The recent admission of Mark McGwire that he did, as suspected, use performance enhancing drugs while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland A’s was hardly startling. The BBWAA, who vote on Hall of Fame membership have over the past four years sent a message, by a 3 to 1 margin, that steroid cheaters need not apply.
McGwire’s tearful admission to Bob Costas, that he regrets his action, raises the question, will enough writers be swayed by McGwire’s contrition and give him a sympathy vote in future Hall elections? I personally hope that does not happen. Did I cheer Mark McGwire’s heroics, I did. I watched as he picked up his son after he hit the ‘62<sup>nd</sup> HR and as he received the congratulations of the Maris family. I was moved by the whole event, I was also woefully naïve. I didn’t recognize the PED influence that had turned a game I loved into an arcade game.
Some of the writers who have voted for Mark McGwire’s election into the HOF have given the use of any product that enhances performance on the field as legitimizing steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) usage. Among those examples are Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin and I’m sure thousands of other ball players over the past one hundred years who took aspirin to lessen the effects of a hangover from the previous nights celebration.
They also cite the use of ubiquitous uppers (Amphetamines). As reported by a player “greenies gave me the ability to function, 13 games in 4 cities with one day off is brutal. Without them standing in the box was a death wish, Performance enhancing… at the end of a long road trip walking was a big deal”. I start my day with two healthy belts of caffeine … PED? There is such a thing as taking coffee and two aspirin to an absurd level to justify cheating. Fortunately those writers are in the minority, and in this writer’s opinion hopes that it stays that way
The ‘steroids era’ has taken from fans that relationship of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs and Roger Maris’ 61. It took the 755 that Hank Aaron hit to eclipse the 715 of Ruth. It has made us look at every accomplishment with a jaundice eye. Was Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson playing ‘fair’, how did Cal Ripken Jr. manage to get out there for 2,131 consecutive games? We would never have questioned Lou Gehrig’s streak or the home runs of Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.
McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sosa, Palmerieo, Giambi, A-Rod have all had a part in destroying a part of baseball that almost let us look at today’s accomplishments in yesterdays light. Of course it never was a level playing field, Major League Baseball needed 40 years before Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodger uniform and it took another twelve years until the Red Sox completed integration by signing Pumpsie Green. But there was a continuity that is along with 61 and 755 homeruns forever gone.
Mark McGwire’s ‘confession’ like that of Alex Rodriguez , Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte lack one thing, credibility. McGwire like Pettitte only used PEDs for healing purposes, and in McGwire’s case, a decades worth of use didn’t contribute to his homerun prowess. Giambi, mumbled a non specific apology for having committed a non specific error in judgment. A-Rod’s press conference and follow up left more questions unanswered than answered. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Gary Sheffield never did anything to confess or apologize for. Clearly the only consistent amongst the PED generation is denial with one exception. Jose Canseco has turned his steroid use into a cottage industry with two books and multiple public appearances.
Having read the newspaper accounts over the past few days, it would seem that those writers who do have a Hall of Fame vote were unmoved by Mark McGwire’s coming out with Bob Costas. I would hope that in 2012 when Bonds, Clemens and Sosa become eligible and for the fifteen years after that the gate keepers to the Hall maintain those same standards.