Originally published in January 2010
A lot of athletes cheat. We get it. What is insulting are the lies they continue to feed us. Roger Clemens still denies using. Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada lied to Congress (bad idea). Sammy Sosa no speaka ingles. The list goes on and on. Few players will admit they have taken these drugs in the first place, let alone admit that they took them to become better at the sport. And for some reason, fans pretty much let them get away with it.
Everyone knew Mark McGwire used performance enhancement drugs. Well, everyone except Tony LaRussa at least. There’s so much that could be covered with the McGwire fiasco. I could dissect McGwire’s (and LaRussa’s for that matter) statement line by line and comment on its utter stupidity. Instead, my real issue with McGwire and the other athletes who cheat is simply this: They tried to cheat and we know it. Stop continuing to lie and insulting our intelligence.
I don’t know the science of steroids and how they work. I don’t know if you take steroids if you hit more home runs than people that don’t. I do know that when you look at the list of all time home run leaders, most of them are linked to performance enhancement drugs- so you figure it out. Is it the steroids themselves that give the athletes more power or is it because they use it in addition to working out and they heal more quickly, allowing them to build more muscle faster than the non-using player? Doctors don’t seem to know, so I’d be willing to bet the players that use them don’t either. But the point is, the players do know that the steroids give them an edge or else they wouldn’t do them. And they’re illegal and banned substances, so the players know that they aren’t suppose to use them. So if you’re using a banned substance in order to gain an edge (power wise, recovery wise, whatever), you are cheating.
This issue could go even deeper—did their cheating lead to bigger contracts and more money? Absolutely. Does it lead to more fans spending money on tickets to see you play? Does it lead to more wins for your team? More jerseys and merchandise sold for your organization? The possibilities are endless. The fact is, it has happened. Over and over. We knew it happened.
I have a tough time feeling any sympathy for McGwire and the consequences of his attempt (and in reality, success) in cheating. Seeing his interviews with tears welling up in his eyes didn’t do it for me. And honestly, it would have if he would have said the right things. If he would have admitted he cheated, that’s all it would have taken. Instead, all the interviews were based around trying to convince us that he took the drugs off and on and only for health reasons because he was struggling with injuries. It was to help with the daily grind of baseball (which EVERY player also experiences). The fact is, you cheated. You used a banned substance to get an edge.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to get healthy again. Every player and person does the same thing. No one accuses you of cheating in life if you take Advil when you have a headache or some anti-biotics to fight the flu. No one accuses a player of cheating if he has Lasik surgery so he can see better. Did it give those players an edge? Yeah, it did. But it’s available and legal. Do some players have an edge based off of the climate and/or facilities they grew up by and had access to? Sure. If someday steroids are legal and allowed in baseball- go for it! Bend over, here come the needles! But right now- they’re not. Find your edge in working harder than everyone else. Not by injecting yourself with a needle of cheat. And when you get caught, just admit it. You cheated. I find it hard to believe you are sorry for lying when you’re not sorry for cheating. You knew it was wrong- that’s why you hid it for 21 years.
The reason why McGwire frustrates me so much is my assumption on how he would answer these questions:
If you were never “caught” using steroids—if you had gotten away with it and were under no suspicion, would you have admitted to using?
If you had not taken the job as the Cardinals hitting coach and weren't forced back into the public eye after 5 years in hiding, would you have held this same press conference to talk about steroids?
The response of Cardinal Nation to Cubs Nation on the McGwire issue has been to turn the attention back on Sosa. Here are actual Facebook quotes:
“probably because we forgot how to speak English…o wait… who was that?”
“You know what would really be a joke, if a player ever corked his bat and when he got caught in a game said he ‘accidentally grabbed his batting practice bat.’ What would be even funnier is if said player suddenly forgot how to speak English while testifying in front of Congress on the use of steroids in baseball. J”
“Sammy is a cheat too!”
“oy yeah, JMW, and Sammy Sosa was a saint!”
Here’s what you are missing. Chicago ran Sammy Sosa out of town. I suspect that the Cubs organization knew about Sammy taking steroids and turned a blind eye to it as did every other team that was making money from the Home Run ball. It was good for business at the time and I’m very skeptical at the thought that the commissioner wasn’t aware of it either. Shortly after the corked bat debacle, the Cubs couldn’t wait to get rid of Sosa. They ended up trading him to the Orioles for pretty much nothing and ended up eating up most of his remaining contract. I certainly would not support Sosa being brought back to Chicago as a hitting coach. We’ve moved on. I don’t know how anyone can support McGwire’s return to baseball as a hitting coach! It’s like bringing Milli Vanilli on the panel of American Idol to help teach the contestants to sing.
If I have to read one more comment like this, I’m going to throw up:
“watching McGwire’s interview with Costas…Admire Big Mac more today than when I thought he was legit in ’98. Takes character to repent.”
No, in this case repenting takes a job offer that forces you to face the media after 5 years in hiding.
To be honest, I really don’t care that McGwire took steroids. Or Sosa. Or Bonds. Or Rodriguez. Or Palmerio. Or Tejada. Or (add pretty much any good player from the 90’s here). I mean, it’s disappointing to know that all these great accomplishments and exciting record-breaking events we’ve seen in baseball over the last decade have been the product of cheating. But what can we do about it? There wasn’t a good way to test the players until now. We have no way of knowing how many players actually cheated. We have no way of knowing what their numbers would have been if they hadn’t have cheated. All we can do is deal with what happened and move forward. Just don’t tell me how great you were and didn’t need the steroids. Apparently you didn’t believe that while you took them for 20 years. The last thing I want to see is you in uniform again “teaching” today’s players how to hit. Ugh.
He couldn’t be a better fit for that manager.