Since it shocked no one, and I got in plenty of cheap shots yesterday, I wasn’t going to write again about Mark McGwire’s half-assed admission that he used steroids during his playing days in Oakland and St. Louis.
But given the Ari Fleischer-fueled spin machine (seriously, that’s who he hired) that keeps foisting miserable Tony LaRussa on us, I think we need to take a good look at McGwire’s performance last night on MLB Network with Bob Costas.
There was McGwire blubbering openly on camera like Rod Tidwell talking to Roy Firestone at the end of “Jerry Maguire.” This was clearly a man who regrets something–or at least a man who wants to pretend to really regret something.
The first thing you noticed is that he appears to have added an extra deck of forehead in the last decade. I mean he always had a big head, but this thing is so long now you expected him to start insisting he was from France, shotgun some dry Tang and a six pack and have Costas lob wreaths at his head.
McGwire kept crying and Costas kept fidgeting with the phone book he was sitting on, and the interview was headed nowhere fast.
Finally, we got some juicy details. At last it can be said without dispute that Tony LaRussa didn’t know that McGwire had used steroids until yesterday.
Holy shit, just how dumb do these people think we are?
That was just the beginning of the absurdity.
- McGwire claimed his family didn’t know until yesterday, either, and they never asked Mark if he’d used. This list apparently includes his parents, his mutant son from his first marriage, his two kids from his current marriage (and we learned that not only are they pompously named Max and Mason, but that Mark doesn’t know which one is which), both wives (including the current one, a central Illinois “beauty”) and his brothers. Well, not Jay, because he’d been giving Mark steroids for 20 years. But other than him, nobody knew. And nobody asked, even when Jay started trying to sell a book of his tales of sticking needles into his brother’s ass. Similarly, my brother is shopping a tell-all book about me based around the time he and my sister convinced me at a restaurant that a lemon wedge was an orange. I was three, so I ate it. (Actually I was 33, but let’s move on. I’m not here to talk about the past.)
- McGwire continued his tortured logic from his statement earlier in the day. He only used steroids to recover quicker from injuries, and he suffered injuries because of the steroids. So the steroids caused injuries that he then had to take steroids to heal from? My brain is quivering.
- He said he used steroids off and on for a decade, but has no idea what he took. This is my favorite part. This idea that a guy who worked out like a fiend was just randomly injecting things–though he said he preferred oral, and who doesn’t?–into his ass? George Michael is more discrete than this–not the Sports Machine guy, the other one. This is the beginning of the Fleischer-LaRussa-McGwire plan that hinges on baseball fans being complete dopes.
- McGwire insisted that the only reason he started using steroids was because of the chronic injuries (which he implies were caused by the steroid use, remember?). He says that teammates would walk by his locker and mock him by saying, “He’s injured again.” Chances are that’s not the worst of what they were saying. “For a guy whose dad is a dentist, you’d think he’d have better breath.” “What does he shave with, a Garden Weasel?” “His brother’s a shitty quarterback!”
- He said that the “Man Upstairs” had given him great hand/eye coordination and the ability to hit a baseball. It wasn’t until later on last night that we found out that he was referring to Balco founder Victor Conte who was watching the broadcast from the second floor living room.
- Costas asked him if he could have kept up a home run ratio better than Babe Ruth’s while hitting 70 homers in 1998 without using steroids. McGwire amazingly and preposterously said he could have. He said it with a straight face. Well, as straight a face as a man can make when he’s crying like a three year old and is apparently having a stroke.
- McGwire said that there isn’t a pill or an injection that can hit a baseball. This statement caused Kenny Williams to throw things at his TV, and call Billy Beane to try to call off their recently agreed upon trade of Mark Bueherle for the 60 count bottle of Vicodin that Kenny was going to have DH for the Sox this season.
- Throughout the interview McGwire said that he was sorry he made a “mistake” by using steroids. A mistake is going on a date to Chili’s and deciding to have sex with Tyna Robertson in your car instead of just having the brownie sundae. Taking steroids for a decade isn’t quite the same thing.
- So McGwire continued to insist (amazingly) that the steroids were not making him a better player. All they were doing was allowing him to heal his body so he could play, because his gift from the “Man Upstairs” was being taken away by these injuries. Set aside the part that is completely wrong (people use steroids because they work) and you’re left with his absurd and confused claim that he only used steroids because they were so recuperative. And how would he have thought that? Because people use steroids to recover more quickly from their workouts? (Ding, ding, ding!)
- McGwire went into an explanation about how he shortened his swing and made himself a better hitter. It’s almost like he was freakishly strong that he didn’t need to take a full swing to hit the ball an absurd distance, thereby making it easier to hit. Hmm. I wonder if there are pills or injections that would allow you to boost your strength in such a way?
- This gets to the most important part of the Fleischer-LaRussa-McGwire Plan of Obfuscation. They will argue over and over and over and over and over again that McGwire’s great home run accomplishments were the product of him being the “hardest working man in baseball.” They will ignore the fact that the reason guys like McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds and Ken Caminiti and Roger Clemens used steroids was because they would allow them to recover from their workouts so that they could continue working out at a completely unnatural rate, giving them unnatural gains in strength not only in the amount of strength, but in the time it took to achieve that strength. In short, if McGwire’s greatest attribute was his ability to workout really hard and take lots of extra batting practice, then that greatest attribute can be directly tied to his use of steroids.
- McGwire then decided he’d use the argument that he didn’t take a “lot” of steroids. “The steroids I did were on a very, very low dosage. I didn’t want to take a lot of that. I didn’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno.” We don’t believe that, because that’s exactly what you did look like. You were ridiculously overblown. Your enormous growth is what fueled the speculation in the first place, that and a back that looked like a Petri dish.
- Let’s establish the fact that McGwire feels that he would have hit 70 homers in 1998 without steroids. He’s still clinging to the life raft made of bullshit about bat speed and genetics and hand-eye coordination that the “Man Upstairs” had given him. So Costas asks him if he has talked to anyone in the Maris family. You remember the Marises, right? Their dad broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. He had to deal with his own fans rooting against him that season because they didn’t think he was a “true” Yankee, and that if anybody was going to break the Babe’s record it was the alcoholic, sex addict they had in centerfield. The stress of the chase and the fan reaction caused Maris to suffer ulcers and his hair started falling out. After Maris broke the record, he had to deal with the Commissioner of Baseball, Ford Frick (almost as big of a delusional douchebag as current Interim-Commissioner-For-Life-And-Used-Car-Salesman Bud Selig) declaring an asterisk (or “asterick” if you are Katie Couric) be placed on the record because the season was eight games longer in 1961 than it was in 1927 when the Babe set the record. Frick didn’t bother to put an asterisk next to the Babe’s noting that he played at a time when blacks and Latin Americans weren’t allowed to play. You probably also remember that McGwire did all kinds of phony bullshit during the home run record chase, like fondle the bat (on loan from the Hall of Fame) that Maris had hit 61 with, and he played nice with the Maris family and told them how much he admired their father. He was doing all of this while injecting steroids into his body to combat an injury that apparently didn’t exist in 1998. OK, so now Costas has asked him if he has talked to any of the Marises since he announced he’d used steroids. McGwire said he had called Roger’s widow, Pat. “She was disappointed and she has every right to be. I couldn’t tell her how so sorry I was.” What the hell are you sorry for? You claim that you would have hit those 70 homers anyway. You claim that steroids don’t hit baseballs, and that they had nothing to do with any of your homers. What are you apologizing for? And on top of that, why are you crying? What is the matter with you? Were you injecting Winstrol or estrogen? Suck it up, man. Grow a pair! (Actually, given some of the side effects of prolonged steroid use, you might literally need a pair, because yours might be gone.)
- Then, Costas confronts McGwire about the claims in Jose Canseco’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “Juiced” that the “Bash Brothers” injected each other with steroids in a bathroom stall at the Oakland Coliseum. McGwire denies it and among his reasons says that two big guys wearing spikes would have made “too much noise.” Yeah, because if you’d made noise, maybe your holier than thou manager, Tony LaRussa would have found out!
- Costas asked McGwire when Tony found out and McGwire says he told him that morning. Does anybody really believe this at all? How arrogant are the Fleischer-LaRussa-McGwire cabal, that they think anyone would actually believe that Tony LaRussa hasn’t known that guys on his teams have been juicing since the mid 1980s? No manager has benefited more from the rampant use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (and continues to) than Tony LaRussa. Dusty Baker and Joe Torre are certainly in the team picture, but Tony’s the captain of this ship. LaRussa says that he didn’t know, just that his amateur strength coach/first base coach Dave MacKay, started the guys on weightlifting regimens during the 80s in Oakland and the team benefited from that “advantage.” Oh, there was an advantage, all right.
- This makes you wonder exactly when McGwire started using steroids. He claims he used it “briefly in 1989.” He hadn’t suffered any serious injuries to that point. Since his rookie year of 1987 he had played in 151, 155 and 143 games. He was hitting homers for sure, he hit 49, then 32, then 33, but his 1989 season wasn’t a particularly good one. He only had 50 extra base hits total, and he hit a woeful .231. And he was watching Canseco juice and not bother to hide it and go 40-40 and hit for average and lots of power. McGwire didn’t start dabbling in steroids in 1989 because he was physically hurt. No, his pride was hurt. He was a homer or nothing sideshow on a really good team. Then he had even worse seasons in 1990 (.235 average) and 1991 (.201!) Now he was just the weird looking redhead with the freckles and the bad complexion. So he took some steroids, buffed up, moved the zits from his face to his back and started his life of baseball deviance. It worked! He hit .265 with 42 homers in 1992 and he started to look freakishly big. Then his body broke down and he played only 74 games combined in 1992 and 1993. His baseball career looked like it was over. All of the benefits he’d gotten in 1991 from ‘roiding up had caused him to break down in the next two seasons. He’d gotten too big, too fast. His tendons couldn’t handle the freakish muscle mass gain. So that’s when he lost a lot of weight and got healthy?
- Wrong. He got bigger. His body finally caught up and could support his freakishness. He played 104 games in the strike shortened 1995 season and hit 39 homers. He hit 52 in only 130 games in 1996. He was a complete freak show now. And if his body was so ravaged that he had to ‘roid up just to stay on the field, why did he end up in St. Louis in July of 1997? Shouldn’t he have been looking to stick to the AL when he could DH and rest his aching body? Not only did he accept a trade to St. Louis (and a reunion with LaRussa and McKay) but he re-signed there long term.
- He hit 58 homers in 1997 including 24 in only 51 games in St. Louis. McKay must have hooked up with the good stuff by then. Not that McGwire would know what it was called.
- Then we got to the best part of the interview. Words that Mark McGwire doesn’t understand! Costas asked him if the implementation of drug testing in 2003 “hastened” his retirement. McGwire didn’t understand what the word meant. For a moment it looked like he was going to ask for Costas to use it in a sentence. Even though he just did. Not long after, when talking about his new role as hitting coach, McGwire said he had a “Rolodex full of ideas to help guys hit.” A Rolodex! What’s he going to do give the Cardinals’ hitters the numbers of real hitting coaches who can help them?
- Costas asked McGwire about the Hall of Fame, and if McGwire feels he should be in it and McGwire said he didn’t know. Here’s your answer, Mark. No. You might think that you were so good that you’d have made it without using steroids, but you didn’t bother to find out. And you clearly weren’t good enough to get in. If you needed steroids just to get on the field, then without them you’d have been out of baseball long before you hit 583 homers. Or 400 for that matter. One of the steroids guys will get in, but it won’t be you and it won’t be Sammy. It’ll be a guy that writers can pretend had done enough before they think he started using like Barry Bonds, or A-Rod or Roger Clemens. It won’t be you. And you can say you don’t care if you get in, but the fact that you refuse to acknowledge that you hit even one extra homer because of your steroid use, proves that you are clinging to that home run total as the thing you expect will get you into Cooperstown.
- Costas asked McGwire what he’ll tell Cardinals hitters about steroids. McGwire’s answer was “That it’s the stupidest thing I ever did.” Come on, Mark. Give them the real answer. “Keep on doing them.” That’s the answer you give the Cardinals these days.
To their credit, the MLB Network panel that was on immediately after the interview didn’t let him off the hook. Matt Vasgersian, Tom Verducci, Joe Magrane and Ken Rosenthal, all piled on McGwire for his ridiculous assertion that steroids didn’t make him a better player. However, over on ESPN Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian couldn’t get the knee pads on quickly enough to start guzzling with approval.
But the best was when ESPNEWS got Rick Sutcliffe on the phone and he said, “They did a seminar at ESPN and we had experts come in and they talked about all of the advantages you get from steroids. Your muscles get bigger and stronger and quicker and even your eyesight improves, it’s like twice as sharp. So for him to say they didn’t help is ridiculous.”
Sutcliffe went on to say that he played the game with Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson and Cal Ripken and (Tony LaRussa’s favorite) Ozzie Smith, and that it was a shame that baseball decided to ruin the context of those players’ careers by allowing a 20 year sideshow of steroid use to go unchecked. (Well, he didn’t say it that succinctly, but he was sober, so there’s that.)
LaRussa will continue to say that we have to forgive McGwire, but that it didn’t matter because he was such a hard worker and great person that he’d have been great without steroids.
Even if it’s all complete horseshit.
Eat it up, St. Louis. You are the only city in the world where this kind of asinine logic actually works.