Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Mac Himself, Who’d Of Thunk It?

Yesterday was the day that we all figured would come at some point, we just didn’t know when. Former Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire finally admitted in a phone call with the Associated Press and followed by an interview with Bob Costas that he had in fact done steroids as well as HGH on and off over the course of his career. SHOCKER. This was not news to anyone. He was always suspected to have been involved in performance enhancing drugs but never admitted it nor did he ever test positive for anything. It is like a girlfriend accusing you of cheating ‘I know you did it, just admit it, I know you did it, just admit it, It’l be ok if you just admit it ’. Then you admit it and they flip out and start yelling at you saying ‘I didn’t believe it until I heard it come from you!

I am not an apologist for what he did, but what he did was perhaps not ‘legal’ but it wasn’t banned either, it was more of a moral issue then anything else. Should that exclude him from the Hall of Fame? Some say yes, some say no. I think he should be in. If there is no policy to break how can you punish him for breaking a policy...he was never suspended either. The only thing that isn’t going to help his case is the fact that he didn’t acknowledge that his use didn’t make him better. His natural talent may have been great but there was still room for enhancement and he got that from the steroids and HGH. The only thing he did was play by the ‘rules’ that were there or not there at the time. I hate to think that the idea of "if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying" or "it is only cheating if you get caught" is true but it is hard to dispute that fact.

It is easy to sit back and judge the decision that he made, but it wasn’t just him that made that decision. If you take a serious look at it, a professional athlete will do what they need to do to become better. There were no steroids in the 1950’s, because they were not available. You can bet that if they were and it would have made a difference players then would have been all over it. Stimulants are a great example of that. Cold medication, caffeine and other like products were rampant in baseball dugouts throughout the years. Those were also performance enhancing, just not as ‘immoral’ as ‘roids and HGH, but at that point you are just splitting hairs. We now are beginning to see that this was and epidemic throughout the sport for a long time and if baseball wanted to do something about it they would have and could have done so. Truth is, steroids were good for baseball and good for the sport. After the strike in 1994 baseball’s image was in the dumps and any growth that may have come to get the game back into the good graces with fans came in the form of the Sosa/McGwire home run race of 1998. That chase of Roger Maris’ 61 home runs brought people back to the sport. From there baseball has continued to grow and has reached record attendance over the years.

It is clear that money greatly influenced the position that baseball has taken in regards to performance enhancing drugs. Even as a casual fan you can see that something wasn’t right with these players and that they were getting help from an outside source. It helped them and it helped sell the game so to turn a blind eye clearly was an easy thing to do. If you are concerned about the records that the hitters put up, just think about doing that versus pitchers that were doing the same thing. The only real issue is how fair it was for the ‘clean’ player to compete with those that were juicing. My question to that is if so many were on the juice, why would you play clean. If there was no rule to break how could you be breaking a rule? It truly was an internal code of conduct that governed the players that played clean...not baseball.

McGwire's admittance had to be done. He is looking to become the hitting coach for the Cardinals and for that to happen he had to say something before spring training to defuse the situation. Now that he has at least come out and admitted that he used, perhaps we can move on from him and any speculation. It seems like every player that has come out and admitted or have been outed for PEDs has been, not necessarily forgiven but the anger towards them has been greatly reduced. Only the ones that have continued to say nothing or deny are the one that people are still bitter at (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds). Others such as Andy Pettitte, A-Rod...even Manny who was suspended for 50 games only last season seems to be much more accepted.

It is also interesting to mention that this is really just a baseball, track and cycling issue. This happens just as often in football but it gets nearly no play in the media. A headline that states a player in the NFL has been banned 4 games for a substance violation. They do their time and then are back and not another mention is made about it. A double standard for sure but it is what it is. You want to see bigger, stronger, faster in football and the majority of fans would be more upset if players weren’t doing everything at their disposal to become even better. Maybe it is because baseball is seen as more a game of numbers and is held in a higher regard, who knows.

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