Mark McGwire's blatant push for the Hall
Mark McGwire would have us buy that his long-awaited admission of steroid use has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame. Geez, even when the guy comes clean, he can't stop lying.
In fairness, since baseball has taken its fans for morons for so many years now, why should Captain Asterisk approach it any differently?
None of us should be in a forgiving mood these days given the trackmarks the steroid era, with McGwire hitting right behind Barry Bonds(*) in the cleanup spot, inflicted on baseball's needle-hole-riddled arm. The recent fess-up is 100 percent about the Hall; Step One, Exhibit One in a long process of atonement with the Baseball Writers Association.
For most of us, the admission was made five years ago before Congress, when McGwire refused "to talk about the past"-—you know, the reason why everyone appeared before that congressional panel in the first place. Of course, he didn't blatantly lie like Rafael Palmiero, but his cringeworthy duck-and-cover act was all but a guilty plea in The People v. Steroids.
I should hope the writers who vote on Hall selections aren't fooled, now or twenty years down the line. How can they keep Pete Rose out and cast ballots for McGwire, given that his juicing had arguably as much of an effect on the outcome of games as Rose's betting did? (Incidentally, Pete and I are both taking the under in the Reds winning sixty-five games in 2010; anyone want in on the action?).
The short answer is they can't, although McGwire's wagering that they will, helping him salvage a tarnished legacy and someday tossing him the keys to Cooperstown. It's wonderful that he finally confessed, but it shouldn't keep Hall voters from eluding the most basic truth: he cheated the game and compromised its integrity just as much as Rose and the 1918 White Sox.
Part of me feels sorry for the guy. If there's a shred of truth to what he told the Associated Press, his using started as a way to get back in shape and ballooned, literally and figurately, into something he lost control of. But alas, all roads eventually lead back to his role in forever damaging the game's legitimacy.
I'll be watching closely to see if McGwire can slip into obscurity as the Cardinals' hitting coach. It's difficult to imagine the baseball media giving him a pass, especially now that it's equipped with new ammunition. I admire Tony La Russa for standing behind a guy he believes in, but how many distractions will a proud organization endure before pulling the plug, especially if St. Louis hitters start slumping at the plate?
If McGwire someday succeeds La Russa and manages the Redbirds to a dynasty and a bunch of World Series titles, I'll start the calls for his inclusion into the Hall. For now, McGwire's attempt to begin rebuilding his rep with the writers, in the form of his recent epiphany, rings as hollow as a spent syringe.