So today Mark McGwire decided to talk about the past. His timeliness was similar to Pat and Tank's timeliness in reading The Yankee Years: it's been five years since he decided to not talk about the past, and, perhaps like Pete Rose, it's too little, too late. It's very clear why he did it: He probably saw Clemens, Palmeiro, Bonds, Sosa, Ortiz, and others who didn't admit to anything and become punch lines. He probably also saw Andy Pettitte and the centaur admit to probably the tip of the iceberg and become lionized despite the fact that they broke U.S. law with the victim of the crime being Major League Baseball and the clean players in it.
So he decided to go from the first category to the second. That is probably a good career move, as he doesn't want his non-admission but non-denial and subsequent five years of becoming a hermit to be a dark cloud over the St. Louis Cardinals this year. I mean, Matt Holliday's blunders in the playoffs should be the main dark cloud. And there's also the Hall of Fame issue. If he continues to live the hermit life, McGwire has absolutely no chance at making the Hall of Fame. With amnesty, the people in between Tim Kurkjian ("all users are like teddy bears") and From the Bronx ("all users should face a firing squad") might go from keeping him out of the HoF to letting him in.
What does this mean for baseball and its relationship with steroids?
The general public may continue to soften toward the steroid issue, admit they were all using, and absolve everyone. McGwire’s admission was like getting partial closure about the late 1990s’ events. Even though everyone already knew this except for the people who took introduction to U.S. law a little too seriously, saying “there’s a shadow of a doubt that he did it!!!1 he diddnt admit to anythign!!1!” This increases the chances of users in the Hall of Fame significantly as long as they admit they were wrong. McGwire’s votes may double next year, and that means that the centaur has a very, very good chance of getting in as well—which sucks, in my opinion.
McGwire also said that the players’ union and the commissioner’s office have both done a good job cleaning up the sport, furthering the story that they have actually tried to rid the game of the juice. Testing is still inadequate and the actions of general managers still provide no disincentive to continue to use drugs. But with the guy from eleven years ago admitting to using, the myth that the steroid era is over is perpetuated.
These last two paragraphs indicate that today’s news is bad news. However, it’s not bad. I thought the McGwire story was really, really sad. And as much as he’s a bad guy who screwed over the Rick Hellings of the world, he’s still a sympathetic character. So I am sort of happy for the sympathetic character.
What’s more important is that people might start admitting. Clemens won’t because he might have actually convinced himself that his hare-brained story is right and McNamee is lying. Bonds won’t because he’s a complete jackass. But who’s to say Sosa won’t? Who’s to say Nomar won’t? Who’s to say Ortiz won’t? Maybe some players will come out of the woodwork because they see that there is some kind of twisted nobility that comes with admitting you forced clean players out of the game and convinced guys like Tony Saunders that the only way to keep your job is to shoot up, just to have your muscles get too big too fast and have your arm literally snap in half, ruining your career and more.
Perhaps the most important point is that if people do indeed start admitting (this is idealistic, I know), we get more truth about what happened, why it happened, and what competent executives can do to prevent it from continuing to happen. That’s what needs to take place to end the steroid era in baseball. In order to improve the present and future, more people need to talk about the past.