Maybe Mark McGwire was the only player who got it after all
When Mark McGwire refused to talk to Congress about the past he was vilified
McGwire didn't lie and was probably true to himself in his own way
McGwire paid a heavy price, but by all accounts he's happy now
Patrick McHenry (R-NC): And so I have a simple question, and you can answer yes or no or choose to not answer. That is certainly your right. Is using steroids -- the use of steroids -- is that cheating?
You probably remember that exchange. It occurred on March 17, 2005, and the Committee on Government Reform held a hearing with the understated name: "Restoring Faith in America's Pastime." The idea, as everyone understood it, was to put some government pressure on the players and leaders of baseball to clean up the perceived steroid problem.
"This is an issue that needs debate in Congress and around the dinner table of American families," Rep. Henry Waxman said to kick things off.
Nobody in baseball came across well that day. But the general consensus seemed to be that the big loser was a giant red-headed slugger named Mark McGwire. Nine times that day, McGwire said: "I'm not here to talk about the past," or something very close to it. Twice he announced that he was taking his lawyer's advice about not talking. Twice more, as you see above, he said he was not qualified to determine if using steroids was cheating, and he later added that he was not qualified to determine if records broken by steroid users should be allowed to stand.
All in all, he sounded like Michael Corleone at his hearing in Godfather II* -- a sound game plan for a Mafia kingpin, not so much for a once-beloved, giant, red-headed first baseman.
*In retrospect, there were differences. Michael Corleone in Godfather II did not take his lawyer's advice. He lied to Congress and proclaimed himself innocent. Of course, he also also kidnapped the star witnesses brother, so it might not be a fair comparison.
Funny thing, though. Here it is, almost four years later, and since that day we've had the Rafael Palmeiro drug test, the Barry Bonds soap opera, the generally unhelpful Mitchell Report, the Roger Clemens ultimate fighting competition, witch hunts galore and now the Alex Rodriguez saga.
And looking back you have to wonder if McGwire is the one guy in this whole absurd steroid mess who actually got it, the one guy who has come out of this thing with his dignity reasonably intact. McGwire refused to lie to make himself look better. He refused to turn over any of his friends. He also refused to make any admissions, which is looking like the wisest move of all.
McGwire: Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations
Well ... that was prophetic. The thing that is so striking about the Alex Rodriguez confession -- strike that, confessions -- is every time he opens his mouth to admit something, he seems to make things worse. He admits taking steroids from 2001-2003 because of the intense pressure he felt to perform in Texas, with the last-place Rangers. That sounds like a mea culpa, only it leaves everyone to wonder why he stopped using before he joined the Yankees, with whom the pressure was roughly 500-times more intense. He talks about being na´ve and not realizing he was doing anything wrong, but then he concedes he was well aware he wasn't taking Tic Tacs. He doesn't remember the names of the drugs, then he does, then he brings up some "cousin" who was getting the goods and stabbing him with them when no one was looking.
You get the feeling the A-Rod story won't end until he shuts up about it.
And, remarkably, I don't think A-Rod was the most ridiculous sounding person of the week. That would be baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who apparently has decided to go on a campaign to convince people he is, more or less, the only person you cannot blame for the steroid mess that happened when he was in charge. Well, hey, it's bold. It's a bit like Mike Myers saying he should not be blamed for The Love Guru.