Remember that summer? When McGwire and Sammy Sosa together brought baseball back from the cancellation of the 1994 World Series? It was the summer my mother cared about baseball. It was cute watching McGwire try to do Sosa's complicated home run hand jive. At the time, it felt pure and it felt right. No one thought twice about McGwire's huge arms. We were blissfully ignorant of all issues steroids, as far as baseball was concerned. We did enjoy it, we loved it, and we thought we were watching something special and wonderful.
Wow, we were wrong. What we were witnessing was the highest level of cheating in American sports history. It touched all of us. We were all duped, and when the little bottle of androstenedione was found in his locker we got just a hint of how deep this scandal would run. We also go a taste of the excuse to end all excuses "It was legal at the time".
Ok let's break it down.
On-field: The guy set the rookie home record at 49. was the first player to hit 30+ home runs in his first 4 seasons. He ended his career with 583 home runs. A twelve time all-star and a rookie of the year in 1986. The guy should have been a first ballot hall of famer.
The ROIDS: This guy was a lifer. He was juicing right from the beginning. Unlike Barry Bonds there was no before and after photos. This guy was jacked his rookie year and was only slightly more jacked when he hit 70 home runs in 1998. He is the reason we have the "Steroids = Home Runs" myth. He was hitting the long ball as a rookie and was doing it until he retired in 2001. Andro was his drug of choice, because that's all we know of. He won't talk about the past, and thus is denying himself and us a sense of closure that many of us want.
Cultural Impact: I'll play the race card. He was white, so it was a shock to America that he could cheat. The questions surrounding his use have had an impact on how we view baseball players, and how baseball players handle their drug use. He gave us the play stupid card. His actions inspired Jason Giambi's I'm apologizing but I'm not going to tell you what I am apologizing for. They inspired Raphael Palmero's lying to congress, and Sammy Sosa's "I need an interpreter" maneuver. And how can we not give McGwire credit for Barry Bonds' righteous indignation, and blame the media tactics.
As much as we want to, we cannot go back and change the past. We are all dirty from that summer. How do we handle the emotions we feel now? For me, you are reading it. For others it is anger, denial, and acceptance. We are stuck with what happened and stuck with no truth about how it happened.
Maybe instead of the Mitchell report, baseball should have done what some countries have done after a reign of tyranny. They looked to Truth and Reconciliation hearings. A place where people were free from prosecution but were asked to tell the truth. A place where people could hear all sides of the full story and make amends so that everyone could move on. The window for something like this is long past and Selig would never have the guts to even try it.
McGwire does not want to talk about the past, but what is baseball without it's past?