He tried to hit one last fan-blinding home run.Mark McGwire tried to look the part of the retired icon in his light green St. Patrick's Day tie and the spectacles resting halfway down his nose. He read a carefully and cleverly crafted statement. He briefly broke down when he said his "heart goes out" to the parents of kids whose deaths were attributed to steroid abuse. He said he gave $3 million to his foundation supporting abused children. He said that he was always a "team player" and that he would never rat out a teammate. And he fairly spat out the words that he wouldn't dignify accusations that he used steroids in a recent book written by a "convicted criminal" Jose Canseco. Very moving. Almost convincing. You began to wonder if McGwire was crying for himself. His statement ended with a note of can't-win surrender. He said that if "a player" sitting before Thursday's congressional hearing claims he did not use steroids, "he simply will not be believed." Yet, McGwire said, if "a player" says he did use steroids, "he risks public scorn and endless government investigation." So, McGwire concluded, he could not answer any questions "without jeopardizing friends, family and myself."
Though McGwire never used the words "I plead the Fifth," that's exactly what he did.McGwire failed to acknowledge his third option: Telling the truth, if he was as steroid-free as he has always said he was. Apparently, McGwire didn't take that option because, under oath, he couldn't. To McGwire's right on the five-player panel, Sammy Sosa had already said he has "never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs." To McGwire's left, Rafael Palmeiro would soon shake a finger at the congressmen and cameras and say, "I have never used steroids. Period. Never." I'm not sure I believe Sosa though his body language and facial expressions did little, if anything, to damage his credibility. Yet Palmeiro spoke with such angry conviction that he certainly came across as convincing. But not Big Mac. Not once did McGwire say: "Jose Canseco is a liar because I never used steroids." McGwire ducked question after question by saying: "I'm not here to talk about the past." McGwire looked more and more pathetic. His pinched face said: You've dragged me out of a peaceful retirement and ruined my reputation because you let my old Oakland A's teammate rat me out.
Here was a Bashed Brother.What I'll most remember from Thursday's endless but compelling testimony was that Mark McGwire, once baseball's beloved Paul Bunyan, convicted himself in the court of public opinion. Now, we can be left with only one conclusion: McGwire was cheating in 1998 when he shattered Roger Maris' 37-year-old, single-season home run record of 61.
We're not talking about just using andro, which was sold over the counter then and which McGwire openly displayed in his locker. No, we're talking about Mark McGwire using anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, just as Canseco alleges in his book.Canseco writes that he even injected McGwire with steroids on occasion. In fact, Canseco speculates that McGwire openly displayed andro in his locker as a red herring. The spotlight was getting hotter and hotter on 1998's Great Home-Run Race between McGwire and Sosa, so McGwire feared the media would discover his steroid use. McGwire wanted reporters to see and focus on his andro. Or so Canseco believes. He writes that for McGwire, using andro would be like "a hospital patient on morphine asking for an aspirin."