Mark McGwire steroids confession: Will it be enough?

The long-suspected Mark McGwire steroids confession came Monday in an attempt to clear the air before he becomes the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach next season. The confession seemed cathartic for the introverted former slugger, but questions remain.

Tim Parker/Reuters/File
St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGwire watches his 65th home run of the year in this October 3, 1998 file photo.

Finally, the Mark McGwire steroids admission has come. Will a simple confession be enough?

Enough for what? That’s the question.

As a matter of personal confession, McGwire’s emotional revelations, in which he told the Associated Press Monday that he used steroids periodically during his career – including when he set the single-season home run record in 1998 – seem cathartic, and thus important.

As he told the AP, this is a secret he hid from everybody – coaches, teammates, family members, friends. That’s not a healthy way to go through life.

As to the effect on his athletic career, past and future, the result may be more mixed.

Enough for the fans?

Sure, he’ll get a standing ovation in St. Louis when he’s introduced as the new Cardinal hitting coach at the home opener, but he’d have received that anyway.

St. Louis is a famously forgiving baseball town. After all, the fans there have put up with manager Tony La Russa for 14 years, despite the fact that he defines the phrase “prickly genius."

And they’ll be standing in New York when the Cardinals come to town, too, but “ovation” might not be the word the reception brings to mind.

McGwire’s problem is that steroids and his accomplishments – indeed, his very athletic persona – will now be inextricably intertwined. He was a slugger. Home runs – that’s what he did. Barry Bonds was fast, and a great fielder, once. McGwire never did much but pound baseballs into no-longer-spherical objects.

Enough for the media?

Yes, McGwire is saying he took steroids not to get bigger, but to heal. That approach seems to have worked for Yankee Andy Petttite, who copped to using Human Growth Hormone to try to get back on the field.

But McGwire has – or had – legs like sequoias. He strode to the plate at Busch Stadium, the grounds shook out in suburban Kirkwood. He gives the impression of someone who took drugs to grow, and therefore reporters are going to pursue that issue.

“Without steroids, would you have amounted to much?”

McGwire’s going to get that question from every non-Cardinal baseball beat writer in America. That’ll be tough to handle, because it will also be a question about whether he is worthy to coach hitting.

Maybe some frustrated player he’s trying to help also will get in his face – or at least think to himself – “If you know so much about this stuff, why did you need the juice?”

Enough for the Hall of Fame?

Make no mistake, La Russa will rise to his defense. (See “prickly”, above.) The whole subject could become a big distraction, particularly if the Cardinals, who are looking like a pretty good team right now, don’t win.

Hall of Fame? That’s easy. It is not happening, not now, not ... well, maybe not ever. There’s always the Veterans Committee, which considers players passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The sad part is that McGwire seems like a personable guy who’s been ripped up by this experience. “I wish I had never played during the steroid era,” McGwire told the AP Monday.

Us too, Mark. Us too.


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