There is life after steroids — or steroids accusations — if you handle it correctly.
As Buster Olney points out, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez are doing just fine right now. If the Yankees win the World Series, they will be heroes again in New York. You might believe that their mea culpas were disingenuous and/or scripted and/or insincere and/or too limited and/or administered not by choice but by necessity; but the fact is that Pettitte and Rodriguez both acknowledged their use of performance-enhancing drugs, apologized, and have more or less moved past it. A-Rod might still pay a heavy price at Hall of Fame time, but that remains to be seen.
I believe we have reached a saturation point in the realm of PEDs. The scope of useage in the 1990s and early 2000s is proving to be so wide-reaching that it’s getting harder to hold any individual accountable with righteous indignation. Mark McGwire — officially named today as the Cardinals’ new hitting coach — is just one of multitudes under the cloud of steroids suspicions. Obviously, he is one of the most high-profile, as the (temporary) holder of the single-season home run record (this picture shows him after hitting No. 70 in 1998), an accomplishment for which he was exalted and then scorned. McGwire did himself no favors with his infamous “I’m not here to talk about the past” performance at a Congressional hearing in 2005 — pretty much the last time we’ve seen McGwire in public. He’s chosen to stay out of the spotlight rather than face the scrutiny and questions that he knew would be coming his way if he ever showed up at a ballpark.
Now McGwire has chosen to come out of hiding, and that’s fine. By all accounts, he has much to offer in the way of batting instruction, having worked behind the scenes with the likes of Matt Holliday and Skip Schumaker, among others. Time is a great healer, and I think fans will be willing to embrace McGwire again — just as they did Pettitte and A-Rod in New York. Particularly in St. Louis, where McGwire was always a folk hero, it shouldn’t be hard to win them back. But as Olney suggests, he should do a one-time press conference where he talks frankly about his (alleged, ahem) involvement with PEDs. It couldn’t hurt his Hall of Fame chances; his candidacy has gone absolutely nowhere already. Despite 583 career home runs, McGwire has received just 23.5, 23.6 and 21.9 percent of the vote in his first three years on the Hall of Fame ballot — far below the necessary 75 percent, and heading down. While a confession might not put him in Cooperstown, it very well could begin to turn the tide of sentiment back in his direction. People are funny that way — willing, if not eager, to forgive. Particularly if they feel the culprit has suffered enough. Perhaps five years in exile is sufficient penance for McGwire.
At the very least, if he bares his soul, McGwire would be able to walk into a ballpark again without worrying about the questions and the innuendo (a circumstance unavailable at the moment to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens). He will be able to do his new job unencumbered by the guilt of a hidden secret.
(Photo by Associated Press)