Wednesday, July 2, 2008

MLB Should Not Accept McGwire Until He Says the Magic Words

Mark McGwire is either a home run hitting hero whose good name has been wrongly smeared or a one dimensional player who augmented his main skill--crushing baseballs--by taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Ever since he infamously told a Congressional panel in 2005 that he did not want to "talk about the past," McGwire has been in de facto baseball exile. He has all but disappeared from the public eye and the slugger who briefly held the single season home run record received less than a fourth of the vote both times he has been on the Hall of Fame ballot (a candidate must receive 75% of the vote to be inducted).

Now, McGwire and some of his friends are testing the waters to see if MLB and the general public would be willing to accept the idea of McGwire returning to the big leagues, this time as a hitting instructor. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend." Unlike Pete Rose, McGwire has not been formally banned by MLB, so any team is free to hire him if he and the team think that they can deal with the inevitable public relations backlash--but there is a lot more at stake here than p.r. Point blank, either McGwire cheated or he didn't. If McGwire did not cheat, then he should explain why he clammed up in front of Congress and he should reveal everything he knows about the PED culture that permeated MLB during his playing days; if McGwire did cheat, then he should be a man and forthrightly say exactly what he did and when he did it. In either case, he should become actively involved in efforts to cleanse his sport of PED cheaters.

Until McGwire comes clean--one way or the other--and says a lot more than "I'm not here to talk about the past" MLB should continue to keep its distance from him. McGwire's silence not only calls his own feats and statistics into question but casts doubt on many ball players who did not cheat but had the misfortune of playing during the "Steroids Era."MLB literally dropped the ball by not instituting testing and not monitoring this situation until long past the time that it became a serious problem and thus we may never know for sure who cheated and who did not. As a central figure in this drama, it is McGwire's responsibility to set the record straight about exactly what he did and what he knows. If he is not willing to do that, then he should remain in exile.

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