It continues to amaze me how every time the sordid tale of Mark McGwire and steroids surfaces, the bottom line in this story is continually missed.
Mark McGwire did not break one single rule of baseball. At the time of his retirement in 2001, there was absolutely no hard rule dealing with steroid use. None. Zero. Nada. Yet we are once again bombarded by the usual knee-jerk headlines and shaking of heads in shame and disbelief over how poor his excuse was, the continuing damage done by the "steroid saga", and what this tells us about America and our sports.
It tells us we as fans, at the end of the day, don't care if it's steroids, cocaine, sexual abuse, deadbeat fathers, spousal cheating or failing to help little old ladies across the street. We want winners. We love the spectacle. Chicks dig the long ball. You get the idea.
But I digress. Back to McGwire and remaining on-point. McGwire did not come clean due to some altruistic need to come clean. Sources have confirmed to me the St. Louis Cardinals told him that in order to keep his job as batting coach, he would come clean, he would do it very publicly, and he would do it to benefit MLB's fractured, flawed and phony war against steroids. Do it, or be booted out of baseball. And McGwire doesn't know anything else but this game, and he desperately wants to be back among his peers and buddies.
But the bottom line is being conveniently overlooked in the rush to create headlines. McGwire did not break any rules of the game with his taking of steroids. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Was it cheating? Not by baseball standard at the time.
I'm a baseball purist, in love with the sport back to days of being in the womb. I don't like the fact McGwire or anyone else used what we normally refer to as artificial means. But it was not against the rules.
If McGwire does not deserve the Hall of Fame due to taking steroids, then at the same time we need to boot Gaylord Perry out of the Hall. He did cheat. He did break existing baseball rules by doctoring the baseball to his advantage. Yet because he was this loving grandfather type who told great "good old boy" stories to the media, his cheating was completely overlooked and he made the trip to Cooperstown.
McGwire was somewhat sullen, not in love with the media, and didn't bother to curry their favor. The media helped cover up his steroid use and there wasn't a peep until stories started to leak out, and then the wagging of fingers began in order to not be seen as being in favor of cheating.
It's a fraud. This baseball war against steroids is a fraud. Yet having a pariah to continue beating the drum for how clean baseball has become is a convenient way to not anger the MLB Gods and perhaps one day find your press pass being pulled for a short time, or for good.
McGwire deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and there is little legitimate argument against it. But every cause needs a poster child. Even it's a fraud.