by Michael Riehn
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi
Mark McGwire finally talked about the past yesterday, and a flood of perfect people have opened the gates to chastise him on their moral high ground. (/end sarcasm).
I’ve seen the hour long interview (If you haven’t, you can find the basics through the McGwire’s interview with Bernie Miklasz at the Post Dispatch.). Costas was fair but strong. 95% of what McGwire said is right on target, and is much better than anyone’s else “confession” from steroids. There are comments to disagree with to be sure, but everyone is focusing on the negative and not giving any thought to the positive.
For once, we seem to have someone actually telling the truth about steroids (as opposed to A-Rod, Pettite, Clemens, etc.). He didn’t say: “I only did them once to try them” and “What a coincidence I happened to get tested!”
You may not agree with the timing, but it takes a lot of bravery and moral character to lay it all out like he is doing. He seems to be telling the truth and his admissions give it plausibility. McGwire has admitted to using them throughout his career, even through his record breaking 70 home run season.
He has a great explanation for the 2005 hearings (that I agree with) and there should be great points for telling the truth. McGwire has shed light on the issue instead of telling ‘just enough’ to get the public off his back. He seems genuinely sorry for his actions and deserves to have this issue die (after this post).
What are Steroids and Why are They a Problem?
Steroids have proper uses, and are legally administered by doctors to help patients heal more quickly. This is why your doctor prescribes steroids when you are sick. Abuse from the drug occurs when someone misuses them to ”self-medicate” injuries or to get stronger. Not only is this dangerous, but it is illegal due to the long term side affects that can range from mild to life threatening problems.
Steroids can cause depression or rage, damage your heart or ligaments and has been linked to some cancers. That’s a broad and generic definition, but the main issue is that short term gains can cause long term health problems.
McGwire explained that he took steroids for his myriad of injuries, and did not take them for strength. He’s not using this for an excuse but for an explanation. The apologies and anguish he shows in the interview are heart-wrenching, and you can tell that he has suffered greatly from his abuse.
Does this mean that I condone his actions. No, he messed up and there are consequences. He’s paid a great price for hiding this secret, and his admission has been embarrasing and difficult. He won’t go into the Hall of Fame and a public flogging is tough for anyone to go through.
The main problem critics are having with the confession is McGwire’s belief that steroids did not help him play better baseball. I find this hard to understand too, but he isn’t lying. He truly believes his statement. Instead of dismissing this issue on its face, let’s see if it has any merit. The two main advantages of steroids are quicker muscle recovery and healing.
Maybe McGwire didn’t need steroids for the strength to hit home runs. He was never a strong doubles hitter that just barely missed the warning track. He probably would have lost some, but his shots were mamoth and prolific. Saying this, there are studies that show how increased strength improves home run output (and that steroids can produce this increased strength).
The main issue is that recovering from the day to day, is part of why he hit all of those home runs each season in the first place. This is the biggest advantage he received from the drug, and the main reason why he probably wouldn’t have hit 70 without them.
Many people also believe that it makes you quicker to the ball, but this is just a theory. Strength doesn’t necessarily mean quickness, and McGwire is right that his swing got shorter and he had better mechanics later in his career. This WAS part of what made him a good hitter. Dismissing McGwire’s beliefs are just like dismissing beliefs that it COULD have an effect. PEDs probably make you quicker, but by how much and to what effect is still in doubt.
Now to the final part that hasn’t been explored. McGwire took steroids long term. Isn’t it possible that they HELPED him break down? Remember, he wasn’t taking the new steroids from today, or going through a doctor who specialized in baseball players. He was taking steroids from a gym. Yes they may have helped him short term with strength or recovery, but could he have hit MORE home runs over time if he had left the stuff alone?
You can’t say steroids are bad for you and dismiss this statement out of hand. McGwire’s physical abilities may have been hurt by his abuse along with his legacy. This adds another layer of sadness to the issue. What could McGwire have done without the juice? 600 home runs? A longer career?
Say it Ain’t So
I can see WHY McGwire took steroids. He was injured a lot in the early 90’s, and it is easy to see why/how he took the wrong path. He was a gifted athlete that kept breaking down with freak injuries. Players that didn’t have his talent or work ethic (he was always one of the players who worked the hardest) had greater success, and were passing him up. He looked for a way out and unfortunately found a shortcut.
In choosing drugs to help him level the playing field, he did the opposite, and gave himself an unfair advantage. Anytime you can stay on the field without taking time to heal, and recover more quickly (think day game after a night game), it gives you more opportunity at consistent production. This isn’t fair to other players who didn’t take the long term risks, and gave him a distinct advantage.
I can see why people have a hard time with McGwire’s beliefs on his career statistics, but he is entiled to his OPINION. We don’t have to force him to believe what we think in order to “win” our forgiveness (even if “we” are probably right). Say you disagree with him and move on. Don’t make him out to be a terrible person. He’s not, nor ever has been a terrible person (just ask teammates, friends, charitable organizations and other people around baseball).
Let the man have his peace. It’s time to stop the eternal damnation and get on with our lives. Of course, if he isn’t a good hitting coach, I will be outraged!