Mark McGwire picked a good week to publicly admit using steroids. Between the Conan/Leno stuff, the NFL playoffs, and Simon Cowell leaving American Idol, one of baseball’s most-anticipated steroid confessions almost got swept under the carpet. Almost.
The reaction to McGwire’s admission has been surprisingly negative. I may not be the best judge of reactions to steroids, but I would have thought an unprovoked, damningly complete (since he admitted using during his record-breaking 1998 season), and heartfelt apology from someone as once-beloved as Mark McGwire would have been greeted with something more akin to a sigh of relief. After all, this revelation is not exactly stunning. At least the issue is finally out in the open.
Instead, people have picked the apology apart. The main problem with it, apparently, is McGwire’s insistence that steroids were not what made him a great hitter. This is, admittedly, pretty laughable. What is McGwire’s explanation for how he was able to hit home runs at a rate higher than anyone who has ever played the game? Well, apparently God gave him magical powers: “I truly believe I was given the gifts from the Man Upstairs of being a home run hitter, ever since…birth.” He goes on to talk about how he’s been a home run hitter at every level of play, since before he took steroids: “My first at-bat in Little League was a home run…They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school.”
This is, of course, absurd. Nobody gives a shit about McGwire’s Little League career. McGwire was not a surefire HOFer because of the home runs he hit in high school. And the fact that he hit 49 home runs as a rookie—while impressive—wasn’t enough to make some consider him the best right-handed hitter of all-time. What made Mark McGwire “Mark McGwire” were his feats of strength from 1996-99. And those numbers were undoubtedly a byproduct of the steroids he was taking. Continue reading »