This is The Dip, a column penned by our regular commenter, The Dipsy.
So Mark McGwire apologized for doing steroids. I guess that’s nice and I’m sure that it makes him feel better that he won’t be hounded every place he goes in his capacity as St. Louis Cardinals batting coach this season. I kinda feel bad for McGwire in a way because, in part, he is a victim. That’s right I said “victim”. The terse statement put out through his press agent merely contained an apology for something that he didn’t have say sorry for in the first place. McGwire did nothing wrong by taking steroids so he could recover from injuries, train more efficiently, and possibly acquire keener eyesight (according to Larry Bowa) so he could hit more homeruns. The only thing he did wrong was lie about it.
After the 1994 baseball strike, MLB did the stupidest thing in the world by making an owner of a baseball team the commissioner, and yes, the Brewers do count as a baseball team. Attendance was down and people were turned off. So when Bud Selig and everyone else within the inner sanctum of baseball suspected or knew that PEDs had become part of the game, they winked and kept on walking. Steroids and HGH and whatever else had been around for awhile. The Olympics had been fraught with PED’s for years. As it seeped into Major League Baseball, and more balls started flying out of ballparks and at greater distances, the turnstiles to started to smoke and the cash started to roll in. With the strike a distance memory, fans renewed their fixation with the long ball. It was in this environment, permissive and perhaps tacitly encouraged, that the slugger, armed with the knowledge that he could shoot a drug into his body to make him perform better and hit more home runs, and in turn make more money, had a choice to make. Many chose to use steroids.
Prior to 2002, when steroids were banned in baseball (the Anabolic Steroid Acts of 1990 and 2004 merely made it a crime to possess or unlawfully dispense steroids), any player was free to choose whether he wanted to use steroids or not. The only choice players had to make was whether they wanted to sacrifice their long term health in exchange for the perceived benefit the drugs would have on their game. For most players who took them, the effect was probably none. But if I’m McGwire back in 1998, knowing that MLB didn’t give a damn whether you took them or not, that they actually delighted in seeing you hit home runs as much as you enjoyed hitting them, that you would get paid more for your superior performance, I’d have done them too. No question. The only problem I have with McGwire is that, when asked, he didn’t man up from the beginning and stand behind his decision to do them.
The good times rolled, that ridiculous Sosa-McGuire-Bonds home run orgy came and went, and then, like every good scam, everyone got busted and all those complicit lawyered up. The most galling aspect of it all was MLB’s feigned surprise that this had been going on under their noses the entire time. Then, laughably, the U.S. Government suggested (strongly) that MLB put a stop to the use of steroids. Oh, how that must of hurt Bud Selig and the rest of the fellas. Not only does the golden goose get killed but they had to stick the knife in themselves. In the age of “bubbles”, the “steroid bubble” had burst.
So, here we are, after all the haggling between baseball and union, Mitchell reports, anonymous/non-anonymous player lists, juiced statistics, grand jury investigations, etc., And for the most part, I think the steroid policy that has been put in place is effective. And that’s a good thing. Now, I guess we’re left to ponder how to view what will surely become known as the steroid era in baseball. If you would wanna pick a year, say 1992, and have it generally regarded that 92-02 represents this era, that’s OK by me. I will look at most players and stats from this era with a jaundiced eye. Example: I don’t believe that Brady Anderson was drug free when he hit 50 of his 51 career homers in one season. If that is unfair to the clean players and the stats generated by them, well, that’s the way its gonna have to be. But as for McGwire, I didn’t wanna hear him say used steroids and was sorry sorry. I would have just rather him acknowledge that he’s a liar and leave it at that.