Mark McGwire admitted what we already knew – that for a while in the 1990s, including the 1998 season when he hit 70 home runs, he was using performance enhancing drugs. Borrowing from both Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez (though taking both to new levels – kind of an apology on steroids), he admitted to using in order to get healthy (for a decade?) and to meet the expectations of his team and fans – as well as to endure the grind of a 162 game season. He did not, however, say that it gave him any unfair advantage because he was a power hitter before he started to use steroids. “My first hit in the little league was a home run,” says McGwire – leading some to wonder what he was sprinkling on his Cheerios.
Of course, he claims he started using in 1993 when he was sidelined with injuries – which I do believe. I mean, for a few years there, he had spent more time in rehab than on the field. He got into weight lifting. He had friends to help pick and choose from designer cocktails. And then, his batting average went up 30 points and his slugging percentage increased some 165 points – not that the drugs had anything to do with it.
I’ve said this from the beginning – if you could do something that would increase your strength 15 % – such that your average fly ball that used to travel 300 feet would now travel 345 feet – that’s a SIGNIFICANT change in performance. Look at the pictures of Mark in 1987, when he was a rookie pounding 49 homers, and when he was as thick as a California Redwood, bashing 70 homers in 1998. He increased his strength such that ANYTHING he made contact with was a threat to leave the park. He didn’t have to change his swing (though he did some of that, too) – but he didn’t make MORE contact, just that the results of that contact changed signficantly.
Imagine if, rather than hitting 70 homers, he finished with 56. Still an historic total. However, his batting average would have fallen by perhaps 28 points (.271 instead of .299) and his slugging percentage (which had capped around .600 in his younger years) would have been reduced by more than 100 points (.642 instead of .752). This would have been more in line with the types of seasons he was having in, say, 1992 when he was 29. Six years later – as 35-year-old players would have been winding DOWN their careers – you mean to tell me that you would EXPECT a player to have his best season ever? And light years beyond anything anyone had ever done? He didn’t hit 62 homers to edge his way past the record – he hit 70.
Anyway – nobody believes Mark McGwire when he says that PEDs didn’t help him. And the reaction is pretty consistent around baseball:
Ken Rosenthal (FoxSports)
Jason Stark (ESPN)
Tom Verducci (SportsIllustrated)
Jon Paul Morosi (FoxSports)
Rob Neyer (ESPN)
Gene Wojciechowski (ESPN)
Howard Bryant (ESPN)
Tim Kurkjian (ESPN)
MLB.COM, since it hosted the Bob Costas interview and initially released various statements about McGwire, is probably the best source for the raw information.
Meanwhile, as Casey and I were eating our Oatmeal Squares for breakfast, I made sure to tell Casey that Mark McGwire was a cheater.
There are PLENTY of things that happened in baseball that did not involve cheating yesterday, but at this point I’m out of time. So, I’ll try to get to that at lunch – else there will be a long post tomorrow making up for lost time.