Tuesday, January 12, 2010

McGwire Insists Steroids Didn't Enhance Performance

Yesterday, I posted about Mark McGwire's admission that he used steroids throughout his career.

In that post, I noted that I appreciated his sincere apology and that it had renewed my opinion of him. I also stated, however, that I still felt that he did not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, because whether he has apologized or not, that doesn't change the fact that he cheated by giving himself a competitive advantage using banned substances.

Last night, Bob Costas interviewed McGwire on the MLB network. In that interview, Costas asked McGwire if steroids helped him to hit more home runs in his career than he would have without steroids.

I was disappointed in McGwire's reply.

He essentially said that he did not feel that steroids had enhanced his ability to hit home runs. He argued that his ability to hit home runs was a natural gift, given to him - in his words - by "the man upstairs," and thus steroids did not increase his home run totals.

By his account, McGwire took steroids in order to heal more quickly from injuries and to feel 100% when he was on the field. He talked about his numerous injuries throughout his career and argued that he had taken low dose steroids in order to recover better from those injuries. Essentially, he argued that the steroids helped him to play more often, and to feel healthier when he was on the field.

There is a disconnect here that should be pretty obvious. First of all, if steroids helped him to heal more quickly so that he could play more often, and if steroids helped him to feel better when he was on the field, then that, by definition, was a competitive advantage that steroids gave him. Those who did not take steroids simply had to play through the pain or miss more games due to injury. Playing more often, and feeling 100% when you play, will naturally increase your overall productivity. So even if the benefit of steroids on Big Mac's home run total wasn't a direct influence, it still had a clear and legitimate indirect influence.

Secondly, if he genuinely believes that steroids didn't have a direct influence on his home run totals (by giving him extra strength, bat speed, etc.), then he is surely the only person under that delusion. But if he does, in fact, genuinely believe the steroids didn't directly enhance his play, how can one explain his guilt and contrition? If you've read the statement he made, he makes it clear that he feels an enormous amount of guilt over what he did. He apologizes several times. He says he wishes he had never played in the steroid era. He clearly regrets his steroid use immensely. Furthermore, in the Costas interview, his contrition is even more obvious. He actually broke into tears at one point. He apologized to his teammates, to Bud Selig (commissioner of MLB), to the fans, to his coach, to all MLB players, and to the Maris family. He even called Roger Maris's widow to apologize personally to her.

How can that sort of guilt and contrition be explained if McGwire doesn't acknowledge that the steroids gave him a competitive advantage and helped him to ultimately hit more home runs and break Maris' record?

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he's lying when he says that he doesn't think the steroids gave him an advantage. I think he just hasn't fully connected all the dots. I don't think he has fully faced the ramifications of what he did. I don't think he has fully put two and two together. I don't think he has considered the fact that taking steroids in order to feel better is the same thing as taking steroids in order to have a competitive advantage, and a competitive advantage, by definition, means that his productivity (like home run totals) was increased due to steroids.

I feel sorry for Big Mac. I still accept his apology, I still feel like he is sincere, I still feel like he genuinely feels guilty. I just don't think he has yet been able to face the reality of what his steroid use really means in regards to his career and his productivity as a player.

1 comment:

Dead-Air Dennis said...

You really hit this one out of the park, Scott. That you did it without performance enhancers only adds to it! Too bad, Mark hasn't fully connected those dots. I couldn't agree more and I too, accept his apology. But you've nailed this one, right on the trademark. Cheers, Dennis.