long time ago, I got an e-mail from Mike. He got me thinking,
but there was so much going on that I wasn’t sure how to approach
Dad sent me the famous “Mark McGwire’s brother is writing a book
telling everything and there’s no way he has anything but the
most honest and pure of intentions” e-mail. (Ok… Dad’s e-mail
wasn’t that bad… but McGwire’s brother is a jackass and from the
little I’ve paid attention to, it seems the brothers don’t speak,
so this book is worth less than a bucket of horseshit.)
the topic is kicking around… so…
take a look. We’ll start with Mike’s e-mail to me…
~ ~ ~
Harrison, caught doing HGH.
that bad… 4 games. He’ll be back, and we will be better.
I thought… I’m not happy with McGwire… cheater. Palmeiro? Gone
from the game… good. Don’t care. Bonds? C’mon. He’s filthy. Sosa?
Yeah, right. Giambi? Keep on taking your drugs.
make your money. I don’t blame you. I would most likely do the
same. Is it right? Not on your life!
know my stance on McGwire. Hate the guy.
Piece of crap.
Umm… not so much. And there lies the problem. Laundry. He’s a
Patriot. My team. So I forgive him? But not Bonds? McGwire?
tell you what… I look differently now at those baseball players,
because of Harrison. But… rules are rules. Bonds, Sosa, McGwire,
I believe it was his first time getting drugs. (He used his own
name to buy the HGH. He can play defense. You don’t need a brain,
you need a gift.) That being said… Rodney should be put in the
McGwire/Bonds Category… cheater. Out of the game.
~ ~ ~
we’re going back a while with this e-mail. And I’ve approached
this specific column a few times, but something kept stopping
me from completing it. I’d start a line of thinking, do some research,
and then the-pitcher-who-must-not-be-named got named… appeared
on television, and acted like a jerk. (Different article… possibly
coming soon… part of the house cleaning of old efforts.)
But… Mr. Must-Not being in the news had me chuckling in frustration…
and then Mike’s comments ticked me off because of it.
Maybe… partially… probably… because McGwire does get treated differently
by me. All of that “father and son” and “passage of time” stuff
attributed to baseball is involved. Harry Chapin stuff.
few years after I moved out of the house for good… when my Dad
and I were working hard to find time to get together, a trip or
two to Shea to watch McGwire was a big part of our relationship.
And I need to fully and completely keep that in mind when trying
to be objective about McGwire.
Add to it that, for all intents and purposes… McGwire’s biggest
problem appears to have been going in front of a Congressional
hearing… after which the media chewed him up.
So even with a “let’s be objective, recognize what may be our
personal blinders, and consider all the facts” approach that I
want to use, I still believe you have to understand and allow
for a fact that… and read this carefully, because I don’t want
there to be any misunderstanding… professional sports are just
as dirty as ever.
Ok… ok… relax. Sit down. I’m not blind or stupid. Power numbers
are down all over the place. Players we once winked at each other
while mentioning are getting injured and not returning. The testing
and the public outcry and the increased punishments are all affecting
the game. I hear you.
The problem is… you’re wrong.
Prove it? Ok.
Can you tell me… 100% no doubt about it… that any professional
sport is completely rid of performance enhancing drugs?
See? How easy was that?
Fine… I’ll make it as trouble-free as possible for you. Forget
about the players taking risks and using the drugs fully knowing
they might get caught. All I want you to do is tell me that professional
baseball… or that professional football… that either of those
two sports can currently call in any player, test that player,
and have the results show that there are absolutely no performance
enhancing drugs in his system.
And right now, you can’t. Because as of this moment, there is
no reliable test for some of the drugs in use.
So you can go ahead and tell me that Ken Griffey and Pedro Martinez
never used them. For the most part, I wouldn’t even try to debate
the point of whether they did or didn’t. But… Pedro is sure breaking
down more often since the testing procedures became so strict.
Coincidence? Probably. Can you be certain? Nope. In my mind… everyone
is guilty. You can not tell me McGwire cheated and then tell me
Ryan Howard is clean. You can not tell me Bonds was steroid aided
and A-Fraud hasn’t been.
Mike has a very good point in his e-mail. Laundry is a good way
of summarizing it. People tend to close their eyes and place their
hands over their ears when the talk starts building about their
favorite team. And if you don’t believe me, let’s go back two
or three years, find a Boston fan, and start whispering the name
of David Ortiz. I guarantee you that anyone enjoying a bowl of
creamy white clam chowder would have screamed “blasphemy” at you
even more simply put… let’s not just focus on laundry. Just the
idea of whether or not we care about the name involved matters…
as much as whether the punishment will ruin our favorite team.
Mike’s right… his thought is fair and honest.
So… what you have to decide is what criteria you’re applying.
it evidence? Because if it is… McGwire wasn’t a cheater. Not according
to any evidence I’ve seen.
Bonds? The evidence is being presented that he was a cheater.
And the pile of evidence is getting deeper.
Sosa? Suspended for corking his bats, suspicion for other stuff.
Yes, already technically a cheater.
Palmeiro? Yup… tested positive after screaming about how insulted
he was to be accused.
Giambi? Harrison? Yes and yes.
But McGwire? Nope. I have seen no evidence that he took any illegal
drugs. I’ve seen no evidence that he broke any rules of professional
Accusations I’ve heard. Compelling circumstantial arguments I’ve
seen. Items noted in his locker and a brother selling him out
have been presented to me.
But no evidence.
Ok… I admit it… in part I’m writing this to put a burr under Mike’s
saddle (and under any other McGwire-hater-saddles). But there
is a larger point I’m shooting for here as well.
What makes it so different that a player like Harrison… or Shawn
Merriman… gets a pass and a return to the playing field, when
players like McGwire, Bonds and so on seem to be sparking national
As near as I can tell, it’s because we are talking about potential
immortals and legendary accomplishments in a game that treats
those as sacred. It’s not purely a difference between the sports
or the media covering them or the cities they play in. When Babe
Ruth and Roger Maris and other players or records are approached
or broken, they reflect treasures of the game. The NFL has some
records… sacks for instance… that don’t even extend back thirty
years. This... baseball... is history.
And yet, ultimately even that doesn’t change one very important
aspect in my mind… and that is, simply put, the game has yet to
You can’t tell me that, if and when they reach the appropriate
mark, that Howard or A-Fraud or any of the other names I’ve heard
mentioned are the true single-season home run king or true career
home run king and it’s great because they’re clean. You can’t
tell me that because you don’t know.
It’s an argument that I’ve made on this site before… it’s an argument
I’ve made in this column… and it’s likely one I’ll make again.
Mike’s comments are very worthy of note folks. Incredibly worthy.
Because if the game isn’t clean, it means these records and these
currently elected Hall of Famers are being voted in based on a
combination of accomplishments and opinions. Sure, in a way, that
has always been the case. We’ve heard about the guys kept out
because they were difficult to work with. We’ve heard about the
guys that got in because they were fun to be around. Whatever.
The problem is, that’s a long way from electing Bonds to the Hall
because “he was good before he started taking drugs” while keeping
out McGwire just because “look at him, he was a giant” should
be grounds to lose the vote. (My words here… but admit it, you’ve
seen them argued by voters.)
“What say you?” Mike asked. Here’s what I say…
For years we’ve always placed personal opinions into our “facts.”
Is Tom Brady or Peyton Manning the better quarterback? Oh… wait…
ok, this is better… is Tom Brady or Bart Starr the better quarterback?
We compare stats and championships to evaluate current players,
and we use our own thoughts on what is or isn’t important to compare
different generations… and we’re influenced by where we live and
what happened while we grew up.
It’s why I still like Mark McGwire.
Mike’s right… even to the degree I’m generalizing the term laundry
to simply mean a personal bias… laundry matters, and it always
has, even before this. And... it always will.
But now, we’ve added a new level to it. The laundry… those personal
factors that determine importance and opinions but cannot be measured,
tracked, or proven… is even more confusing.
I keep seeing people ask about how this “steroid era” will be
remembered. In the end, I say it won’t. Well… that’s not accurate.
Of course it will be remembered. But it will be a notation in
We talk about Bob Gibson… but you rarely see it mentioned about
the height of the pitching mound in his day. That’s just something
we almost all know about and keep in the back of our mind.
We talk about Babe Ruth and Ted Williams… but you rarely see enough
mentioned about the integration of baseball or the accomplishments
of Negro League players in those cases. Sure… it’s there… but
again, something we all know. No one is saying Babe Ruth wasn’t
great because of it since we all know Ruth was great.
My point is, though perhaps earning a little more attention, steroids
will be as much a part of our constant and conscious thought process
as whether or not there was a designated hitter, free agency,
or expansion in any of the years records were set. It just happens
that today steroids is the fresh wound and the big news. Thirty
years from now… not so much.
But… hopefully… by then the game may be clean.