Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I wish I had a big-mac!

I didn't plan on talking about anything going on in baseball that didn't directly relate to the Blue Jays for at least a few weeks. This is, after all, going to be a Blue Jay centric blog. I just can't help myself though, Mark McGwire's long awaited, but not entirely expected, public admission of steroid use yesterday has provided me with an opportunity that I just can't pass up: the opportunity to offer my opinions on what has come to be accepted as baseball's darkest hour.

Until today, I thought that I didn't care about steroids anymore. I thought that I was completely ready to ignore every baseball-steroid-scandal-story for the rest of my life. I guess I was wrong. Too bad for me...

I've always felt that the amount of blame being placed on the players of the so called steroid era was unjust. This isn't to say that I condone their having 'juiced', or that I think they should be entirely excused for it, but how many among us can honestly say that we've never tried to gain a competitive advantage by bending or breaking the rules? Most of us, at some point, have cheated. Maybe it was a math test in high school or maybe it was just a game of cards. Either way, most of us have cheated at some point, and most of us haven't had the pressure of a potential multi-million dollar contract coupled with national fame and glory to influence our decisions.

Again, I don't condone steroid use, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that cheating is acceptable behaviour by anyone. It happens, though, and I can't stomach listening to Major League Baseball players being criticized because they've cheated as though the rest of the world has some sort of moral high-ground to stand on. The players took advantage of an opportunity that the league provided them. Whether or not league officials were turning a blind eye, it's apparent that they dropped the ball. In my opinion, it should be a severe embarrassment to the league that strong measures weren't taken before Congress stepped in.

I find myself empathizing with McGwire today. After five years in virtual exile, he has decided to enter back into the arena that is professional baseball. Obviously, he's felt a need to clear the air. And he did just that, with much difficulty and anguish - according to any description I've read so far of the actual interview - yesterday. Now he finds himself being criticized again. Apparently admission and apology aren't going to be good enough for the world of baseball. Somehow, if you buy into a lot of what's been written, he didn't even apologize properly. The guy just can't win.

The focus of most of the criticism seems to stem from the idea that McGwire didn't admit that his steroid use contributed to his astonishing home run totals. He didn't deny the possibility either. Ultimately, no one will ever know. Perhaps his home runs wouldn't have sailed five-hundred plus feet as often as they did, but Big-Mac was a destined to be a great power hitter with or without steroids. I've argued time and again that no amount of muscle will help you perform the kind of perfectly timed, perfectly square contact between a cylinder and a sphere that's needed to hit a home run. Perhaps some of his less impressive shots would instead have landed on the warning track or bounded off the wall, but any ball that soared five-hundred feet is a home run no matter what.

The biggest question when we're looking at McGwire's totals becomes whether or not he would have been able to play as many games while he put together his career total. He claims that he used steroids in order to stay healthy and in the line-up, which would lead to the conclusion that he wouldn't have been able to play as often as he did. There's also evidence which suggests that steroids can lead to just as many injuries as they prevent. Again, we'll never know for sure.

I apologize for the jumbled nature of this entry, but in truth my feelings on the steroid controversy are just as bad. I can't decide exactly how I feel about it, but no matter where the brunt of the blame should land it's a terrible stain on a great sport. For now, I'll settle on blaming everybody. It was wrong for the players who used steroids to cheat. It was stupid of Major League Baseball to let them get away with it for so long. It doesn't make sense to devalue every achievement of the steroid era players, not to mention the relentless attack on each player's character. We'll simply never know for sure what impact steroids had, so we might as well move on.

To close, I'll tie this back to a former Blue Jay. Jose Canseco is claiming that McGwire has called him a liar by refusing to admit that the bash brothers used to inject each other (in the clubhouse washroom) while they were team mates in Oakland as he claimed in his book. I really wish Canseco would go away and stop trying to find the spotlight. There's a sad irony that I'm even mentioning him, considering my opinion of him, but he's a former Jay, and I wanted to tie this to them somehow. I'll try not to mention him again. Ever.


  1. Good post. I think the "jumbled" approach comes across as more honest. I've read comments on other blogs and newspaper articles when people take a firm stand against steroids, especially with regards to the Hall of Fame, and I don't think that's really fair. I also think a lot of these fans are somewhat hypocrital because a season like 1998 was great for baseball..at the time. I would agree that looking back it is a stain on a great game but at the time I agreed that lots of home runs were awesome.

  2. Saying that everyone cheats is a severe over-generalization. I've never cheated at anything that would affect my academic or professional career, which is what these guys did.

    How the league never thought to investigate these guys while they were setting records is beyond me though. For a league that largely prides itself on being willfully archaic and traditional, you'd think they'd take more issue with one of their most prized records being absolutely shattered by cheaters.

  3. Of course Razz the league was still reeling from the 94 strike. Everyone knew that McGwire and Sosa were cheating but it was in the League's best interest to put its fingers in its ears and go "lalalalacanthearyoulalalalanocheatinginbaseballlalala."

  4. I never said that everyone has cheated. I said that I think most people have. Especially if we knew we'd get away with it, which is definitely how the players must have felt. Steroid use, as far as we know, was so rampant throughout the league that most players were probably able to justify it to themselves as 'evening the playing field.' An argument we've heard before, I know, but it - coupled with the argument presented by jw in the previous comment - raises more than one question about how accurately the word "cheat" actually describes the situation.