Media ponders McGwire's past and future
Journalists' reaction to steroid admission mixed
Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use was a big story on Monday, but the news did not send shock waves throughout the media world.
The confession did succeed in giving national columnists a chance to review the slugger's past and ponder his future in the game.
The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan spent 2 1/2 minutes talking about McGwire on his video blog shortly after the news broke.
"The truth, let's hope, will set Mark McGwire free. I can't imagine what it's been like to be him the last 4 1/2 years carrying that burden around, that he lied to us and he knows that we knew. Who didn't have some belief that Mark McGwire did, in fact, use something?"
The timing of McGwire's confession did not go unnoticed by the national media. McGwire is the new hitting coach in St. Louis, and last week he received 128 Hall of Fame votes, good for 23.7 percent -- up from 118 in 2009.
"It changes nothing for the rest of us," Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci wrote in his column. "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.
"Right or wrong, the Age of Discovery follows the Steroid Era. There are many other steroid users who will appear on Hall of Fame ballots who will choose to stay out of the public eye -- long enough, they hope, to avoid questions that might endanger their chances for the Hall. Almost no one can be expected to take the step McGwire did."
McGwire issued a statement detailing his steroid use early on Monday. He followed the admission with an interview with Bob Costas on MLB Network.
"It's very clear that he cares a lot more about being in uniform and being back in the game than being in the Hall of Fame. In that way I found it a fascinating admission," MLB Network's Peter Gammons said. "The fact is that it is a form of cheating. The question is, in my mind, 'Can you reward somebody with the highest honor in baseball, being in the Hall of Fame, if he indeed did cheat?' As I sit here tonight, I say no."
CBSSportsline's Scott Miller was intrigued by what he described as the orchestrated events surrounding McGwire on Monday and believes the "most human" and "tragic part" of McGwire's statement is the following: "Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."
Miller also believes it will take time for McGwire to rebuild his reputation.
"We're lucky or unlucky by birth, some circumstances being laid out for us that either help us along the way or present obstacles for us to overcome. We can't choose our era any more than we can choose our skin color," Miller wrote. "We can -- and must -- however, make smart and correct choices within whatever circumstances we're dealt. In baseball's corner of the world, in this time and place, the temptation was too much for both McGwire and for hundreds of others."
The Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom took exception with parts of the statement.
"Among other things, McGwire said, 'I wish I had never played during the steroid era.' So there you go: McGwire is not only late, but lame. Wise up, the steroid era didn't make him juice. He did it himself," Rosenbloom wrote on his blog.
ESPN's Rob Neyer shared his thoughts in a column on ESPN.com:
"I've always been right down the middle when it comes to McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy. His first few years on the ballot, my suggestion was that we wait for a while. This time around, I came around. We've seen enough names to know that within McGwire's professional culture, steroids and Human Growth Hormone were merely tools of the trade, little different from protein shakes and whirlpools and Nautilus machines. You may, if you like, continue to summon from your wellspring of self-righteousness the energy to condemn McGwire for doing what so many of his peers were doing, all in the interest of earning a good living and fulfilling his widely considered destiny. As for me, I've run dry."
Neyer added that is unclear whether McGwire will make it to the Hall of Fame but that it will be hard to keep him out if Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are elected: "There's only one thing about McGwire's statement that bothers me: The part where he says he's sorry and wishes he hadn't done it. I don't mean to read McGwire's mind; perhaps he really is sorry. 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."
Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins described McGwire as a creation of the steroid era, not a victim of it.
"McGwire issued his statement on Monday because he knew it was necessary, both to make it through this season and to be considered for the Hall of Fame," Jenkins wrote. "His apology -- 'I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake.' -- may win some sympathy, especially in a city like St. Louis, which supports its baseball heroes even when they have done wrong. McGwire can hope to follow the blueprint created by [Alex] Rodriguez, whose finest hour followed his worst.
"But unlike Rodriguez, who apologized shortly after he was busted, McGwire 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."
Yahoo's Tim Brown was similarly unimpressed with the confession.
"You know what would have been more impressive? Had McGwire in the five years since he ducked questions from Congress come clean not for his own benefit but for the good of the young men about to make the same awful choice he did," Brown wrote. "He could have announced it on the Taylor Hooton Foundation Web site, raising money and awareness for anti-steroids education. Instead we get a statement serving himself and his new career as a hitting coach, just in time for his return from hiding and the season."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.