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.”

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.