Breaking down Mark McGwire's mea culpa

Leave a comment

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.”

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Leave a comment

Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.