McGwire had to talk about steroids, but his story doesn't add up
The truth with
From the time the Cardinals decided that they should blow out
Of course, we all knew that McGwire did steroids from the moment he refused to talk about his past in that hearing room in Congress on March 17, 2005. And, in retrospect, even those of us slow to understand what was going on (myself included) all knew it from the old clips, the outsized body and the absurd stats. So McGwire's admission wasn't exactly a revelation.
And it wasn't exactly done of his own free will. While Selig didn't explicitly make coming clean a condition of his return, he made clear that McGwire would have to speak and explain what happened. There was no other way to do it.
Unfortunately, Selig couldn't script all of McGwire's remarks to MLB Network's
In a plainly ridiculous claim, McGwire steadfastly maintained to Costas that he took steroids strictly because of health concerns, not to get a competitive edge. And in an even more ridiculous contention, McGwire further claimed that he didn't get an edge, either -- that he would have hit 70 home runs at age 34 going on 35, and performed all of his other superhuman exploits, without steroids. His explanation was that he was just a rare, God-given talent who got even better as he got old.
Of course, on their face those are preposterous assertions. Though we shouldn't be surprised that McGwire couldn't be completely honest. After all, this is a guy who spent the past 20 years cheating, lying, stonewalling and hiding.
And by the way, his claim that he stonewalled Congress because he feared prosecution is fairly lame, as well. He did investigate the possibility of receiving immunity, a contention that was backed up the next day by former Republican congressman
Even now, McGwire does far too much blaming and excuse-making. He still doesn't show the guts to stand up and take responsibility.
This isn't his lawyers' fault. It's his fault. And of course, the reality is that no one ever gets prosecuted for taking steroids. People are prosecuted for distributing steroids, and they are prosecuted for lying under oath.
We all know of hundreds of athletes who took performance-enhancing drugs. And how many of them have been pursued or prosecuted by the feds for that? Exactly zero. The government doesn't have the time or resources to go after the folks who just use the performance-enhancing drugs. And they certainly wouldn't be hauling away in handcuffs an American hero, which is what McGwire would have been had he cooperated rather than taking such a cowardly stance.
Instead, he stonewalled Congress, then hid in California for nearly five years. At least he wasn't hiding when he went on TV with Costas, an extremely bright and tough interviewer who wasn't going to let McGwire go without giving him several chances to admit that steroids just might have helped him.
Yet, McGwire never once conceded the obvious, that he took the performance-enhancing drugs for a decade to enhance his performance. Time and again, he said no to Costas. He said the 'roids were for his health. Yeah, right.
If the only reason he took steroids was health problems, why was he so emotional in his interview? And why did he keep it secret and not even tell his parents and children until this week, as he claimed? If the drugs were just for his health, surely his own parents and kids would have understood. Surely they would have given him the benefit of the doubt.
Even if he did it partly for health-related reasons, and even if he did think that without them he couldn't keep playing... well, he did keep playing. Lots of great careers have ended throughout baseball history due to injury without any attempt to save it via illegal drugs. McGwire must have felt that he was on his way out. Yet, he played more than a decade after he began taking the magic drugs. Maybe most of that decade wouldn't have happened for him without them.
But of course the reality is that McGwire took the drugs to boost his performance, as everyone did during that era. The only difference is that McGwire boosted his performance in a much greater and more obvious way than nearly everyone else.
I don't doubt that McGwire had a "God-given'' ability, as he said, and incredible "hand-eye coordination," as he said. But his gifts got better as he got older, and so miraculously, did his strength. Looking back, it is obvious to see that he became superhuman. He talked on TV about how he always played at 250 pounds, but that is contradicted by pictures that show him as a tall, slender kid when he came up and then looking like a condo in his St. Louis years.
In retrospect, that's all pretty obvious. But just for good measure, when McGwire started to get specific about the dates, he hung himself with his own words.
He said he really started to get serious about steroids after the 1993 season, after dabbling in them for several years before that. Take a look at his baseball card. That is precisely when McGwire became superhuman. A coincidence? Highly doubtful.
Assuming that is the truth, that makes it clear just how much the steroids mattered. Through 1993, McGwire's numbers were these: .249 batting average, .359 on-base percentage and .509 slugging percentage -- very good numbers but not Hall-of-Famer material. As
But from 1994 on, there was only one comp for McGwire, whose numbers in his later years were .277/.429/.674. That one comp was Babe Ruth.
Ruth is the only player whose career on-base percentage was over .420 and whose career slugging percentage was over .670. But even Ruth wasn't close to the juiced-up McGwire when it came to hitting home runs. McGwire hit 11.88 home runs every 100 at-bats from 1994 on. As Sherman pointed out, Ruth never had even one season in which his home run percentage was that high.
The other difference, of course, is that The Babe did it all on hot dogs and alcohol.
I asked a Reds person why they took a $30 million gamble on Cuban defector
"Besides throwing fastballs through walls?'' came the response.
"Well above average slider... average curve... Seems to really understand the cultural bridge he needs to cross... Perfect pitcher's body... VERY coordinated.''
Is that all?
"Picks up mechanical corrections and repeats ... Relatively low number of innings pitched... VERY clean physical specimen... Seems to ask the right questions... Knows he needs to develop a changeup, so he asked about hooking up with
The other unspoken reason is that the Reds think this is their best chance to acquire someone who may turn out to be great. To get a proven great player, it can cost $82.5 million (
In short, they think Chapman may turn out to be
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