batters are tearing the cover off the ball and they succeed in getting to the playoffs, then McGwire should feel secure in his home park.
However, it won't be the same on the road. Philadelphia and New York immediately come to mind as places where McGwire ought to leave his batting helmet on at all times.
Finally, comes the question of his election to the Hall of Fame. I'm not a big fan of the hall primarily due to the fact that I see the baseball writers' lack of knowledge about the players and their criteria for acceptance to the hall being a joke.
Knowing I can't change that, I don't feel Mark will ever get 75 percent of the ballots to get him in. I believe that all the players of this era who have admitted to taking steroids and those who haven't but are perceived to have used PED's, like Barry Bonds, will not see themselves enshrined in Cooperstown.
Like everyone else, they will have to buy a ticket to get in.
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