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.”

David Wright: Matt Harvey made a mistake not talking to the media

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Pitcher Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets walks off the mound after being relieved during the third inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on May 19, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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The day after Matt Harvey left the clubhouse without talking to the media following yet another bad start, Mets captain David Wright spoke to the press about the whole affair.

Despite column, after column, after column after column in which Harvey was portrayed as a prima donna, was called names and otherwise had his character impugned for not talking to the press, Wright, amazingly, found a different tone to strike. Specifically, he managed to note that (a) it would have been better form and would have shown some accountability for Harvey to talk to the media; while (b) simultaneously acknowledging that Harvey is going through a bad time like most players go through and that it’s understandable that he’d make a mistake in this regard. Which Wright calls a “lapse” which he doesn’t think will happen again and about which Wright will likely talk to Harvey.

Most amazingly, Wright does all of this without calling Harvey names, saying he’s a phony or bringing up minor incidents from years ago in an effort to disingenuously cast Harvey not talking to the media as just the latest in a series of serious and escalating transgressions and/or failures of moral and ethical worth. How he did that I have no idea. Unlike the learned members of the sporting press, Wright didn’t even go to college. Maybe he’s mistaken to think this situation is somewhat complicated and emotional rather than one of stark right and wrong? Clearly, Wright must be mistaken. Life really is that simple, after all.

Or maybe Wright was simply able to appreciate that another person’s struggles are not about him. And that the healthy first impulse when someone who is struggling makes a mistake is to have at least a modicum of empathy and understanding rather than enter into a competition with one’s colleagues to see who can roast that struggling person the hardest.

But again, maybe that’s just crazy talk from a person who didn’t go to journalism school.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 25: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by George Kontos #70 and Matt Cain #18 after hitting a walk-off RBI single against the San Diego Padres during the tenth inning at AT&T Park on May 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 4-3 in 10 innings. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The lite version today, as I mourn the last day of school for my kids. Really, kids should go to school until mid-June. And then start school again in late June. School all year with no breaks except for, maybe, when the parents want a vacation. It would make the world run way, way better.

The Giants continued to roll on yesterday, winning in walkoff fashion with a Brandon Crawford RBI single in the 10th. They’ve won 13 of 14 games and now would be a good time to remind y’all that I picked them to win the World Series. The Yankees’ six-game winning streak was snapped thanks in part to a couple of homers from their old friend Russel Martin. A couple of streaks continued, hitting streaks that is, from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts with the former’s standing at 29 games and the latter at 18. The Braves fell to the Brewers in 13 innings, causing one to wonder what on Earth would make someone watch a 13-inning Braves-Brewers game if they weren’t being paid to.

Anyway, summer unofficially begins this weekend. If you’re like me and your kids will be hanging around constantly now, claiming they have nothing to do, summer begins at about 3pm today.

Here are the scores

Mets 2, Nationals 0
Phillies 8, Tigers 5
Twins 7, Royals 5
Cubs 9, Cardinals 8
Rangers 15, Angels 9
Indians 4, White Sox 3
Giants 4, Padres 3
Blue Jays 8, Yankees 4
Pirates 5, Diamondbacks 4
Red Sox 10, Rockies 3
Brewers 3, Braves 2
Marlins 4, Rays 3
Astros 4, Orioles 3
Mariners 13, Athletics 3
Dodgers 3, Reds 1

Video: Odubel Herrera’s glorious bat flip

DETROIT, MI - MAY 25: Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a three run home run during the fourth inning of the inter-league game against the Detroit Tigers on May 25, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera, playing in his second game since being benched for a lack of hustle, hit a three-run home run to extend his team’s lead to 5-1 in the fourth inning on Wednesday afternoon. After putting a sweet swing on an Anibal Sanchez 2-1 slider, Herrera flipped his bat in grand fashion. It wasn’t quite as emphatic as Jose Bautista‘s from last year’s ALDS, but it was glorious nonetheless.

To the Tigers’ credit, Herrera’s bat flip didn’t result in any shouting or fighting or throwing intentionally at hitters. So that’s nice.

Herrera is now batting .327/.440/.461 with five home runs and 17 RBI on the year. The Phillies selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Rangers ahead of the 2015 season and he’s proven to be the lifeblood of the offense thus far.

30 years ago, Dave Kingman sent a live rat to a female reporter

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Someone on Reddit’s /r/baseball page linked to this New York Times article from June 1986.

Dave Kingman, then with the Athletics, was 37 years old and playing in what would be his final season. He was fined $3,500, which is a little over $7,600 in 2016 dollars, for sending a live rat in a pink box to a female reporter, Susan Fornoff of The Sacramento Bee. The rat wore a tag that said “my name is Sue.”

Kingman refused to apologize, saying, “I’ve pulled practical jokes on other people and I didn’t apologize to them.”

According to Fornoff, Kingman had said to her that women don’t belong in the clubhouse, and Kingman had been harassing her since she began covering the team in ’85. The Athletics didn’t keep Kingman around after the season, and he ended up hanging up the spikes.

Pete Dexter wrote in more detail about the incident at Deadspin a few years ago. It’s a good read.

I wasn’t familiar with this story as I was still more than two years from being born when it happened. Sports media has made strides towards being more inclusive of non-white cisgender straight men, especially compared to 30 years ago. But, of course, we’re still a long ways away from an ideal world in which everyone is treated equally and everyone has equal access. Some of the best baseball reporting and analysis these days is being done by women and it’s nice to see sites, especially FanGraphs recently, make a concerted effort towards diversification.