Carlton Fisk may have had the best quote of 2010. And yes, I am aware that it is still January.
With Mark McGwire finally coming out about his steroid use — not that we didn’t already know — Fisk had some “kind” words for the former home run king:
“Try having your knees operated on and catching for 30 years,” Fisk said to ESPN reporters. “Do you think you feel good when you go out there? [McGwire] had to stand around and play first base. So excuuuuuse me.”
Ha. What are you going to say to that, Mark?
In his latest question and answer session following his admission of using performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire attempted to avoid answering pestering journalists who were simply curious about the extent of his steroid use. I mean, are we talking Jose Canseco, or Paul Lo Duca? Is there even a difference?
Unlike Alex Rodriguez or Roger Clemens, who have documented steroid use, McGwire never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The “Andro Excuse” was a complete load of garbage and we all know it.
So congratulations to McGwire for finally admitting it. He was hurting himself more and more each day by hiding from his past.
But there’s something about this admission that just doesn’t seem right. It came almost immediately after he signed on to be the Cardinals’ hitting coach, and he even claimed that it didn’t really help him that much. He claimed it doesn’t help hand-eye coordination, blah blah blah.
While no doubt a tremendous player in his time, McGwire, like any other baseball player, would not have been as good without steroids. To say otherwise would be blatantly false.
So why, when greeted by Cardinals fans, does McGwire get an ovation? I mean, shouldn’t this player, who was the face of the organization for many years, be shunned for embarrassing one of baseball’s most prized franchises?
I’m going to call it “The Andy Pettitte Effect.”
Just like Pettitte, McGwire’s confession seemingly gave him the love and admiration he’s been dreaming about. That’s incredibly ironic, seeing that he took steroids in the first place in order to boost his fan base. Chicks dig the long ball, right?
Why, if we’re so obsessed with cleaning up baseball and ridding it of steroids, do we laud players for their confessions?
Here’s where Fisk comes in.
Although somewhat out of line in his criticism of McGwire, Fisk is completely correct that none of McGwire’s achievements can be validated, especially the 70 home runs he hit in 1998. What would that number be without steroids?
I don’t get players like Albert Pujols (please, please, please be clean!), who, after years of struggling to make it in the big leagues and working their tails off to be the best, come out and support a cheater like McGwire. Like Fisk said later in the ESPN article, “You see guys who are as productive later on as they were early [in their careers]. It offends guys that stayed clean.”
Maybe McGwire was coming to the realization that without coming clean, he’d never get in the Hall of Fame. Well here’s a news flash: It definitely won’t happen now. While I don’t get a vote in the selection committee, I’m willing to bet the writers won’t allow someone who tarnished baseball’s image for more than a decade to receive its highest honor.
But nevertheless, the fan response is troubling. What constitutes a great player? Is it someone who puts on a show? Someone who hits over 70 home runs in a season and lies to the baseball world for years?
Obviously, the answer is no. Unfortunately, baseball fans — including yours truly — are infatuated with power greatness. There’s a reason Manny Ramirez got such a welcoming response after his 50-game suspension last year; it’s because he, like McGwire, gives something for fans to cheer for. It’s something Juan Pierre’s base stealing can’t achieve, and something David Ortiz can’t do anymore (suspicious much?).
Hopefully, the day will soon come that we can appreciate the real great players, the clean ones who, among the cheaters like McGwire and Sammy Sosa, were competing with their talent alone.
Unfortunately, they have nothing to admit.
Jonah is a junior majoring in journalism and Hebrew and Semitic studies, and is currently studying abroad in Paris, France. Think Mark McGwire deserves respect for his confession? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.