“We’ve only just begun…”
It took almost five years for Mark McGwire’s Confession Day to arrive and judging on emotion alone, the long awaited public confession and apology seemed believable. But when Big Mac repeatedly said that PEDs didn’t contribute to any of his home runs, that they were all a result of his “G-d given talent,” you knew, in spite of the tears, that he was delusional.
Sadly, McGwire isn’t the only one who is delusional about the steroid era, as comments by others on Big Mac’s Confession Day proved. The same word can be used to describe McGwire’s long-time manager and apologist, Tony LaRussa, and Commissioner Bud Selig.
For more than two decades, LaRussa had steadfastly denied that McGwire used PEDs, claiming he first heard the “truth” when McGwire confessed last Monday. That statement is contradicted by Jose Canseco, who, like it or not, remains the only credible voice on the issue of steroids in baseball. Canseco maintains that he shot up Big Mac in the clubhouse on numerous occasions while they were teammates in Oakland and that LaRussa, their manager, was aware of it.
Control freak that he is, and genius that he fancies himself to be, LaRussa obviously knew more than he let on. But rather than address the facts, or put his law degree to good use by saying “I don’t know what Mark did, but regardless, he’s my friend and I support him,” LaRussa chose to skirt the truth. In the process, LaRussa made a complete fool of himself by trying to convince a doubting public that McGwire never took steroids when eyes and common sense screamed otherwise.
Of course, if McGwire’s home runs aren’t legitimate, the same could be said of all those wins that are attributable to those tainted taters. If MLB deleted those wins from LaRussa’s record, as the NCAA did to Bobby Bowden’s, or the Veterans Committee that votes on electing managers to the Hall of Fame declines to consider them, then the genius might find himself where McGwire sits now: On the outside of Cooperstown looking in.
The biggest loser on McGwire’s Confession Day was Selig. The commissioner was silent on the day McGwire was announced as the new hitting coach for the St Louis Cardinals. Selig couldn’t take action against alleged PED users while they were active, like Barry Bonds, or admitted steroid users who are still active, like Miguel Tejeda, because the union would jump to their defense. But McGwire is no longer a beneficiary of that protection. A word from Selig and the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t have been able to hire McGwire as their hitting coach.
But after McGwire confessed, Selig couldn’t resist issuing a statement. The commissioner should have maintained his silence, for his statement recalled the adage that “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”
Selig said, “The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually non-existent… The so-called ‘steroid era’ … is clearly a thing of the past (emphasis added).” With those comments, Selig gained entry into the house of delusion inhabited by McGwire and LaRussa.
Selig, like LaRussa, knew more about steroid use in baseball than he has ever admitted to. In response to McGwire’s confession, a retired FBI agent reminded us that federal authorities knew of Big Mac’s steroid use in 1993, information that was given to MLB’s security boss, Kevin Hallinan, a year later. It’s incomprehensible to think that Hallinan failed to share that information with his boss, Selig.
But Selig chose to ignore that information - along with other blatant signs that McGwire and others were using PEDs - in the name of commerce. The steroid era revived baseball, which became awash in money, and everyone associated with the game profited. McGwire earned approximately $74 million as a player. Selig pulls down in the neighborhood of $18 million per year as the highest paid commissioner in sports. Those salaries were made possible through the wonders of chemistry.
Sorry, Bud. The steroid era isn’t in the past. As The Carpenter’s sang, we’ve only just begun. The past will be in sight when you and LaRussa follow McGwire’s lead and hold your own Confession Day.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook