In what comes as little surprise to anyone, Mark McGwire admitted using steroids and was implicated as using other substances. His quote that it “is time to talk about the past and admit what many suspected” is as close to a mea culpa as any steroid user has made.
The statement was made by McGwire in advance of officially becoming the Cardinals new hitting coach. It was expected that he would need to make some sort of statement prior to Spring Training so as not to become too much of a distraction, though he’s still going to be the best known hitting coach in the game. The statement, which I am told was vetted by the Cardinals, does help clear the air, answering most of the big questions:
* He states that he began using in 1989. (This is in contrast to what Jose Canseco has said.)
* He used to overcome injuries.
* He did use substances during the 1998 campaign where he broke Roger Maris’ home run record.
Remaining questions include:
* How did he acquire steroids and was Operation Equine (and McGwire’s younger brother) correct?
* What was he using and when? This may seem like a small thing, but McGwire’s usage patterns could go a long way in helping determine the true effect of steroids on hitting.
In many ways, McGwire’s statement echoes that of Andy Pettitte, who has largely been washed clean of the steroid taint that hangs over most of the suspected and known users. The PR is strong, starting with a 7pm Eastern interview between McGwire and Bob Costas on MLB Network.
It remains to be seen if McGwire’s statement will make it less distracting for him to be a hitting coach. Just imagine someone like Matt Holliday having a career year or Albert Pujols challenging the 60 or 70 home run line, just after McGwire comes in. It’s always in the back of the cynical fan’s mind at this stage when anyone makes a record run or just has a breakout year; attaching McGwire to it is going to create a frenzy if this were to occur.
It also remains to be seen if McGwire’s admission brings him any more Hall of Fame votes. Stuck in the mid 20% range, McGwire’s totals don’t indicate any change. Even Tony La Russa’s recent suggestion that McGwire could play one game, changing his Hall of Fame voting eligibility, was questioned strongly by Jack O’Connell of the BBWAA.
We’ll be talking about the past a lot over the next couple news cycles and again during the Cardinals 2010 campaign. For MLB, the question is whether they can ever move on from talking about the past. Senator Mitchell suggested a blanket amnesty for steroids users and perhaps it’s time for Selig and the owners to re-visit that concept once again.