Breaking down Mark McGwire's mea culpa

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Anyone who is shocked by Mark McGwire’s statement admitting his steroid use is either painfully naive or belongs to that class of professionally outraged people who implore you to think of the children every time something mildly bothersome comes up.  Anyone with a lick of sense knew years ago, or at least should have, that Mark McGwire took steroids.  His confession is news in and of itself. The underlying facts of his steroid use is not. Or at least shouldn’t be.

So what about that confession?  Like all confessions that are motivated by public relations as opposed to, say, police interrogation, this one has many of the hallmarks of phoniness we’ve come to expect.  McGwire says “I wish I had never touched steroids,” and that “I
wish I had never played during the steroid era.” Sincere? Maybe. Only McGwire knows, but such wishcasting is designed, consciously or otherwise to make passive what was active. You wish away external circumstances like rainstorms on your wedding day. McGwire was in and of the steroid era. Even if he’s being less than candid about his using timeframe — 1989-90, 1993-on — there is no escaping the conclusion that McGwire, as we know him, is no victim of the steroid era. He is a creation of it, for all the good and the bad that entails.

McGwire cites his string of injuries in the early 90s as the main catalyst for his steroid use. We’ve heard this over and over from players who have been identified as steroid users.  I have no doubt that this has an awful lot to do with why players used, but just once I’d like to hear someone say “man, I wanted to hit a boatload of homers and make a gabillion dollars, and I figure steroids would help me do it!”  If you believe “Game of Shadows” this was a big motivator for Barry Bonds. Maybe he’ll make that part of his statement someday.

McGwire says “Baseball is really different now – it’s been cleaned up. The
Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they
cracked down, and I’m glad they did.”  Again, something we have no choice of taking at face value, but what I’m more interested in knowing is how he and his fellow PED users felt about things at the time. Did people feel it was wrong, or did they feel like it was harmless? Were they pressured into using, or was it simply a choice, like whether to do more cardio or more stretching on a given day?

There’s probably no fighting this black or white, good or bad dichotomy that has sprung up about steroids — and I’m sure McGwire has promised the Cardinals and Major League Baseball that he’ll hew to that line, possibly even as a condition of his employment —  but the world doesn’t really work that way, and I’m curious what McGwire thought about it at the time he was injecting drugs. It’s not like steroids are habit forming like heroin. He had a choice. He wasn’t an addict. Some rationality went into it, and I’d like to know how it flowed in his mind. I think by knowing his of McGwire — and others who used — we’d have a much easier time putting the steroid era into perspective.

But enough about his statement. Like I’ve said, it was something that had to happen in light of McGwire’s return to the game and because so many people have clamored for it, but it doesn’t tell us anything particularly interesting or anything new. The only really significant question it does raise is whether the legions of writers who have called for McGwire to “come clean” will now acknowledge that he has come clean or, rather, use this occasion to excoriate him further.

We may already have an indication of how that will go.  On October 28th, SI’s Jon Heyman wrote “now that he’s been hired as Cardinals hitting coach, it’s time for Mark McGwire to come clean.”  Moments ago on Twitter, Heyman saidif you lie for 10 years, and everyone knows you’re lying, what’s the value of finally telling the truth?

They’re already changing the game on Big Mac. Again, no surprise.  Don’t expect barbs to stop, Mark. Don’t expect your Hall of Fame totals to go up.  Your sole function for most of the sporting press is to serve as a repository for criticism. It’s not going to stop just because you’ve come clean like they asked.

UPDATESelig’s statement. Money shot: “The so-called “steroid era” – a reference that is resented by the many
players who played in that era and never touched the substances – is
clearly a thing of the past, and Mark’s admission today is another step
in the right direction.”

Justin Verlander: “I’d like to see the AL and NL have the same rules… I vote NL rules.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10:  Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on August 10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”

Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:

To that, Archer said:

For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.

Rusney Castillo disappoints again by not running out a routine grounder

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18:  Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he was caught off third base for the third out of the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 18, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.