Archive for Friday, February 11, 2005

It’s time to revoke McGwire’s free pass

February 11, 2005


— For all of you who want to turn this latest steroid stain on baseball into an issue of Jose Canseco's credibility, you're at least halfway right. Now that the pre-publishing hype of his soon-to-be-released book has given us such disturbing visuals as Canseco claiming he and ex-teammate Mark McGwire stuck each other in the hindquarters with steroid-filled syringes, the easiest thing to believe is that Jose is an attention-grabbing crackpot with the credibility of a street-corner snitch.

But the trouble with dismissing Canseco's clubhouse confessions as bogus would be that the only thing with less credibility than this money-strapped, self-promoting flake is the sport he's savaging.

It isn't Canseco's credibility that should be at issue.

It's baseball's.

It's actually laughable to see all these baseball people rushing to attack Canseco's reliability when this is a sport that has been perpetrating a fraud for the past few decades with its record books dominated by bloated, chemically enhanced heroes. So now that Canseco is out stumping his sordid tales in "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big," how dare anyone remotely associated with this game try to play the holier than thou card?

The Canseco bashers will line up and attack him as a liar. They will call him a self-promoting snitch who violated nearly every sacrosanct law of the clubhouse by ratting out his former teammates. They will say he's trying to soil baseball to get onto the best-seller list. And they'll be right, of course.

Whatever they say about him, it won't be enough to detract from the overwhelming evidence that Canseco is probably telling plenty of truths about baseball's Steroid Era. And if you are willing to reconcile that troubling truth, then by extension, you must be willing to accept an even more unsettling fact that will surely make many folks here in St. Louis squirm:

Mark McGwire is just as big a propped-up, juiced-up fraud as Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and the late Ken Caminiti.

It has to hurt to swallow this, because we all drank the Big Mac Kool-Aid back in 1998, when he and Sammy Sosa (another guy with mounting circumstantial evidence tarnishing his act) saved baseball with their engaging season-long home run onslaught that produced Big Mac's record 70-homer season.

We all made daily pilgrimages to Busch Stadium to worship at the baseball altar every time one of McGwire's monstrous home runs edged him closer to Roger Maris and Babe Ruth in the baseball history books. We all bought into the romance. He was this larger-than-life Paul Bunyan character who was embraced by Cardinal Nation unconditionally.

But now what do we do with him now that the circumstantial evidence keeps piling high? If we all felt quite comfortable convicting Bonds, Giambi, Gary Sheffield and all the other BALCO boys with simple circumstantial evidence long before we saw their court transcript admissions of guilt, shouldn't we apply the same standards to convict McGwire?

We had a ton of baseball insiders and fans ready to defrock Bonds (me included) because our eyes kept telling us that something was wrong. We took in all the evidence, and then the court of public opinion passed judgment:

Guilty until proven innocent.

And as it turned out, when the BALCO testimony leaked out, our instincts were correct.

So why are so many people unwilling to apply the same standards to McGwire?

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