"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Ya Don’t Say

Mark McGwire admits that he used steroids in a statement sent to the AP today:

I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season.

I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

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1 a.O   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:28 pm

All is forgiven, Mark. Just don't pretend you actually hold any homerun records or deserve to be in the Hall.

2 ms october   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:31 pm

wow, very weird - guess he really wanted to be a hitting coach.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:33 pm

now that I know the terrible truth, I wanna see him hit a few dingers

4 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:45 pm

Such a shock! He admits it, in time for HoF balloting/discussion to incorporate that!

Dead, Flogged Horse Alert: it still bothers me that so many (including some here) raked A Rod over the burning coals for being 'programmed' or 'phony' at that press conference when he REMAINS the only guy to do that. Manny? Mostly contempt for fans and the game in his attitude. Papi? Say what? Not me! Sammy SoSo ... Silence.

And they are playing it right ... since our fatigue our 'Are we there yet?' desire for this all to be over causes us to allow them the evasions. Only Roger, who pushed just too damned hard in his self-righteousness, still triggered a measure of fan-anger. (And defiant defense.)

I honestly don't see how the HoF keeps people out on this, though ... that whole decade+ of players are tangled in steroids, and I have sounded off before on greenies and earlier years.

5 Just Fair   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:51 pm

Thanks, Mark. I'm glad you've taken the last 2+ years to work on your canned response.

6 ms october   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:59 pm

[4] good points hoss - but i think it goes beyond fatigue - there are still a fairly broad swath of takes on the era.
some people are not bothered much if at all by the use of peds.
some are, but realize there is nothing to be done by it.
then of course, there are some who are bothered by it and would like to see records stripped, exclusion to the hof etc.

the two weirdest lines are the first and last of the excerpt.

"i never knew when, but i always knew this day would come" - umm this isn't winning the lotto - the day would come when you said it.

"looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era." - okay.

7 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:07 pm

Fair enough, Ms Oct. Fatigue is A factor, not the defining one. I agree. Too many takes on this one.

But I saw MannyPapi as embodying (hah!) tiredness, a fandom that just wanted it gone, and was willing to let the players off the hook. Agreed that with Papi, also, there was a ton of goodwill. I do NOT see it as any kind of Red Sox prejudice in favor of...

8 rbj   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:11 pm

Our long, national nightmare is over.


I'm glad he's finally admitted it, wish others would as well. I do think Roger & Barry could be in some federal legal trouble if they admit to it (lying under oath) so it's perhaps best for them to clam up. Though the federal statute of limitations is 5 years. Bonds & Clemens were HoF players even pre-steroids (bulking up). Mark is too one dimensional and steroids helped him get to the 500 plateau, so I think he stays out.

9 ms october   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:13 pm

[7] i do agree that fatigue is a big factor. your point about papi is a good one too.
it also seems much of the reactions are pre-supposed or pre-determined - with mcgwire we are going to get a lot of, "well of course he was." maybe it is harder to get outraged when in hindsight it was obvious.

10 Dimelo   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:14 pm

Good for Mark. I won't judge him, but I also don't care about PEDs too. I hope he gets in the HOF.

11 sonyahennystutu   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:17 pm

Well gee gosh I'm shocked.

The line about wishing he hadn't played in the roids era...what an asshole.

12 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:29 pm

I do like how he makes a point of bringing up the "steroid era." Like he got swept up in the current and just couldn't think of a way out. Lines like that otally destroy the whole thing for me. Take some personal fucking responsibility for what you did instead of trying to mitigate it.

13 sonyahennystutu   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:33 pm

[12] My sentiments exactly. I chose instead to sum it up by calling him an asshole :)

14 Rob Abruzzese   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:58 pm

I can't believe he had enough sack left to throw them down on the table like that. His honesty is refreshing. Asterisk?

15 Raf   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:03 pm

[9] That shouldn't be surprising, considering a reporter found a bottle of Andro in his locker back in 98...

“looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” - The hell he didn't. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I suppose he didn't mind the money and adulation he got at the time. Hell I bet he and his children, and his grand and great grandchildren will benefit from the $75M+ he has made over the duration of his career.

He juiced up when a good number of people were doing it. And cashed in just like everyone else. BFD.

16 ms october   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:07 pm

[15] let me clarify, it was not surprising at all - i think in cases that were as obvious as his, outrage is actually diminished, especially after the passage of time.

17 Raf   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:10 pm

[16] Sorry bout that, I was addressing the "with mcgwire we are going to get a lot of, “well of course he was.”" portion of your entry.

I don't think anyone is surprised :)

18 ms october   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:13 pm

[17] gotcha .
i guess mlb's streak of a pre-spring training steroid admission continues.

19 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:14 pm

[4] Alex is a far better player overall than those guys. Not to say that excuses the overreaction/nonreaction factor, but if there was gonna be a passionate reaction to anyone in the bunch Alex was very much the most disappointing reveal and the easiest target for humiliation.

20 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:27 pm

[19] Alex was going to be the guy that took back the home run record.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:30 pm

[20] He was supposed to save the game, too. So many people crossed their fingers hoping he wasn't using...

22 FlyGirlFan   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:34 pm

Well at least there is an asterisk on that ball in the HOF. God Bless you, Roger Maris - in my heart you are still the record-holder.

23 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:44 pm

[22] That's the thing that kills me. In Maris' day, the reporters lobbied the commissioner to put an asterisk on the ball because they didn't think it would be a real record if he didn't break it in the same amount of games as Ruth. To me, the reasons for having the asterisks are about as insignificant as the purpose of them. In another fifty years, will anyone believe using steroids or HGH is cheating? For all we know,it might become mandatory.

24 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:49 pm

[23] Outside of that, McGwire's qualification for HoF is mainly his HR hitting. If you discount that due to steroid use, does he qualify any other way?

25 Diane Firstman   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:08 pm

(snark alert)

Hey .... if McGwire used them .... do you think Sosa did?

(end snark alert)

26 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:11 pm

It's so funny, Alex: I just now caught the headline on another site and those were my exact words: "You don't say."


27 FlyGirlFan   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:11 pm

[23] The reporters not only lobbied because of the amount of games Ruth played vs. Maris, but also because they just simply didn't like Maris because he didn't do interviews. Maris certainly didn't deserve an asterisk because of that - and he didn't get one. This admission by McGwire AFTER the HoF voting was just completed is a publicity stunt so that he can try and lobby his way into the HoF and because he will face questions as a hitting coach for the Cards. [24] I'd have to look at his other stats to see how he compares, but I'm running on the assumption that its all about the home runs for which he seeks qualification in the HoF.

28 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:13 pm

[23] The way I look at it is, whether or no steroids and HGH actually contribute to anything, it was McGwire's intent to cheat. He wanted to cheat, he proceeded to do just that, and he lied and hid it for years and years because he assumed he was cheating. Same goes for Rodriguez and Ortiz and Sosa and Ramirez and Bonds and Pettitte and Clemens and so on and so forth.

29 thelarmis   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:50 pm

if mcgwire is gonna be in the news quite a bit now, can they at least show pictures of his hot blonde wife?! ; )

as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, my only care about it right now, is that Tim Raines makes it in. and that he doesn't have to wait til his last few tries. put him in...NOW!!!

30 Raf   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:13 pm

"Cheating is baseball's oldest profession. No other game is so rich in skullduggery, so suited to it or so proud of it." - Thomas Boswell

31 hiscross   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:14 pm

Does anyone think that baseball is now a dead sport? It has been for years and the only way it will
stay afloat is the Yankees keep winning. Ay some point football will get exposed and it too will fall
from grace. What has bothered me over the past few years is how the MLB Commissar has let
this sport erode, Yes, I believe he knew all about the use of roids but kept silent to get the fans
to believe what they were paying to see was real baseball. Well not anymore. Once the baby
boomers stop buying tickets so long to the grand old sport. What a shame.

32 thelarmis   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:17 pm

i don't think the sport is dead...at all.

though i'll be quite ecstatic to have the Yankees continue to win! year after year after year after... : )

33 Raf   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:19 pm

[31] The game will never die. It's too great. The game has survived wars, gambling, greed, strikes and collusion and everything else that has been thrown at it.

Baseball will be fine.

34 monkeypants   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:23 pm

[23] I don't see the big deal with an asterisk for Maris, if an asterisk designates "record set in 162 games." I would have no problem with separate single-season counting stat-records for those who played in a 154 game v. 162 game seasons.

35 rbj   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:48 pm

Decent interview between McGwire & Costas on MLB network now.

And despite Mark's statement that steroids didn't help him, he admitted they helped him play all those extra games. Without steroids his body would have broken down earlier & he wouldn't have 583 HRs.

BTW, when I put in the ampersand above, my finger initially hit the asterisk sign -- and I wasn't looking.

36 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 11, 2010 8:08 pm


So how bout that Podsednik signing? Royals going far in 2010, Trust da' Process, boyeeeeee!!

37 Yankee Mama   ~  Jan 11, 2010 8:18 pm

I'm aghast! How could he? I thought it was Wheaties that made him so built up.

I'm with Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO. What a snooze.

38 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 11, 2010 8:43 pm

[35] I thought it was a pretty good interview too, but unfortunately the post interview discussion has been turning my stomach. The righteous indignation of guys like Verducci and Rosenthal has particularly been pathetic. For once, I would love one of these intrepid reporters, who insist they know that steroids and HGH significantly enhance performance, to actually find a credible study, medical or statistical, to back up their opinions. Instead, they spout off with the typical ignorance usually reserved for more basic observations about the game.

As for the Hall of Fame, I think the institution has become obsolete in terms of its status as a body worthy of bestowing special honors. If the enshrinement election process is changed to include competent electors, that coulc be restored, but in the meantime, I just view the Hall of Fame as a great museum.

39 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 9:24 pm

[38] I agree with you on the righteous indignation point. I don't fault Verducci and Rosenthal for not voting for PED users, thats their perogative.

What I have a problem with is the voters who claim they voted for McGwire before, but now that he's admitted what he's done they won't vote for him. Because that makes perfect sense.

40 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 11, 2010 9:53 pm

[39] If voters don't want to vote for steroid users on the grounds that they acted immorally, I agree, it is their prerogative. But, then again, so is not voting for Alomar because he spit on an umpire. The character clause, which is part of the qualifications, is very open ended.

That’s not what Verducci and Rosenthal seem to be arguing, however. Instead, they are claiming that players like McGwire had their performance significantly enhanced by steroids, despite their being no evidence to support that claim.

41 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 10:03 pm

[41] We could go back and forth on it all night, but the idea that there is *no* evidence whatsoever to support the idea that performance enhancing drugs significantly (theres a subjective term) enhance performance comes off as a little willfully ignorant.

Cliff tweeted some interesting numbers earlier:

McGwire '86-'94: .250/.362/.507, 238 HR in 4,006 PA. '95-'01: .278/.430/.683, 345 HR in 3,654 PA.

of course these numbers don't prove anything, but they are certainly compelling. Coupled with what we saw in terms of output from other suspected/admitted PED users, it would be hard to ignore the obvious.

that being said, I'd vote for Clemens, A-Rod, and Bonds for the HOF. McGwire I'm not as sure on, but my feeling has nothing to do with PEDs.

42 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 11, 2010 10:36 pm

[41] Do you know of any credible evidence (other than anecdotal statistical comparisons that, as you mentioned, prove nothing)? If so, I'd love to see a link. Otherwise, I can't see how one could be willfully ignorant for not accepting a premise that has no factual basis.

As for McGwire’s splits, there are dozens of reasons why they could have improved. Personally, I think the most likely explanation is a combination of expansion and equipment.

43 seamus   ~  Jan 11, 2010 10:48 pm

I'm just so relieved that he didn't take steroids in order to hit home runs. Are you kidding me?

44 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:20 pm

[42] I mean the New England Journal of Medicine is generally considered to be pretty credible (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/335/1/1)

Granted this *proves* absolutely nothing, but there reaches a point where the convential wisdom becomes conventional wisdom for a reason. Hell, no one has ever really "proved" evolution...but I feel pretty safe betting on that horse.

I'm not going to say everything from expansion to the juiced ball weren't any kind of factor in the offensive explosion of the '90's, but to credit the undeniable offensive increase in those years while downplaying the role of PEDs is just ignoring one unproven theory in favor of another even less "proven" theory that merely suits your position.

45 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:21 pm

and once again, just to be clear I think theres a ton of blame to go around with this whole thing and I would have no problem voting for a suspected or admitted PED user for the Hall of Fame

46 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:24 pm

[43] And isn't it refreshing how he took total and full responsibility for his decisions and actions...

47 Raf   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:36 pm

[43] It appeared to me that McGwire was trying to say that it was much more than steroids = home runs. A lot of people oversimplify and overlook that fact.

48 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 12, 2010 12:13 am

[45] Alot of people fucked up. I still don't think that removes personal responsibility. McGwire did something he knew was wrong, hid it for 20 years because he knew it was wrong, and did whatever that was in front of Congress because he didn't want anyone to know he did something wrong. Actions do have consequences.

49 Cru Jones   ~  Jan 12, 2010 3:41 am

now that it's out in the open, can someone please explain to me why the cards would subject their fans, their players and their organization to this circus? it's not going away anytime soon. why bother bringing mcgwire back? and at the highest hitting coach level, no less?

the only thing i can think of is that selig, genius mastermind that he is, orchestrated this hiring with the cards to get mcgwire to admit to his PED use to "cleanse" baseball....and then mcgwire will be quietly pushed aside after the cards drop 7 of 10 in june....what evil!!

50 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 6:18 am

[44] The study cited came to the conclusion that "doses of testosterone, especially when combined with strength training, increase fat-free mass and muscle size and strength in normal men."

That's not what's at question with McGwire. What we need to know is how much incremental ability did McGwire generate because of his steroid use (i.e., what was his regimen and was it conducive to realizing gains like the ones mentioned in the aforementioned study)...AND...how beneficial are the known benefits of steroids (i.e., an increase fat-free mass and muscle size and strength) to a baseball player? We don’t know the answer to any of those questions right now. Instead of pretending that I know the impact is significant, I’d prefer to be at least a little skeptical and not get up on a high horse and condemn someone else for believing otherwise, especially a user whose direct experience with the substances should give them a certain level of expertise that I do not have.

I think you can see the difference between this issue and your evolution example, so I wont expand upon it.

51 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 6:25 am

[48] Doing something you know was wrong is relative though. If you function in an environment that tacitly approves of a behavior, it is hard to judge that action in retrospect (unless it is so reprehensible that the very essence of human nature should dictate that one know it was wrong). I don’t think taking steroids in the environment that existed around major league baseball qualifies as such a transgression. Actions do have consequences, but they also have mitigation.

52 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 6:36 am

[50] One more point on the study: note the part that says "especially when combined with strength training". In reading the brief conclusion, the study mentions the benefits of testosterone /no excercise over placebo/no excercise, as well as testosterone/excercise over both "no-exercise groups", but curiously draws no conclusion about the advantage of testosterone/excercise over placebo/excercise. Maybe that's because there wasn't enough room in the Abstract.

Regardless, we need to know what incremental impact did the steroid regimen taken by McGwire have on his physical attributes that he would not have achieved otherwise. If anyone argues that they know the impact was significant, they should at least be prepared to back up their assertion with something factual (i.e., not random stats or absurd observations, as were offered up by Rosenthal, Verducci and Magraine).

53 wsporter   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:14 am

That's great. Now if the owners and MLB management who both looked the other way and created the post '94 roid resurgence and induced us to care while this crap was going on will sack up and fess up as well then "truth" will actually take the day. Until the time when people like this gargantuan dope are no longer left holding the bag alone a resounding "Meh" is all I can muster.

54 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:17 am

[52] If anyone argues that they know the impact was significant,

We will never KNOW if the impact was significant, because---even if a study is ever done that shows the specific relationship between PEDs and baseball skills (which no one is ever going to do)---we will never be able to apply any general conclusions of a scientific study to specific cases (such as McGwire): we will never know precisely how much he used, what he used, what his usage regimen was, etc.

So, to require that we need to know what incremental impact did the steroid regimen taken by McGwire have on his physical attributes that he would not have achieved otherwise is to ask the impossible. In fact, this threshold of evidence provides effective cover for pretty much anyone who ever juiced.

55 rbj   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:46 am

I do think McGwire was talented enough to hit all those home runs without steroids. But even taking his statement at face value, steroids enabled him to be on the field to hit those home runs rather than sitting on the trainer's table.

I also think that steroids helped enable him to get stronger, generating more power and turning some warning track fly ball outs into home runs. How much, I don't know, and I think it is unknowable.

I do think what is worse is all the self righteous indignation from journalists over this. Um, guys, how about you having done some journalism over steroid use back in the day. There were rumors & Mark did have a bottle of andro in his locker in 1998. Verducci & Rosenthal dropped the ball big time there. I'd say they are as guilty as Mark & Barry & Roger. They betrayed their profession.

56 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:54 am

william and I have danced (circled) around each other on this one since Roger in Congress and before. I'm not going to revisit, it gets too tiring. But one note: "anecdotal statistical comparisons" is pretty funny, you know.

Various blood pressure meds help some people and not others. Same for anti-depressants, same for ritalin, same for antihistamines! Of course it is impossible to measure a single given person and sort out whether their dealer titrated and selected their PEDs for maximum effectiveness, or even any (beyond placebo) effectiveness. It still does seem to me that if the Bonds saga sequence is accurate (he got pissed off at the attention paid to McGwire/Sosa and started steroids that winter and then ... exploded, both physically and in HR power) that's a remarkable shift in his body and game, both. Someone might say, 'it was the workouts' or 'he just TRIED hitting homers for the first time' but the link between PEDs and CAPACITY to workout is pretty strong, at least.

57 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:55 am

Sigh. I did circle in the 2nd paragraph above. Couldn't resist. I'll get of of here now. Back to Podsednik.

58 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 8:57 am

[54] Clearly, to truly know the real impact, each case has to be taken individually. I agree that is an impossible standard. However, there hasn’t been any definitive study from which to draw meaningful, albeit general conclusions. The absence of this information, however, hasn’t stopped many from leaping to conclusions that satiate their moral indignation. In fact, moral outrage has been used as a very effective cover to those advancing their opinion as irrefutable fact.

The funniest thing about this case is that the Rosenthal’s and Verducci’s of the world are now no longer satisfied with an admission of guilt. Now, they also want an acknowledgement that makes them feel good about their own conclusions. If Mark McGwire doesn’t believe his steroid use had a significant impact on his performance, why do these self important sportswriters feel the need to insist otherwise? Clearly, it’s not because they have facts to back up their assertions? Instead, this issue allows guys like Rosenthal and Verducci to not only place themselves in a position of superiority, but also become the story.

59 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:03 am

[58] If Mark McGwire doesn’t believe his steroid use had a significant impact on his performance, why do these self important sportswriters feel the need to insist otherwise?

Well, I am a historian by trade, and I deal with the analysis of historical evidence (texts, documents, etc., including the claims of historical figures). The answer to your question is pretty simple, really. It is entirely self-serving for Big Mac to claim that PEDs did not impact his performances. What else WOULD McGwire say?As such, I (the historian) do not put very much weight on that statement, any more than I do Caesar's claim tha he marched on Rome in order to preserve the dignity of the tribunes (rather than to set himself up as dictator for life). It makes perfect sense not to accept Caesar's or McGwire's claim at face value.

I believe this is related to skepticism.

60 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:05 am

[55] Again, do we know that steroids helped him stay on the field? I've also read claims that steroids leads to physical deterioration (if the health effects are only positive, why are they illegal). Who is to say that taking steroids didn’t have a negative physical impact on McGwire?

[56] The substances you have mentioned have volumes of studies behind them. They are irrelevant to the question about steroids and baseball performance.

61 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:09 am

[59] No one is asking you to accept McGwire's feelings. It also doesn’t matter if Verducci and Rosenthal accept them either. If you (they) have another basis upon which to draw a meaningful conclusion, then you have every right to come to a different conclusion. Of course, if you come to a different conclusion, you should at least have some evidence to support it. Furthermore, even your substantiated conclusion doesn’t give you the authority to express moral indignation over McGwire’s failure to share it.

62 Biscuit Pants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:10 am

What has always frustrated me about the "steroid era" and the associated arguments is that no one seems to mention the other factors that probably contributed to major spike in home runs:
1. The addition of four new teams (and at least 40 new pitchers) within a five-year period
2. The opening of 9 new ballparks (12 if you count 2000 as part of that decade) the majority of which allowed more home runs relative to their predecessors
3.The composition and construction ot the ball itself. You may argue that MLB conspiratorily knew about PED's and did nothing. But there is no doubt that the powers that be have manipulated the game in the past (i.e., The "lively" ball of the '30's, the strike zone change in the early 60's & the subsequent mound lowering in '69).

Boswell was right, cheating has been going on since the game began. But no one is arguing that we kick out King Kelly or Gaylord Perry. And if we took into account all the players who were able to play everyday because of amphetamines, there'd be a lot empty spaces on the HOF walls.

63 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:15 am

There is one further aspect of this issue that I don’t get. In many media circles, this issue is boiled down to one of role models influencing the kids, yet no opportunity is taken to report on the possibility that PEDs may not help you gain performance. During the Clemens testimony, there was actually a panel of researchers who suggested that their findings to date concluded no performance enhancement advantage to HGH, but there was very little reporting on that subject. Similarly, McGwire’s contention that his steroid use did not help his performance is scoffed at and dismissed. It seems to me that fair reporting of both would do more to convince “the kids” no to take steroids than all of the moral indignation Ken Rosenthal can muster. After all, if steroids really do not work, there would be no reason to take them. Instead of exploring that, however, we seem more satisfied with taking a moral high ground built on unsubstantiated opinions.

64 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:18 am

[62] Also along those lines, many advance the moral aspect of “cheating”, but then what do we do about Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, for example? Is cheating really more morally reprehensible than being an unabashed racist or a hard drinking womanizer? Or, do we look down on those shortcoming less because we are more prone to be guilty of them as well?

65 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:22 am

[64] Is cheating really more morally reprehensible than being an unabashed racist or a hard drinking womanizer?

It may have something to do with the fact that these moral failings don't really impact the game. The outrage over steroids, whether appropriate or not, stems largely from the view that they compromised the game. Hence, they are on par with, say, gambling on the sport.

66 sonyahennystutu   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:27 am

Sorry William but I'm going to have to put you on my 'ignore list' regarding this issue. For the record, I am not remotely indignant about these guys or what they did. Very sad for the entire mess, but not indignant.

As for what evidence I have that MM and others benefitted from the roids/HGH/PEDs that they took, I am more than satisfied with the combination of:

1) the overwhelming set of comparative statistics for these individuals and what we know/believe we know about their usage patterns (statistics which you feel are no more than anecdotal and therefore somehow not factually relevant - we have to simply disagree about that)


2) my eyes. these guys got not only bigger but better - fantastically better - at a time in their lives when they should've been breaking down and fading away. i don't need a NEJM study to know what i saw, and put two and two together

your obstinance over this issue is baffling, frustrating, and frankly ridiculous, so I will say no more.

Good day.

67 Biscuit Pants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:27 am

[64] Exactly. It's that hero mentality. We want our binkies to be perfect, but what makes them so enthraling is their humanity. I was never specifically a fan of McGwire and while the '98 HR race was interesting, what the Yankees were doing was far more meaningful to me. But, I believe what he said to Costas last night. And, he looked genuinely ashamed of what he did. I won't pass judgement on the man.

68 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:28 am

[65] That statement was made after the preface that "many advance the moral aspect of 'cheating'", which was intended to distinguish those arguments from the questions about competitive integrity. Similarly, when you point out the environment of tacit approval, someone will counter that steroids were illegal, which of course begs the question about how we treat Babe Ruth’s position on prohibition.

69 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:28 am

[61] It comes down to credibility. If you (they, we, one) don't believe McGwire, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that he is lying and, thus, worthy of scorn and moral condemnation. Now, maybe McGwire sincerely believes he wasn't helped by using PEDs. But the man lied about it for twenty years...his credibility in my eyes is low, and so I tend not believe his self-serving claims. I conclude that he thinks it helped him (or else why keep using?) and that now he is lying about it because, having seen his low vote totals for the HOF, he is trying to rebuild his legacy.

Can I *prove* this---to your satisfaction? No. In fact, we will never be able to *prove* what McGwire really thinks or feels. But we can draw reasonable conclusions.

70 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:32 am

[66] That’s fine. If your response to a dissenting opinion is to ignore it, that’s your prerogative. If it was me, I would offer substantive evidence to support my argument, especially if there was such overwhelming evidence. Of course, the two criteria you cited would be rejected out of hand by anyone trying to answer a question as simple as is Johnny Damon a good LF, but you believe they are a sound basis for a more complex issue like this one. Again, that’s fine, but far from persuasive, which I guess probably explains your feeling the need to attack me instead of refuting my argument.

71 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:32 am

[68] which of course begs the question about how we treat Babe Ruth’s position on prohibition.

Which had nothing to do with the game itself.

Again, the indignation over PEDs is spurred at its core by the belief that it compromised the game. If Barry Bonds beats his wife, it is far worse than using PEDs, but it does not influence the record books the way PED use presumably does.

My only point is that the outrage is explicable within the context of sports: sports writers and fans invest an irrational amount of energy and capital into a game, care about its history, records, performances, etc. So we are bothered when we feel, rightly or wrongly, that the sport has been compromised.

72 Biscuit Pants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:33 am

[66] Not to jump into this argument . . . screw it, I'll jump in anyway . . .bigger, yes. "Better" is a relative term. What anabolics did for their bodies is undeniable. Their increased musculature may have enabled them to hit the ball farther, but there weren't any .400 hitters during the 90's. No one won 30 games. No one stole 100 bases. We're basically talking about one statistic which, frankly, is the slam dunk of baseball. It's exciting, but it's only a small aspect of the game.

73 rbj   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:38 am

[60] I'm just going by Mark's own words, that he used steroids to keep him healthy enough to stay on the field. He did say that years (early 1990s) he didn't use, he was injured a lot and that years he did use (later 1990s) he was on the field. I have no idea whether steroids actually did help him or hurt him, don't even know enough about his use of PEDs -- which ones, how often, etc.

Now I do think the tremendous torque used to hit a ball a far distance does do damage to a human body (are there any studies on this.) There will occasionally be a freak body that can withstand all that force and put up big numbers. Maybe one or two a generation. There can also be a time where a bunch of freak bodies come along and hit lots of HRs, especially with smaller parks, diluted pitching, use of video, etc.

We can also look at the East German swim teams of the 1970s and see that steroids can help improve athletic performance -- for a time, with consequences down the road.

Would Ben Johnson have won an Olympic gold medal without steroids? I don't know, and presuming Usain Bolt is clean, he clearly is a better 100 meter runner than Johnson. So better training methods & nutrition etc. will improve athletic performance.

74 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:40 am

[69] I have no problem with any of your conclusions, as long as you don’t advance them as anything more than unsubstantiated opinion. Furthermore, it’s one thing to not believe McGwire and another thing to not believe he is correct. I just find it odd that one could be so insistent that there is no way McGwire could believe something that very well might be true.

Also, if you really think McGwire’s aim was to enhance his Hall of Fame case by lying about his belief concerning the impact of steroids, I would counter that not kowtowing to the moralists in the media was exactly the wrong way to go. Rosenthal and Verducci were so upset that McGwire didn’t agree with their opinion about steroids that they righteously declared he would never get their vote.

75 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:42 am

[71] You keep missing my point…I am presenting arguments aside from statistical integrity that some people advance when challenged for evidence that steroids enhance performance.

Of course, one could argue that a hung over Babe Ruth did impact the game itself.

76 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:49 am

[73] Right…I didn’t meant to put words in your mouth. It does an illustrate a point though…what McGwire believes doesn’t have to be true in order for him to really believe it.

By no means am I arguing that steroids have no impact on physical attributes. What I am suggesting is that we don’t know to what extent they enhance physical attributes, and by extension, how those enhanced physical attributes extend to baseball. For example, if McGwire was able to increase his strength, would the added muscle mass reduce his flexibility, thereby reducing his ability to generate bat speed? Also, would carrying excess muscle actually lead to a weakening of his joints, which again would limit his ability to perform baseball tasks? There are so many unanswered questions that I just don’t get how anyone could be so vehemently certain about the extent to which steroids boost performance.

77 FreddySez   ~  Jan 12, 2010 9:59 am

It takes only common sense -- not a debate over medical journal articles -- to know that enhanced strength helps you hit home runs.

Does it also take great eye-hand coordination and quick hands? Yes.

But here's the thing: *I* have pretty good eye-hand coordination and quick hands. In a hardball league against my peers (= other guys in their 30s and 40s, with pitching that tops out around 80) I hit almost .400 a year ago. And I hit *zero* home runs. Because I'm not strong enough. I dumped a hell of a lot of balls over the shortstop's head. Someone stronger would have dumped them over the wall.

I'd even say my coordination and quickness might allow me to touch a major league pitch... with a wiffle bat. Just maybe. But I could never get a two-pound wooden bat around on a pitch like that -- not even close -- *because I'm not strong enough*.

You can't hit in the major leagues without incredible eye-hand coordination and quickness. You also need a good enough brain to win between one-quarter and one-third of your confrontations with the pitcher.

But once you get that bat on the ball, your strength goes a long way toward determining whether you're hitting a 300-foot out or a 400-foot home run.

And no one who has ever even sniffed a game of baseball can tell you otherwise with a straight face. I'm tired of this nonsense. Very disappointed that McGwire thought he could trot it out again. And entirely dismissive of the comments to the contrary that I've seen here.

78 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:00 am

[74] I would counter that not kowtowing to the moralists in the media was exactly the wrong way to go..

I disagree, his current apology is precisely the ONLY way he can hope to further his HOF case. He has to admit and apologize for wrongdoing (check), but he CAN'T admit that what he did helped him perform better: if he did, the moralists would nail him ("yes he apologized, but all those HRs were the product of PEDs...Big Mac said so). Plus, he has to add the obligatory "I used but only for certain periods because of injury"---this is the Pettitte gambit.

So in teh end, he made the only statement he could have to appease everyone: he admitted, but not too much, remained vague so as protect himself and others (can't remember what drugs, how much), and in the end claimed that all those HRs were really just the product of his natural, HOF talent.

A brilliant, self-serving performance.

79 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:12 am

[77] From my experience playing, the “strongest guys” were not the ones who most muscle bound. In fact, the biggest sluggers seemed to lack the bat speed necessary to react to fast pitching. Instead, their advantage was being able to use their strength to overpower slower pitches. Of course, the difference between our observations is exactly why anecdotal evidence isn’t very compelling...it lacks context and isn’t a firm basis upon which to be “dismissive”.

[78] I don’t follow you. You are suggesting that McGwire can’t admit that he believes steroids helped his performance because then moralists wont vote for him? If so, why are the moralists condemning him for doing exactly that? Personally, I think those voters inclined to look at his case more factually wont really consider what McGwire believes about the link between steroids and performance, whereas the moralists will want him to be appropriately contrite and in lock step with their own beliefs. If one was going to bolster his appeal, it would make little sense to turn off the constituency that you most need to convince.

Also, McGwire did not claim he used them intermittently to recover from injuries. He stated that he started and continued to use them because he believed they would help him stay healthy, which not only implies extended use (a no/no if his motivation was the Hall of Fame) but justifies why he would take them without thinking they helped his performance.

80 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:25 am

monkeypants, this ball is in your hands and you are making really sapient points (about the nature of self-serving statements, about finessing the press release as best he CAN - no way to make this perfect). Run, monkey, run.

81 rbj   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:44 am

[76] McGwire did mention that he worked to improve/cut down on his swing, so I do think he got a better understanding of hitting as he got older (and probably why he'll be a good hitting coach). That might counteract any negative impact of increased muscles interfering with hitting.

For a long time baseball players did avoid bulking up as it was thought to inhibit hitting. But with today's players I think that is shown to be wrong. Now I doubt we will ever see a .400 season again, but that's due to better gloves, better fielding training. better fields & better players. If Ichiro can't do it, no one can.

Bulk by itself probably does hurt hitting. But bulking up later in a career, after you have grown to understand hitting at the ML level probably doesn't hurt -- look at Bonds, Sosa & McGwire.

And then there is still the question that if using PEDs to add muscle or at least help you stay on the field is wrong, then why is Tommy John surgery, replacing a blown out ligament with a better one, ok?

82 Start Spreading the News   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:59 am

[78] But home run power comes from your lower body strength. That's where the torque comes from. In terms of physics, the amount of strength from the upper body is not very much. Your arm acts almost like a pendulum and is perfectly straight when hitting the ball for maximum distance. So most of your turning ability comes from your legs and hips.

But steroids disproportionately helps your upper body gain strength. That is helpful for swimming (see the East German swim team) but not so much for baseball.

83 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 11:14 am

[79] If so, why are the moralists condemning him for doing exactly that?

The moralists will condemn him either way, but he doubly damns himself if he claims that PEDs made him better, because then he can be attacked for moral reasons ("it was wrong") and performance reasons ("his numbers should be discounted"). Ideally he could have gotten away with saying nothing, but the pressure is on for these to "come clean," especially if there is the chance of being outed by a third party.

So what we see in McGwire---and Pettitte and others, really---is the formation of a new, standard "apology." You admit that you did something (here you can be vague) and admit that it was wrong and that you are sorry, but then also claim that you:

1. did these things for some period of time, intermittently, and certainly not your whole career
2a. did so not to gain a competitive advantage (i.e. "cheating") but because of injury, or
2b. because you were young and didn't know better
3. did not gain an advantage in any case
4. do not remember what you took, who gave it to you, who else took, etc., etc.

#s 1-4 can be used in any combination. Like ancient literary genres, the form is utterly predictable, but the details differ.

At this point, all McGwire can do is damage control. He played it the only way he could.

84 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 11:34 am

[83] minor caveat: a well-versed team of image consultants and advisors, possibly abetted by the Cardinals PR guys, played it as well as they could. But your core analysis is bang-on, seems to me. Does leave open the MannyBall (!) ... how did Ramirez spin this? Papi is still playing the denial card and relying on being Much Loved (TM).

85 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 11:44 am

I can't help myself ... this is all too interesting.

So, over a relatively brief period of time a dramatic percentage of baseball players, including, by self-admission or cogent sleuthing, some of the very best and brightest, used drugs to help them. In that period one line of stats - home runs - became wildly skewed. This line of stats is strongly correlated to fan interest and attendance (remember McSosa 'saved' baseball post-strike.)

But there are people who will take the view that all these people may very well have been sad, deluded, self-damaging idiots, that the drugs they took had zip to do with the power explosion, that it was coincidence, just happening to occur when the balls got tighter, parks got smaller. That their massive bulking up was just a pathetic sideshow, affecting no stat.

Might even be true, but requires (for me) such a huge ostrich-imitation I'll pass. I took the same view during the Clemens hearings ... had I been on a jury, faced with beyond a reasonable doubt, it is just possible that at the time I might have been kept short of that very high standard. But as someone just watching, just reading and thinking, I was (and am) entirely at ease forming my opinion, since it carried no legal consequence for Roger. And that was before further research emerged.

We cannot know how much steroids helped any given player, nor can we assess the confidence-boost related to them (this is actually more than placebo, it even ties in to testosterone levels). It will vary widely (that was my point about other drugs ... just that responses vary widely to meds). But we are surely allowed to apply common sense to an accumulation of data and timing, and this is what I prefer to do.

Just as monkeypants is applying common sense to the confession dance emerging.

86 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 11:58 am

I wonder how serious LaRussa is about putting Big Mac on the 25-man roster sometime during the season, so that he can put him on the PS roster as a PH? If he was serious, then this admission could be timed, in part, to see what (if any) suspension MLB would hand down.

87 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 12, 2010 12:07 pm

[86] I never even saw that. I'd be astonished if it was remotely serious. The guy is - presumably - clean and old and long retired. My bigger question (someone else raised it above) is ... why do the Cardinals WANT him so much? What is it in a hitting coach that makes the circus 'worth it' for them. It isn't as if they desperately need HoF players to represent them, hell Frankie Frisch and his cronies put a slew of Cards in the Hall in the 'bad years' (see Bill James on this).

Maybe LaRussa just likes Big Mac and wants to help, this is all part of a worked-out rehab process. And, you know, since so much of the sport is media and fan manipulation (not just this) and since I don't actually see the logic to banning a subset of the players who used PEDs (too much benefit to not getting caught) this makes me feel cynical, but doesn't freak me out. I don't think these are 'bad people' (though Roger may skate closer than McGwire or Sosa). Nor do I think being 'good people' is the key to the door of the HoF. Dimag was not a good man, for example, just to skip past the too-easy Ku Klux Klan members.

88 ms october   ~  Jan 12, 2010 1:22 pm

interesting discussion all.
this is a complex topic that i don't think boils down very easily on several fronts.

[83] completely agree mp with the apology analysis.

[87] likewise, i don't get why mcgwire wants to be a hitting coach so bad. seems like he should have just stayed in hiding.

89 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 1:36 pm

[87] FWIW:


The money quote:

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa can envision a late-season situation in the 2010 season in which he goes to his bench for a pinch-hitter, and calls on Mark McGwire to step to the plate...

Speaking to the Contra Costa Times while in Walnut Creek, California for a charity event, LaRussa says it isn't impossible that the 46-year old former slugger could step back to the plate if the opportunity presents itself.

"If we're in contention, we'll put him on the roster Aug. 31. It's a nice little dream," La Russa told the newspaper. "Is it likely? Probably not. I don't think it's a zero possibility. The point is, you'll see him in spring training. He won't be leaning on the batting cage chatting it up. He'll work his (butt) off, and hitters will be thrilled he's there helping them," added LaRussa.

For the record, I don't think LaRussa is being serious. Then again, doesn't this seem like the sort of thing LaRussa would do. Plus, if he activates McGwire, wouldn't he re-start his HOF 15-year clock?

90 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 1:42 pm

[88] I honestly believe that McGwire wants to be a hitting coach because he misses being around the game and loves to teach hitting, something he has done in private sessions for a few Cardinals over the past few off seasons. The timing of his apology is directly related to his return to the game and his desire to avoid being a distraction during the season, IMHO, and not an attempt to revive his Hall of Fame case.

[89] The HoF clock would stop for another 5 years, but resume with only 10 years remaining (i.e., it would not reset).

91 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2010 2:34 pm

[90] The HoF clock would stop for another 5 years, but resume with only 10 years remaining (i.e., it would not reset).

Thanks. Still, that would buy another five years to sway public opinion!

92 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 12, 2010 2:59 pm

[91] That's true, although I strongly suspect that the the voting method for the Hall of Fame will be revised within the next 10-15 years. With the media landscape changing so much, I don't see the BBWAA maintaining its domain over inductions. It would be very foolish of the Hall of Fame if that remains the case.

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