ST. LOUIS — It was bound to happen sooner or later, and Mark McGwire admitted as much in his MLB Network, one-on-one interview with Bob Costas on Monday night.
McGwire told Costas, and for that matter the entire baseball world, that his hiring as the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals without doubt sped up his desire to come clean about using steroids.
And why not? He realized he would have otherwise been harassed endlessly throughout the baseball season by reporters and heckled by fans of opposing teams until he said the words.
But while numerous professional baseball players have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, have sat through interviews, and have done so much to say and do the right things following their carefully crafted statements, there was something different about McGwire’s admission.
He didn’t do it in front of numerous cameras, photographers, and sports writers. He didn’t have his agent, a lawyer, or Brian Bartow, the Cardinals’ Director of Media Relations, comfortably (or uncomfortably) seated next to him.
Instead, he did his best to answer honestly and unscripted the questions that Costas posed during the one-hour, live interview, and left very few questions unanswered.
He even volunteered information that might have never been otherwise uncovered.
There will still be detractors that will bash, trash, and discount McGwire’s records, and say that he cheated. (Note that by rule, he nor Barry Bonds or any of the others accused during that time period broke the rules as there were no rules in place to be broken.)
And even if fans, writers, or simply those who like to disagree have doubts that McGwire was telling the full truth, the fact is, his approach and response to the allegations was different than those that came before him.
There was no dancing around the questions, no non-denial denials, but rather sincere regret for even putting doubt in the minds of his fans, friends, teammates, and family.
But as many tears filled his eyes, his goateed chin quivered, and his focused stare never broke Costas’ attention, the MLB Network studio analysts still refused to accept McGwire’s answers in full. They wanted something more.
Much of their disapproval came with McGwire’s belief that the performance enhancers were never necessary for him to put up the eye-catching numbers he did at the end of his playing career. They just wouldn’t have it.
Costas remained persistent in continuously asking whether or not McGwire believed there was any correlation at all between his remarkable offensive numbers and the fact that he admittedly used steroids.
And each time, McGwire remained consistent in his belief that he had no doubt in his mind that he would still have been able to produce similar numbers throughout his career.
Still, the former slugger said he used the drug only sparingly and in small doses, and in the initial report, that he had only used in 1993 and 1998 (with the exception of a couple of weeks during the 1989-90 offseason).
If those admissions are true, consider the numbers:
In 1996, McGwire hit 52 home runs, and his 1997 total (which was shared between the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals) only jumped up six to 58. In the memorable and now disputed 1998 season in which he battled with Chicago Cub outfielder Sammy Sosa, ultimately setting the new home run record, McGwire’s home run total increased by 12 to 70—not out of the question for a one-year difference, especially for a guy that crushed 49 in his 1987 rookie season.
For many, there is still that doubt. And with so many other athletes having admitted or been accused of using steroids, the numbers, though never recorded illegally, will be tainted in the court of public opinion. If only there had been appropriate testing prior to the 2002 season, like McGwire says he wished had happened, perhaps the usage would have been slowed, and we would all know for sure those same numbers could have been produced, and little doubt would be in place as to who should really hold the title of Major League Baseball Home Run King.