By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
His apology was as genuine as, it turns out, his numbers.
Former baseball hero Mark McGwire finally admitted in a manufactured mea culpa Monday what everyone else knew for years: that he used steroids during a career that saw him reign as the sport's most feared power hitter.
When Congress summoned a few of MLB's meatheads to Washington in 2005, McGwire notoriously said, "I'm not here to talk about the past."
But Monday, McGwire told everyone with a television or an Internet connection that he regretted taking the steroids, which he claimed he started using merely for health reasons, not for a competitive advantage.
And if you pull this leg ...
It was later reported that McGwire initially released a statement to the Associated Press, then allowed several one-on-one interviews with a handful of media outlets, then did his first television interview with Bob Costas for the MLB Network.
McGwire also called his loved ones, his former manager in both Oakland and St. Louis -- Tony LaRussa -- MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and even the widow of Roger Maris, whose single-season home-run mark -- arguably the most coveted record in all of sports -- McGwire shattered in a summer-long battle with fellow slugger Sammy Sosa in 1998. McGwire bashed 70 home runs that season, but Barry Bonds, himself a suspected user, broke that record a few years later with 73.
The apology started to win some hearts on the blogosphere Monday afternoon and evening ... until McGwire said he used the banned substances to expedite the healing process from injuries and denied that he used them to cheat America's pastime.
So now that the story has circulated for several hours, here's what some baseball writers are saying about McGwire Monday night:
+ Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated: "It changes nothing for the rest of us. McGwire is no better or worse a Hall of Fame candidate to me, though I believe his potential enshrinement is far less important to him than serving as a hitting coach. His playing record already had been tainted by the allegations and suspicions; this only makes the marks more indelible. If, by now, you still believed in the magic of 1998, you believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician."
+ Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated: "McGwire has waited too long, and his relationship with steroids dates back too far -- 20 years, to be exact -- to an age when many in baseball still rejected weightlifting. His statement reveals a career not simply enhanced by drugs, but built on them. Bonds and Clemens were superstars even when they were as skinny as foul poles. McGwire, on the other hand, needed the muscle to be relevant. He was not a victim of the steroid era, as his statement implies. He was the most obvious creation of it."
+ Howard Bryant, ESPN: "There are many types of lies. There are the lies you tell to others and the lies you tell to yourself. McGwire has been telling himself a lie for 20 years. He might not have lied under oath about his use of performance-enhancing drugs on March 17, 2005, but he lied many times when asked directly about it. He lied to himself when he climbed over the railing that September night in 1998 and hugged members of the Maris family while the crowd cheered him and Bud Selig stood next to Stan Musial and at that moment declared baseball to be in the middle of a renaissance."
+ Rob Neyer, ESPN: "I just wish that players like McGwire didn't feel compelled to apologize, when we know that many of them would do exactly the same thing again, if they were in the same position. Most of them -- and I don't mean this as an insult -- are sorry about getting caught, but not sorry about doing what they had to do (or thought they had to do) to get healthy or gain a competitive edge."
+ Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: "His actions are a first step toward contrition, but McGwire isn't any closer to swaying unforgiving Hall of Fame voters -- such as myself -- until he sheds more light on why he balked at coming clean five years earlier, when he testified before a congressional hearing under oath. He hasn't gotten my Hall of Fame vote before. He's not any closer to getting it now.
+ Jay Mariotti, AOL Fanhouse: "And all he did is confirm that what we watched in 1998, what we celebrated and followed like fools, was a complete waste of time and perhaps the scummiest example of why baseball's juice period was the biggest scandal in this country's sports history. Never have we been duped by something that seemed so surreal and wound up so scandalous. Therefore, how can we have mercy on McGwire and elect him to the Hall when his biggest achievement is wrapped in shame? The purpose of Cooperstown is to preserve baseball's most precious moments, not to whitewash scum."
And of course on Twitter ...
+ @Greg Mitchell: "Mark McGwire calls Roger Maris family to apologize. But why--if he truly believes steroids did not help him hit any HRs?"
+ @DaneLopes: "All these steroid users make me appreciate guys like Jeter and Wright and Mauer even more than I already do."
+ @DavidCorn: "McGwire used steroids. Palin signed with Fox. Sun sets in the west."
+ @IanSohn: "Mark McGwire admitting to using steroids is like Liberace coming out. Who didn't know?"
+ @AusHarris: "Mark McGwire: 'OK you got me. I was on roids. What gave it away? The homeruns? The muscles? The time I ate a bat, what was it? Tell me.'"
+ @RyanFamuliner: "I was at old Busch for Mark McGwire's 67-70th HR's in 1998. Gotta love priceless childhood memories proven worthless."
+ @MatthewBurns: "It took McGwire 5 years to admit the truth; Rose 14. Who did more damage to the game - and does Cooperstown make room for either?"