Monday, January 25, 2010

Mark McGwire

Add me to the long list of those who were thoroughly unimpressed by Mark McGwire's public confession two weeks ago, that he used anabolic steroids during a decade-long period that culminated with him breaking the single-season major league homerun record with 70, in 1998.

If McGwire felt liberated by finally speaking out publicly on his long history of steroid use, then I am genuinely happy for him. He is probably sleeping better at night, and as one who has had difficulty sleeping through rough periods in my personal life, I applaud him for coming clean. Except that he failed miserably on the one crucial point, when he insisted that the many years of using a variety of PEDs did not, in fact, enhance his performance.

It's common knowledge now that Big Mac hired former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, now the head man of Fleischer Sports Communications, to guide him through his coming out, of sorts. But if Fleischer advised Mac to say that steroids didn't help hit a baseball, then I think he did a great disservice to his new client. Rather, I think Mac would have been much better served, when asked by Bob Costas on the MLB Network about the benefits of steroids, to say that he didn't know for sure, but that even if 'roids did help hit more home runs, it was impossible to say how many more. Such an answer, I believe, would have been much more credible, and would have served him much better in the long run in the court of public opinion, including with the baseball Hall of Fame voters.

Speaking of the HOF, I was not surprised to see McGwire down around 24% of the vote (far short of the minimum 75% necessary from the baseball writers), but I was very disappointed to see that fellow first-baseman Fred McGriff, in his first year of eligibility, garnered just 21%.

To me, just as a vote against McGwire (and a vote against Bonds three years from now) is a vote against obvious and long periods of heavy steroid use, a vote for McGriff would be a vote in favor of those who put up excellent numbers, albeit numbers overshadowed by steroid users during a steroid era. In other words, you'd have to be an extreme cynic to believe that McGriff used 'roids. He was long&lean as a rookie in the Big Leagues, and he was long&lean when he retired. His body never changed. He hit 493 homeruns, with an average of .284, a solid glove, and a clutch performer, as Giants fans will attest to, particularly from the 1993 season, when the Giants won 103 games, only to finish second in the NL West to the Braves, who won 104, led in large part by McGriff, who hit .310 with 19 homers and 55 RBIs in 290 at-bat, after being acquired in a mid-season trade from San Diego.

In short, a vote against McGwire is a vote against those who cheated the game, and the fans. A vote for McGriff doubles that sentiment.


Anonymous said...


I agree with all of your points. I would have been much more satisfied if McGwire had responded as you mentioned. How can he be blind to the fact that before 1994 he hit home runs at a pace of 1 every 14 at bats (a very good rate, I might add), and that after 1994 he hit home runs at a rate of 1 every 8 at bats. Barry Bonds post 2001 hit the long ball at a startling rate of 1 every 8 at bats.

I am a big Crime Dog McGriff fan and he was a wonderful player. I'm not sure his career is Hall of Fame worthy - the Major League Baseball Hall is the most exclusive of all the Halls - but I agree with your point that a vote for McGriff is a vote for players who did not take PEDs!

Nice piece.

Marc from Alameda

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