Tuesday, January 12, 2010

McGwire Is a Sham After All, but Shows True Remorse

I’m sure many of you still remember the congressional hearing at Capitol Hill. Being seen in the public and before congress, he seemed humiliated and hesitant to speak of possible use of steroids. Mark McGwire has been scolded for refusing to confront an issue that has contaminated the beautiful game of baseball, holding a sport hostage thanks to the infamous Steroid Era.

At this point, believing a word coming out of any player’s mouth seems like a sham when it could actually be the truth. But in this case, McGwire is guilty and has ruined his integrity, finally coming clean about coating his system with steroids for nearly a decade. What strikes me the most is this: He waited until a new decade arrived to admit to using performance enhancers.

Why did he wait all this time? We want to believe the Steroid Era has fled the scene of a toxic era, but it turns out baseball is still a sport in limbo. To this day, the mysterious list is lingering, unidentified names remains baffling and baseball is no longer America’s Pastime, but instead the Shamed Game.

His admission on Monday was supposed to transpire back in 2005. The entire country should have known the truth, especially when all citizens admired McGwire’s record-breaking, baseball-saving season of 1998. Sadly, none of the gorgeous swings at nearly every at-bat was pure or done artistically. Instead he needed juice to elevate a streaky performance level, and now must pay the price for such a sin.

The perfect time came at Capitol Hill, a moment he could have told the truth, rather than keep the truth hidden for more than five years. He refused to deliver specifics, telling the congressmen, “I’m not going to talk about the past.” For declining to reveal the truth, much of McGwire’s reputation and credibility has disintegrated. Although he deserves an ample of credit for clearing his name, parts of his admission don’t make sense whatsoever.

There are plenty of confounding holes to solve after hearing McGwire confess, when he finally had the courage to reveal a regrettable secret, and man-up. The bottom line is, he cheated by putting an illegal substance in his body. Even though he has apologized and confessed of iniquity, that doesn’t make him eligible for the Hall of Fame. No tainted slugger belongs in the Hall, no tarnished legacy should earn any delightful achievement for poisoning the wonderful aspects of the game.

Worst is, McGwire fled and lived behind the scenes, shamed of the treachery he left confidential. Why should I vote a guy into the Hall when he clearly ran before he finally succumbed to reality? Why should I vote a guy into the Hall for depriving a sport we once cherished? Doesn’t anyone feel hoodwinked by the everlasting steroid scandals?

When he emotionally broke down during an interview with Bob Costas, he spoke out with class and forgiveness; he was sincere about letting down fans, former teammates, and the St. Louis Cardinals. At last, McGwire sat to talk about the past, ostensibly contrite of what unfolded during a record season of 70 home runs. However, I’m not buying into his admission and have no sympathy for McGwire, particularly for insisting that he believes steroid use enhances his performance level.

That’s why steroids are classified as performance-enhancing drugs. So, to say the substances didn’t aid his fraudulent home run total is utterly ridiculous. If he believes he produced off of natural or God-given talent, well, at least he was certain. But he’s naïve to presume that all of his strength was natural.

“It’s very emotional. It’s telling family members, friends, and coaches, you know, it’s former teammates to try to get a hold of, you know, what I’m coming clean and being honest,” McGwire sadly said in a 20-minute interview with the Associated Press. “It’s the first time they’ve ever heard me, you know, talk about this. I hid it from everybody.”

We know you hid it from the world. I tried not to think McGwire was a fraud, but it’s now clear he’s an asterisk. But anyone with the right state of mind knew he was infected after the congressional hearing. For most of his career, he was a con artist and cowardly became a suspicious hypocrite. Like unintelligent people, we embraced the greatest milestone in baseball, an achievement that is now viewed with an asterisk.

If there’s anything legit about McGwire, mind you, we cannot tell because of a long decade of shams. Sure he has all the homers, but a gloomy cloud would always hover over him. He never committed perjury, but he kept a secret hiding and killed perception. The greatest accomplishments of his lifetime are tarnished for good, wrecking the mindsets of those who actually believed at one point. So the gratifying moment has turned into a wicked moment.

The distressing past began to hunt McGwire, and he realized he wasn’t a natural-born slugger. He phoned commissioner Bud Selig, Cardinals general manager Tony La Russa, and the widow of Roger Maris, Pat Maris, to apologize for the disruptions and transgressions.

What bothers me the most is flimsy excuses when someone is caught for sinful actions. McGwire swore that he pleaded for the Fifth Amendment before congress because he wasn’t given immunity, and he was afraid he would have been forced to spent time behind bars. Still, that’s not a good enough excuse to allow McGwire off the hook.

“On the advice of my attorneys, they could not advise me to talk about my past,” he said offensively. “If I did that, and there was a possibility of being prosecuted or summoned to a grand jury, I’m throwing my whole family and close friends and other people that were with me—I’m putting them in jeopardy for some act that I did and I totally regret. I told my attorneys that I would take the hit and protect my family. So I elected to take the hit, and I’ve taken the hit for five years. That was the worst 48 hours of my life on Capitol Hill. I wish I did get immunity; I would have come clean five years ago.”

I’m not so sure if we should buy into that excuse as well. We’ve reached a point when it’s hard to believe anything. Another excuse hard to stomach is McGwire claimed he used steroids to heal from injuries. Then again, maybe he decided to take drugs to care for health. But he still should say it does affect his productivity, adding he’d still have the same total of homers without steroids.

You’d never know. And as far as it goes now, he's tainted no matter what. He said his steroid use mounted in 1994. If you hadn’t noticed, maybe that answered the question to why his batting average was a .249 lifetime and averaged homers every 14 at-bats.

Here is where it’s confusing: suddenly the percentages rose during a season he dominated. He started to approach a paramount site in the majors, a standard that had a large impact on baseball. In what become the engaging era, McGwire's average was .277 with a home run deposited every 8.4 at-bats.

So we’ll never know the true colors of Big Mac, right?

Right! In a period when baseball is contaminated with a juicy aftertaste, productive numbers could be a sham for all we know. All those linked to performance-enhancing drugs, such as a secretive McGwire, an obvious Sammy Sosa, a phony Barry Bonds, a lying Roger Clemens, a confused Alex Rodriguez, a naïve Manny Ramirez, and whoever else I left out, don’t earn my vote for casting distasteful features on the game.

As for McGwire, he was the game’s greatest hitter until steroids played a role, after the usage of steroids provided energy and treated health, which led to his sleazy statement.

“There’s not a pill or an injection that’s going to give me, going to give any player the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball,” he told Costas on the MLB Network.

What happened has long past, but knowing he committed such a crime is agonizing when many admired him.

McGwire was known for the incredible resurgence; now he’s known for breaking down the game, deemed as the newest sleaze in baseball.