Mark McGwire Admission Reactions
When Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids on Monday, it was hardly shocking news. Indeed, anybody out there who honestly believed that McGwire had not used performance-enhancing drugs during his career was either lying to themselves or ignorant. The so-called bombshell, though, did present an opportunity for many grumpy old public figures and sportswriters to get on their high horse and take a moral stand against steroid use for yet another column or rant.
Now, it is hard to take a lot of what McGwire said during an interview with Bob Costas on MLB Network last night at face value. He is either lying or delusional to think that using performance-enhancing drugs only helped him to stay on the field (“health purposes,” my ass), rather than hitting more home runs. Of course, by staying healthy, he was able to play in more games, thus leading to more homers. So, it would be wrong to take issue with those writers calling him out on that front. I have now read a lot of analysis pieces and reactions over McGwire’s decision to come clean, though, and many take too hard of stand against him as a player, seemingly because he was the face of an unfortunate era. Here are some of the reactions from the most outraged former players, political figures and writers.
Jay Mariotti, AOL FanHouse: “And all he did is confirm that what we watched in 1998, what we celebrated and followed like fools, was a complete waste of time and perhaps the scummiest example of why baseball's juice period was the biggest scandal in this country's sports history. Never have we been duped by something that seemed so surreal and wound up so scandalous. Therefore, how can we have mercy on McGwire and elect him to the Hall when his biggest achievement is wrapped in shame? The purpose of Cooperstown is to preserve baseball's most precious moments, not to whitewash scum.
…As a Hall of Fame voter, I won't check the name of anyone linked to performance-enhancing drugs. That goes for McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and all the rest. The only one who has a chance to redeem himself is Rodriguez because of his relative youth, the length of his contract and the chance -- and I say this with great hesitation -- that he'll be steroids-free for the final eight years of his career while eventually owning the all-time home-run record. No matter what he did before that day in Washington, no matter how he fares as a batting coach in St. Louis, the McGwire moment imbued in the American consciousness is taking the oath and saying absolutely nothing.”
Howard Bryant, ESPN.com: “He said it was foolish. Driving under the influence is foolish. McGwire profited from his conscious decision. He kept the roughly $74 million in salary he earned from Oakland and St. Louis, and both teams kept the money they earned from his presence. The A's, it should be remembered, won the World Series the year McGwire said he began using steroids.
…Integrity, as players ranging from the clean to the tainted to the outright dirty are finding out, is not something a price tag can be placed upon, especially when one wants his reputation back. All is not forgiven.”
Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com: “That's nice, except that McGwire didn't just play during the steroids era; he was one of the leading men of the steroids era. He did so knowingly, brazenly and, until now, without remorse. One of the strongest men in baseball was one of the weakest when it came to doing the PEDs deed.”
Jeff Pearlman: “Where to begin? First, I’m glad McGwire finally admitted this, because—let’s be blunt here—what he did was bullshit. Pure bullshit. Remember the home run chase of ‘98? The tears? The smiles? The history? Well, the tears and smiles might have been legitimate, but the history was not. Say what you want, Big Mac defenders, but you don’t break Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark by cheating (and, yes, steroids were cheating. Maybe not by baseball standards alone, but by federal law, where possession without a proper prescription was/is illegal). You don’t hug his family with one arm while inserting a needle into the other. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t—and apologists really need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why this sort of behavior continues to be defended. Because, in the context of the game, it’s indefensible. Especially in the context of the history of the game.”
Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News (Bonus video footage): “Good evening. Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can't say what we'd like to about the news today that Mark McGwire—the home run hitter, the family favorite from the St. Louis Cardinals—stopped lying today and admitted that he did it while on steroids. For those of us who were raising young baseball fans and baseball players who looked up to Mark McGwire, that summer of ‘98 was magical stuff, as he and Sammy Sosa vied back and forth for the title of Single Season Home Run King. He didn't tell the truth to Congress or to his fans until finally, formally coming clean today. He's been unable to get into the Hall of Fame and, apparently—even for him—the shame here was too much.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay: "I am disappointed that Mark McGwire used steroids in the 1990s. I am glad he has finally admitted it. I am delighted he will be working with the Cardinals this season. I didn't put his name on the highway and it is not to up to me to take it off."
Ryne Sandberg, former Chicago Cubs second baseman: “Hearing the truth kind of hurts,” Sandberg said. “It was such a negative thing for the sport to continue hearing kind of what went on. It’s kind of disturbing. “He was a guy who kind of stole the show in 1998 with his home run year. It kind of puts that all to shame.”
Steve Traschel, the pitcher who gave up home run number 62: “I’m not surprised Mark said it,” Trachsel said. “I mean, we all suspected it. We all knew it. Now you have to say everything he ever did was tainted. All of it.”
Woody Paige, Denver Post: "Owning up to illegal use of steroids is good for the lost souls — especially if a player seeks to be involved with baseball or stay out of prison. But it won't — and shouldn't — get them in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The numbers and achievements are counterfeit."
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News: "But he did not last night, even as he insisted that the numbers that helped poison baseball's record books in the late 1990s came from "the Man Upstairs." McGwire seemed more comfortable talking about the Man Upstairs than he did about the guy at the gym helping him get the juice.
Again and again, as he talked about his abnormal home run numbers in the late '90s he said, "I wanted my body to feel normal." He also talked about the pressure to perform, the same way Rodriguez did last spring in Tampa. A lot of guys deal with that without ever going to pills, or the needle.
You walked away feeling sorry for McGwire Monday night, because how could you not? You walked away hoping he does make the most of this second chance, in a country of second chances. But if he only took drugs to heal a wounded body, why has he been this tortured for this long?"
Most surprisingly, though, Philadelphia Daily News writer Bill Conlin actually had a good take on the admission: “And this to Pete Rose . . . I think maybe the BBWAA voters will keep Mark McGwire out for one more election. Then, I believe they will forgive him and vote him in, because, guess what, the guy never lied about using steroids. He simply - and relentlessly - refused to talk about the past. But you lied, Pete, until a publisher paid you enough money to give up the truth that you bet on baseball.”
That Conlin would be a voice of reason yesterday, friends, was perhaps the most shocking revelation of all.
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