I find myself in the minority a lot of the time, and this is no different. I can openly admit I'm biased on this one as well.
I don't typically write about baseball. I like the game, but it hasn't been the same for me since my childhood hero retired.
Growing up, it was nothing but Bash Brothers for me. Mainly Big Mac.
That may have stemmed from all of my friends being big Jose Canseco fans, but Mark McGwire was the man in my eyes.
I was that kid who was 10 years old when he hit that rookie home run record. In the prime of my own little league career, I wanted nothing more than to be that power hitter that Mark McGwire was.
I didn't have the hand-eye coordination or love for the game that was necessary to dedicate to playing baseball, but I still followed McGwire with a sincere passion.
It wasn't about the home runs all the time. For me to follow an athlete, it never was. They could be great statistically, but in the end, if they were jerks off-field, got into trouble, or were just bad role models, then I had no interest in them.
McGwire was great. On the field, off the field, he was a great role model. He was really the guy that you would want your kids to grow up to be like. Big, successful, and an all-round nice guy.
That image was shattered in 2005 when he testified before congress and laid down his infamously awkward and unsuccessful two-step dance around the questions asked by the committee. In the end that day, we all knew something was up. We all drew the conclusion that he had probably used the real stuff, had probably juiced at some point, and probably would eventually come clean.
I found myself embattled about how to feel. After all, Mark McGwire is forever etched in my life whether I like it or not. I sold my Mark McGwire baseball cards collection to buy my wife's engagement ring. The story of how I asked my wife to marry cannot be told minus number 25, and trust me, it's the only romantic part of the entire tale.
I recently read an article written by Joe Posnanski at CNNSI.com and his opinion on the idea we should forgive Mark McGwire. A great quote and point from him went like this:
"He had teammates who used steroids. He faced pitchers who used steroids. He had hits robbed by fielders who used steroids."
This is a good point.
Don't write me off or jump down my throat for thinking this is valid. To get this, you have to remove yourself from the Steve Wilstein school of thought that suggest McGwire must be banned from baseball.
Wilstein is still trying to make himself relevant by reminding everyone that he was the one who read the bottle in McGwire's locker that said "andro" on it. For him to call for McGwire's ban seems slightly self-serving.
Somehow we are enthralled with dropping the hammer on McGwire for what he did.
As everyone calls for McGwire's head, why have we not already staked the head of the other admitted steroid users on the spikes at the entrance to the castle?
I'm sure a quick search would yield many articles of praise for Andy Pettite and Alex Rodriguez after a great postseason that saw A-Rod finally show up for the postseason for the first time in his career.
Guess what—he is an admitted steroid user. We forgave him, and many love him. Let's not forget, had his name not been leaked by someone as being on the infamous report, chances are he never would have admitted it. His hand was forced. He had no choice.
The idea of "What have you done for me lately?" rings true here.
The current players who admit to using can remove that ugly blemish by posting numbers that can prove that it wasn't all about steroids. They can put together memorable runs after their steroid use is allegedly over to grab a late win in the court of public opinion.
Most players who have admitted using can definitely be linked to a whole career filled with the juice. It is true that McGwire's career is over, and there isn't anything he can do to add stats after steroids.
Can we revisit his rookie season when he blasted those record 49 home runs?
Most would agree that there was no juice there. That was all skill, hard work, and natural ability. Can we look back at his career and look at what he did for us early on?
Looking back at his career, an objective look would likely reveal that if not for the injury problems, his lack of steroids would likely have been lower if non-existent.
Right or wrong, it is all a matter of opinion. I won't ever fault the baseball writers for not putting him the Hall of Fame. I'm sure most will call him names while in the same breath continue to forgive Pettite, A-Roid, and crew.
It does seem, however, that we all want to make Mark McGwire the scapegoat in all of this mess.
Why is no one after Sammy Sosa? Why have we forgotten Barry Bonds' total transformation into a muscled freak from a skinny, base stealing, string bean in Pittsburgh?
In the end, though, it may have admittedly taken too long to admit what happened, Big Mac stood up, came clean, and it is definitely time to extend the olive branch and our forgiveness.
Barring a catastrophic turn of events, Big Mac will always be great in my books.
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