McGwire Strikes Out

By Andrew Cohen

Just finished watching Mark McGwire's tedious and unsatisfying interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network. In some ways it's even more pathetic than was his infamous performance before Congress in 2005. His latest comeback, evidently timed to take place just as the limitations periods on his purported crimes expires, will go nowhere if he doesn't truly (as he said over and over again) "come clean" about his dubious past.

He's either still in denial about cheating, or still a liar about cheating, or just a plain coward to his friends and family not to come out and say, finally: "Yes, I took illegal drugs and they helped me achieve iconic status which in truth was simply all a big fraud. I got better because of the drugs I took and I understood at the time that the drugs I took were designed to make me better."

Until and unless he says that, he's less than zero in the minds of many baseball fans, like me, who appreciate the honesty and integrity of the sport as much as the skill. McGwire aimed the gun, pulled the trigger, and fired the bullet. He can't now claim it didn't hit anything. As the esteemable Peter Gammons said Monday night, sometimes players who are self-absorbed becomes self-delusionable. McGwire is self-delusionable if he really believes that his brilliance wasn't connected to his drugs.   

It's simply not plausible any longer to believe or contend that there is no connection between cause and effect, between the drugs McGwire took and the amazing performances he then offered. The proof is in the photos, if not in his testimony; its in the hard facts if not the soft bubble of the MLB Network. God-given talents, including bat speed, made McGwire a major league baseball player-- and a damn good one. Steroids turned him into a monster, the architect of a 70-home-run season that now looks as phony as the hitter's confession. If the drugs didn't help him, why all the tears? Why the delay in "coming clean"? Why the pass before Congress?  

If I am wrong, correct me. But I think worse of McGwire tonight than I did after I covered that hearing five years ago. And that's saying something. Shame me once, shame on you. Shame me twice, shame on me. The only shame here belongs to McGwire. Still.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/01/mcgwire-strikes-out/33322/