A juicing Big Mac: Mark McGwire’s steroid use leaves more questions than answers

I don’t like movies that are predictable. Like the typical romantic comedy where the couple who despises each other falls in love in the end or the true-crime thriller where we know the killer’s identity from scene one. Scriptwriters may try to pull the wool over our eyes but the American public is not stupid. We might be disinterested. We might be overweight. But we know what we like. Entertain us. Just don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t mislead.

Take Mark McGwire for example. Is there a baseball fan in America that for one second doubted he was on steroids? His announcement was followed by a collectively sarcastic “Oh really.”

mark-mcgwire-rookie-cardMcGwire was a string bean when he came into the league. Tall and lanky. A power-hitter for sure but not a 70-home run a year guy. Nobody was. At least not until the needle entered the locker room.

Even the most ardent McGwire fan couldn’t look you straight in the face and tell you Mac wasn’t juicing. Like your average predictable movie, everyone in the audience knew what was coming. But we watched anyway. After all, what’s a Big Mac without the special sauce?

The Sosa-McGwire home run race of 1998 made for great theater. After a cancelled World Series only a few years earlier, fans desperately wanted to believe in the national pastime again. What better way that to make that happen than to have one of its most hallowed records fall?

We knew the numbers were tainted, the shadow of a giant asterisk looming overhead. What we didn’t know was how long McGwire could live the lie.

When Andy Pettitte admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, it was a big thing… for a while. He said he took them to expedite rehabilitation. Pettitte came clean, we moved on. His legal advisors obviously didn’t work for the firm of Clemens, Bonds & Palmeiro.

In essence, McGwire’s confession didn’t resolve anything. A number of questions remain unanswered.

mark-mcgwire-congressInstead of refusing to “talk about the past” at the Congressional hearings, what if McGwire had admitted taking steroids right then and there? Would that have changed anything, and if so how? Would others have come clean sooner? Instead we’re left with the image of Sosa, McGwire and Palmeiro standing outside the courtroom like the cast of Stand By Me pinky swearing they’re not going to rat each other out.

Had McGwire come clean sooner, how much closer would he be along the path of forgiveness? How many baseball writers would now be putting anything other than a resounding ‘No’ on their Hall of Fame ballots?

What if steroids had never entered baseball? How much longer would it have taken the sport to recover from the World Series that wasn’t?

Are we still supposed to believe that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens never took performance enhancers? How is it possible that the greatest hitter and pitcher of our generation were better than EVERYONE ELSE when the rest of the league was using? And what percentage of the league was that? 25%? 50%? 75%?

Why the stigma surrounding steroids? Because the players inherently knew it was wrong even though the league didn’t test for them? Is it because we still have images of a debilitating Lyle Alzado in our heads? Were performance enhancers still immoral if they made our favorite players get better quicker? Why weren’t they made illegal earlier?

If everyone was using, doesn’t that ultimately level the playing field, not historically but at least in the modern game? How will we look back on the period? Should the record books be revised? If so, how? How big and broad is the asterisk? Is Jose Canseco the smartest guy in the room?

How accountable is Tony LaRussa, or any other manager, who coached players on the juice? Furthermore, how accountable should Bud Selig be for presiding over, if not profiting from, the sport over this time?

mark-mcgwire1Are we supposed to have more or less respect for Mark McGwire after his confession? Or should we remain indifferent? What if a player already in the Hall of Fame admitted he had used performing enhancing drugs? Would he be expelled?

When it’s all said and done, it’s about accountability. McGwire is hoping to exorcize his personal demons. He might feel better, but do we? As the new St Louis Cardinals hitting coach, he wants to reenter baseball with a clean slate. He suggested he could have hit 70 home runs without steroids, but that doesn’t matter. It’s hypothetical and smacks of desperation.

Like every fan, I still have questions. Some I might want answered, some I might not. Or maybe I don’t really care. It’s like a movie I already know the end to and we already know, I don’t watch those.

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27 Replies to “A juicing Big Mac: Mark McGwire’s steroid use leaves more questions than answers”

  1. Chris

    The one thing that really angers me in all of this is the very fact that upon breaking Maris’ record , McGwire made out handsomely in terms of his financial well being. It’s been estimated that he made in excess of $20-25million from endorsements alone. So forgive when I say, that ‘he’ can go f_ck himself and the horse he rode in on ! He knew full well what he was doing and the very fact that he’d perpetrated one of the biggest frauds in all of sports. All of this bull_hit about he felt scared and worried by Congress is merely just talk to attain the public’s sympathy.

    Now the public have to find it within their heart to forgive and forget ? That’s like asking those who suffered at the hands of Madoff to just look the other way. And as to the MLB hierarchy , well those as_holes can no longer look at themselves in the mirror and say that this has all been one big nightmare. Afterall due to their lack of being proactive they merely catered to the subterfuge that went down to begin with.

    Alan Parkins

  2. Ya know what, Al?

    There’s a lot here that bothers me.

    Yes, I feel for the Maris family, or at least the record, but a lot of hard core fans still think his record stands.

    But why are the players here, Clemens, Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa, etc. taking all the blame?

    We’re not talking about brain surgeons. We’re talking about professional athletes. They all found an avenue to improve their craft and also make money while doing so. Why would they NOT have taken steroids when there were no repercussions? When they did get busted, they were surrounded with a bunch of legal speak about what or what not to do.

    The sport that was supposed to govern this sort of behavior did NOTHING but benefit from the rampant drug use.

    If ANYTHING, as we’ve discussed, the person who presided over that time, your Bud and mine, should be held accountable just like the rest of ’em.

    Remember that scene in Aliens where they first infiltrate the base only to find out that aliens had overrun the place. Lt Gorman refuses to pull his troops as the get offed one by one.

    Well, that’s Selig, watching the biggest names that made him rich drop one by one. “McGwire…. come in, McGwire. Manny… Manny!”

    Well, color me Sigourney Weaver. Pull the troops. Grant these guys amnesty and have everyone come clean already so we can all move on.

  3. Great article and I don’t mean to minimize you weighing in on this issue but I have to say……..who really gives a sh–!

    I am so sick and tired of the debate over steroid use and whether or not these records should be counted or not. This is such a non-issue. I love baseball and can’t wait for the season to start again, but it’s just a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Why do all these grown men put so much time and energy discussing the relevance of these “tainted” records and whether or not the game’s legacy has been compromised.

    I couldn’t care less who hit what and when decades before I was even born. I think these debates just continue to expand the athletes own level of self importance in the world and the pathology they exhibit when they believe that what they do really has any significance.

    It’s a game and it’s entertainment. I love sports radio but when this topic dominates the conversation, I turn the channel.

    Go Rays!

  4. Supercarrier…

    I honestly think your sentiments echo the majority of Americans.

    It’s time for us to move on, yet one by one, former big leaguers continue to admit guilt like a slow leaky faucet. It’s water torture.

    The more I study the situation, I think Major League Baseball should grant them all amnesty. After all, it’s the sport who turned a blind eye, allowing them to take these supplements and enhance their careers in the first place.

  5. Mike Carrier

    It’s just a game ’til many of these players in later years have grave health issues. That’s one of the things that’s not always pointed out concerning the steroid abuse issue. Less you forget that ?

    Alan Parkins

  6. Yea, but Al, that’s the price they pay for fame and fortune.

    These guys all knew what they were doing. No one put a gun to their head.

    I want to see what happens in 20 years. Are a whole bunch of aging major leaguers going to all of the sudden drop like flies like a bad Stephen King novel?

    (Wow… that’s two Stephen King references in one post. I might have nightmares tonight!)

  7. Chris

    You’re right no one is putting a gun to their head but in all honesty the agony they endure would be less painful from a bullet than the years servitude from the pain of steroid abuse and the afflictions that goes with it all. You hear that air head Silio on his WDAE morning show go about how he never had any major health issues over the course of his career or thereafter. But yet his overweight ass couldn’t get run 100 yds in less 15 seconds as a 45 year old.

    Now he’s claiming that he’s down to his college playing weight and fitter than ever. In other words he’s but a moment away from another coronary. He was never that good to begin with. He rode on the coat-tails of other as a ‘Canes’ player.

    Alan Parkins

  8. Al… I’m interested in two things that will happen 20 years from now.

    How will the bodies and health of these athletes hold up? I mean, we’re talking potentially hundreds of baseball players.

    Secondly, how will this era be remembered? Bonds and Clemens were as good as they come. Will they always be remembered as cheaters?

  9. Do I think that Baseball’s management and union officials are lying,corrupt,and dispicable eletist jerks? Yes!
    Do I believe that the guilty players are lying, cheating, morons? Yes!
    Do I believe that any of them should ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
    I think you know where I stand on this issue.
    Thanks for allowing me to vent. I’m much better now.

  10. Chris

    No one actually thinks about ‘the long term risks’ at the end of the day. It’s always been about the ‘immediacy of the here and now’.

    One more thing since when did a misogynistic bas_ard like Bobby Knight become the ‘voice of reason in defending Mark McGwire ? Listen to his reasonings and you can tell that this doo-fuss needs to sit his a-s down and be quiet once and for all. He even knocks Gatorade as being a PED ? Shut the _*ck up !

    Click here to view the ESPN video with Karl Ravich .

    Alan Parkins

  11. Al…

    I don’t think anyone has ever used Bobby Knight and the expression ‘voice of reason’ in the same sentence.

    For some reason, his stance doesn’t surprise me.

  12. Chris

    I love the fact thought that he feels Gatorade is a ‘PED’ . Whoa Nelly I bet he’s not too happy when a player of his use to use Nyquil ? What an a_s !

    I know it’s somewhat late given that the event took place last week. But I dropped this on the Eagles’ meltdown against the Cowboys. Now the ‘blame game’ is said to be taking place in Philly.

    Is McNabb now gone for good or will he back next season ? Will Andy Reid still be there ? What a bevy of questions and no one actually has answer as to what may eventually go down.

    Time Is On My Side Yes It Is Time Is On My Side ……Oh Really ?


    Alan Parkins


  13. I think what he meant to say, Al, is that Gatorade, mixed with some chopped up Viagara, is a performance enhancing drug.

    Isn’t it a little early for Philly fans to be reading about that? Give them a little more time, man.

    First they lose to the Yankees, now this? At least they have Iverson back, huh?

  14. Well, I would think he would have gotten a look, Al. He’s got deep Tampa roots.

    Clearly Holtz has more coaching experience but you’d think someone like Williams would warrant some consideration.

    I haven’t read whether or not he was in the running.

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