Monday, January 11, 2010

On Mark McGwire and Steroids

This really isn't a big surprise. In a perverse way, McGwire's refusal to neither acknowledge nor deny steroid-use before Congress years ago actually has, in retrospect, made him look like the most decent guy on the panel. No feigned ignorance a la Sammy Sosa; no snide, arrogant confidence of a self-proclaimed savior, like Canseco; no finger-pointing, like Rafael Palmeiro. Everybody on that panel ended up posturing in some way, save for McGwire, whose silence ended up being the most honest and decent position taken that day.

Of course, there will be self-righteous indignation, and while some writers may finally respect him for coming clean, I suspect many more will become even more self-righteously indignant. And for those who do become indignant, well, Rob Neyer has a couple of good questions for them.

For my money, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. It's fairly commonly accepted, and probably more accurate than not, that a lot of people used steroids in the 90s. As they say, it was just part of the "culture," and while you may or may not like that part of the culture, if somebody was still one of the greatest sluggers of all time within that culture (a culture that, let's not forget, saw at least as many pitchers as hitters using PEDs), well, then you were among the best of your era, and should be in the Hall. As many sane people have pointed out, it's not like PEDs weren't common in other forms prior to the 90s, and to say that players had an "advantage" in the 90s is kind of absurd for two reasons: first, if hitters and pitchers were using PEDs, doesn't that kind of re-level the playing field (albeit at a possibly higher level)?; and B) where do you draw the line on keeping people out who had "unfair advantages?" Willie Stargell used greenies - did he have an unfair advantage? Bob Gibson had a higher pitchers mound - did he have an unfair advantage? Babe Ruth never had to face Satchel Paige - did he have an unfair advantage?

Of course, these questions won't prevent the indignation of some, and they won't get McGwire into the hall of fame. But anybody who thinks this is a major strike against one of the greatest sluggers of his era, well.....I can't wait to watch you twist yourselves into pretzels once Bonds and Clemens are Hall-eligible.