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…. History repeated

So now Mark McGwire has finally come clean, apologized, and confessed:

…. “I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the nineties, including during the 1998 season.

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

Of course, it’s not enough. Just as Pete Rose discovered, the sportswriters who are defending baseball from the players are –almost to a man– hypocrites when they come up with these conditions for forgiveness.

Mike Lupica, NY Daily News:

…. McGwire did a lot of good for himself Monday, he did. But he did not come clean, not all the way, not the way he could have, no matter how long and hard this day and night were for him, no matter how difficult it was to make this confession to his wife and children and parents and former manager, and to the country.

Surprised? Not me. Lupica was the leader of the mob standing in front of Pete Rose’s castle, holding his pitchfork and torch, screaming for Rose’s admission of guilt and apology, and then immediately afterwards telling all of us that it wasn’t good enough.

Bill Madden, NY Daily News:

…. I highly doubt if it’s going to make any appreciable difference in the 23-24% he’s been getting in the Hall of Fame balloting.

If anything, when the voters reflect on what an absolute sham McGwire was, publicly embracing the Maris family in 1998 as he went about annihilating Roger Maris’ longstanding single-season home record with the help of performance-enhancing drugs, they should be even more dismissive of him as a person deserving of any honor in baseball. In his statement Monday, McGwire said: “I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroids era.”

It seems to me the most important people he needs to apologize to are Roger Maris’ two sons.

Um, Bill, he did apologize to the Maris family. But why let facts interfere with your work as the Great Defender of the Hall of Fame, right?

Ann Killion, Sports Illustrated:

…. It’s a little stunning that after all these years of waiting, after all these years he had to prepare for this moment that McGwire — and his chief apologist, Tony La Russa, — botched the admission.

McGwire’s stance is that he only took steroids for his health not for strength. That he firmly believes that he would have hit the same number of home runs without performance enhancing drugs. That he doesn’t view his numbers as a product of cheating.

Oh please. It’s 2010. We’re not morons.

Ken Rosenthal, USA Today:

…. In many ways, this was as bad as McGwire’s performance before Congress simply because it wasn’t credible.

I’d just like to point out that this is the same Ken Rosenthal who wrote this three years ago, almost to the day:

…. A confession would help. A confession would liberate Mark McGwire, increasing his chances of redemption by an ever-forgiving public, not to mention the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who vote for the Hall of Fame.

A confession would end the talk that McGwire is hiding something, forcing voters to view him for what he is; a product of his era, the Steroid Era, and hardly the only star player suspected of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Nice consistency, Ken.

It’s called a moving target. Come clean. Not good enough. Apologize. Not sincere enough. Answer questions. More questions. Keep answering. Why aren’t you talking about it anymore? What are you hiding?

I wrote about Mark McGwire’s situation five years ago:

…. Virtually any athlete in any sport will do just about anything to be the best of the best, and a manager or coach will push them to do so. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others will throw it away, and risk their very lives, if they truly believed it would make a difference, the difference between winning and losing. We, as fans, not only ask this of them, we demand it. Their coaches demand it, their teammates demand it, the game demands it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes; these are the credo of virtually every championship-caliber player, coach, or team.

And now, hysterical media-types are fanning the flames of controversy; “Oh no, it looks like so and so really did do whatever it takes. Shame on him!” Please. Don’t insult my inteligence. Of course he or she did, what did you expect? The only difference between what one athlete will risk as opposed to another is based on their own personal decision-making values. As for their choice, I’d ask you; is it appropriate for one person to decide what another should be willing to risk? Is it OK for you to tell me what I should be willing to do to improve my life, my career, my earning potential? Not in my book, it isn’t, not as long as my actions don’t harm anyone else, or take from anyone else.

In the five years prior to 1997, Mark McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Was it his use of (steroids) that allowed him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three, hitting 58, 70 and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, in which he played almost every game, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. He stopped using (steroids) sometime during the end of the 1998 season, right? Only one full season later, he was back on the injured list, and his career was over by 2001. If his use of (steroids) enabled him to stay healthy enough and strong enough to get enough at bats to break Roger Maris’ record, how exactly was that wrong? Why should Mark McGwire give up his right to do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it? It’s his life!

Now we get sportswriters –none of them experts on this subject, by the way– telling us that they don’t believe him. Telling us that it was the steroids that caused him to get hurt and miss games; and then telling us it was the steroids that caused him to break the home run record. With a straight face.

He came clean, confessed and apologize. Isn’t it time to end the vendetta?

Of course not. I can guarantee you this; Mark McGwire will be forced to answer questions every time the Cardinals play a game, every new city they go to, he will be asked the same questions. When did you use? What did you use? Don’t you agree that the steroids are the reasons you hit all those home runs?

On and on, he will be grilled. It’ll never be enough. That’s why it’s called a moving target.

UPDATE: The one voice of reason out there seems to be Joe Posnanski:

…. We are a forgiving society. I hear that so often that I simply assume it must be true. We as a country WANT to forgive … that’s part of what makes ours a great country. When Mark McGwire finished his sprawling, emotional, vague, occasionally tense and often enlightening hour-long interview, my thought was: “Well, I think forgiveness starts here.”

Man oh man did I get that wrong.

Within seconds of the interview ending, I began to hear analysts tearing up McGwire. Then I read some columnists’ thoughts — they mostly ripped into the man, too. And the more I read, the more I heard, the more I realized that most people did not see this thing the way I saw it. Apparently, McGwire was not contrite enough. He was not believable enough. He was not specific enough. He would not admit that steroids made him the great home run hitter he became. He did not tell the whole truth. He did not sound sincere enough. And on. And on. And on.

…. When Mark McGwire finished with his day of apologies, I forgave him. It doesn’t mean I look at his 70-home run season the way I did in 1998. It doesn’t mean that I respect the choices he made. It doesn’t even mean that I agree with his self-scouting report. No. I just mean that if there was any anger or resentment toward him for cheating, it is gone now. He admitted and he apologized.


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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