No balls


Mark McGwire issued a statement today. Hold your hats, because this is shocking. No, SHOCKING. No, SHOCKING!!!

He used steroids.

Yes, it is true. Mark McGwire used steroids. HGH, too. I can’t believe it.

First, here’s the statement, which was delivered to the Associated Press:

“Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.

I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season.

I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

During the mid-’90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.

I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.

Baseball is really different now — it’s been cleaned up. The commissioner and the players’ association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I’m glad they did.

I’m grateful to the Cardinals for bringing me back to baseball. I want to say thank you to Cardinals owner Mr. DeWitt, to my GM, John Mozeliak, and to my manager, Tony La Russa. I can’t wait to put the uniform on again and to be back on the field in front of the great fans in Saint Louis. I’ve always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again, this time as hitting coach. I’m going to pour myself into this job and do everything I can to help the Cardinals hitters become the best players for years to come.

After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it. I’ll do that, and then I just want to help my team.”

Where to begin? First, I’m glad McGwire finally admitted this, because—let’s be blunt here—what he did was bullshit. Pure bullshit. Remember the home run chase of ’98? The tears? The smiles? The history? Well, the tears and smiles might have been legitimate, but the history was not. Say what you want, Big Mac defenders, but you don’t break Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark by cheating (and, yes, steroids were cheating. Maybe not by baseball standards alone, but by federal law, where possession without a proper prescription was/is illegal). You don’t hug his family with one arm while inserting a needle into the other. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t—and apologists really need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why this sort of behavior continues to be defended. Because, in the context of the game, it’s indefensible. Especially in the context of the history of the game.

Second, I loathe this passage: I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.

Translation: I took steroids, but they might have not helped me. Probably didn’t. Again, bullshit. Performance enhancers are literal—they enhance performance. They make you bigger, stronger, quicker. They help in recovery time and sustainability. Odds McGwire wasn’t aided by the usage: Very, very low.

I don’t know why athletes always do this, but it irks the hell out of me. They always bark about “manning up” when it comes to games and within the context of the clubhouse, but they never do in real life. How about making a statement sans conditions? I cheated, it was wrong, I’m a dolt—and can we please move on?

Do I think McGwire should be the Cardinals’ hitting coach? No, I don’t. I think it’s another lame allowance of something that poisoned the game. But can I see the opposing viewpoint? Of course. Maybe we need to move on; to forgive and forget. Hmm—it’s a toughie.

But, overall, good for Mark McGwire. Better late than never.

23 thoughts on “No balls”

  1. I don’t have an answer to this, but does McGwire deserve a little credit for coming out w/ the statement without any evidence against him? The only other times I can think of athletes admitting PED use is after they’ve been caught. Granted, I’m sure the statement was released so that he won’t be a distraction to the Cardinals this year, but I hope more athletes follow his lead and admit usage ahead of the scandal.

  2. Perhaps an effort to start to make better with HoF voters? Not that I expect it to happen within a year or so, but finally coming clean was an obvious starting point to forgiveness. While Pete Rose hasn’t had his ban lifted, admitting to what he did seems to have helped him in the public eye over the long term.

  3. Don’t you think that he ‘came out’ now because he knew he’d be deluged by questions, and this will probably start to answer all the questions before everyone gets to spring training and it will be less of a distraction?

    Looks like someone got himself a PR manager…

  4. Can someone wake me when all the holier than thous are finished with their self-righteous wankery?

    I had a heck of a lot of fun in 1998. Lots of baseball memories I still treasure… and I’m not a casual fan – I attend roughly 40 games a year and I calculate my cable MLB Season Ticket package at pennies per game watched.

    Do I wish Mac and company had stayed away from the PEDs?


    I wish the players that played before them had stayed away from the greenies.

    I wish the players before the greenie using players had a stronger MLBPA so talent would have been better distributed.

    I wish the players that came before THAT hadn’t been stuck playing in all lily-white league, where skin color rather than talent determined who starred.

    So – have at it, Jeff. Get all frothy in your self-righteousness. Tell us how we’re terrible people for enjoying 1998. Hand out the pitchforks and torches.

    Just get on with it if for no other reason than working it out of your system, like the colicky baby you are.

  5. Jeff – Always enjoy your work. I’m trying to turn on a friend of mine to your stuff. I can’t find the link to all the pieces you wrote in ’97 and ’98 criticizing McGwire and others for their steroid usage. Could you help me out?

    You’ve always been out front on this one, keep up the great work!!

  6. Use of steroids was “cheating”, oh, not because the collective bargaining agreement allowed it, but because it was “illegal”, which it wasn’t if he had a prescription. So does now Pearlman wants all of Mantle’s and Maris’s records struck for “cheating” by using a different performance enhancer, greenies? Oh sanctimonious hypocrite, continue to blog your confused thoughts.

  7. Jeff, your post was more balanced than I thought it would be. I enjoyed reading it. And yes, MM’s hiding behind the injuries rather than also saying “I wanted to be stronger” was B.S.

    But let me ask you something. You have said that you love writing books. Let’s say you had a strange illness that could possibly end your writing career prematurely, but otherwise live a normal life. Say there was a drug out there, that, though illegal, would not be punishable by your publisher if you used it. And if you used it, you found that you were selling more books than Bill friggin Simmons. Wouldn’t you take it? If your answer is no, you’re a better man than me.

    That’s why I just can’t get upset about the users. Players are always going to try to get a competitive adavantage. It was the institution (the players’ union, especially) that was at fault for allowing it to happen. And I didn’t hear a peep from ANY player demanding testing until the damage had been done. So don’t be mad just at McGwire, Jeff. They all let us down.

    PS Your statement about steroids regarding federal law means your HOF candidate Keith Hernandez is a cheater too. Cocaine may not always be used as a performance enhancer, but as a stimulant it sure might help a player get through a grueling 162 game season…just like the greenies.

    1. Fair question, but apples and oranges. Better question is this: If I’m sitting in the Sports Illustrated office back in the day and Steve Rushin leaves his computer on, with the file BEST-SELLING BOOK IDEAS open on the screen, do I look? Absolutely not. Hell, we all face similar choices that McGwire had in our own worlds: Cheat or don’t cheat? It’s not always easy, and I’m certainly not perfect. But why not ask this in a more simple term: Were I a professional athlete, would I cheat to improve my performance? Or, were there an illegal pill to make me a better writer, would I take it? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t think that’s me being self-righteous. It’s being truthful. I fuck up a lot. A lot. But here, I wouldn’t cheat.

  8. Pathetic, he really is. I don’t care that he admitted it. He did something illegal! Illegal! Illegal! He should pay for it and be BANNED from baseball! What is a story like this telling people, if you are rich and famous you can do anything, than get a pat on the back for telling the truth. Disgusting!

  9. Ahhh – so if McGwire had taken steroids for a sense of euphoria, and the performance enhancing was just a side effect, he’d have been all good… like Hernandez.

    That – it seems – is McGwire’s sin over admitted cocaine abusers like Hernandez or admitted amphetamine users like Mickey Mantle.

    McGwire didn’t have the integrity to step up to using a schedule II drug (most amphetamines; cocaine) – he stuck with a sissy schedule III (anabolic steroids).

    But it’s the performance enhancement, right?

    Sure… we should look unfavorably at McGwire, who took a controlled substance that enhances performance by providing better returns on workouts.

    However – there is no reason to look poorly on Hernandez or Mantle, who took controlled substances that merely allowed them to overcome active night lives.


    It’s simple… if you take a drug that vastly increases your returns on training – this is bad.

    …if you take a drug, even one classified as more dangerous than steroids, that vastly increases your energy and alertness, covering over the fact you spent the previous evening chasing tail at a tavern til 4 AM rather than working out… well… that’s OK.

  10. The guy went before Congress and said absolutely nothing. Had he opened his mouth in any appreciable way, he would have perjured himself.

    How anyone can defend this flim-flam man is beyond me. He’s a cautionary tale at best.

  11. Let’s clarify Big Mac’s congressional remarks.
    Mark went in front of congress and said he’d be happy to talk about his use of steroids, but he did not want to out other players, so he decided he couldn’t do one without the other so it was better to say nothing. And if he had been open and honest to congress, it wouldn’t have been perjury, would it now?

  12. I totally agree with you, Jeff. I would respect he “I’m a moron for doing it and it was cheating. Plain and simple.” Then, I might actually be impressed.

  13. Jeff,

    With reguard to your Rushin comment. I wonder if your life and expectations from family and those around you were centered on “making it” as a pro with very little to fall back on if you “fail”. The difference between a gold medalist and the rest rest of the field, who noone remembers is tenths if not hundreds of seconds. With all the money and commitment from such a young age to sports, I think it it unrealistic for someone to give up on their, or often their parents dream, so that they can sleep at night.
    Also, as a competitor, I can see how it could be frustrating to see others surpassing you because of PED’s.
    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I appreciate your view, even if I do not always agree with you.

  14. Jeff, firstly, i think you’re an outstanding writer, your books on the cowboys, clemens, bonds (and i hope to read “the bad guys won” soon”) were some of the best reads i’ve had in some time.

    secondly, get off your goddamned soapbox. He used steroids! Heavens! Will sombody save the children and baby jesus! Get real. We’re talking about a game that used to ban african americans. But you’re right, Mark McGwire using steroids is the worst thing that ever happened in the history of baseball.I’ve used anabolic steroids on and off for 5+ years as a competetive Bodybuilder and powerlifter and I can tell that you clearly have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to the benefits or negatative side effects of so called “performance enancing drugs”. If you would like to have a real, honest, no BS discussion about steroids (and to an extent,GH)my email is in the info section.

  15. i dont appreciate you using my picture , Yes that is me and mcgwire in 1990 at yankee stadium, to bash my favorite player. he provided me with great memories and he unlike so many players who ignore the fans, always signed autographs for his fans.. That experience of meeting him in 90′ regardless of what was in his body was a highlight of my young childhood.

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