The Mac attack

Talk about a shot heard ‘round the world …

It was 2:21 p.m. Monday. I had just finished a meeting with my new boss, walked back into my office and sat down at my desk when I saw the news alert spring up on my computer:

“Whoooooooooooooooooa,” I said to myself.

A few seconds later, my boss was shouting my name from his office next door. “Did you hear this?! Mark McGwire has admitted he used steroids.”

Anne Thompson said it best Monday night on the NBC News: “An apology that came like one of McGwire’s homers - not unexpected, but immensely powerful.”

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You had to have been living deep in a cave if you didn’t have some suspicions Mark McGwire was juicing when he was smacking all those home runs for the Cardinals. And perhaps even the A’s … Who knows? No one will ever know the whole truth about who was doing what when.

My initial reaction to Mark McGwire’s coming-out party is a strong feeling of relief. For years, the larger question has been not whether he did it, but when he would admit it … And any baseball fan had to believe it was going to come soon given the Cardinals' sickening decision to sign him as their hitting coach.

I do give McGwire some credit. As I‘ve watched the clips of his admission, I take him to be far more sincere and heartfelt than Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and the other (insert your favorite derogatory nickname here) who suddenly lost the ability to speak the “S” word.

And at the same time, sadly, McGwire’s admission has extinguished any lasting bit of glory from that magical “Summer of '98.” Now, it feels so, so wrong and shameful to look back on that season with any of the childlike wonder it conjured. I can’t imagine my McGwire posters or commemorative newspaper pages ever adorning my den walls again.

Like a lot of the columnists and talking heads, I’m not buying McGwire’s claim that God-given talent and not steroids helped him hit so many home runs … Sure, hand-eye coordination is a huge part of hitting baseballs. But there’s little doubt steroids also made McGwire healthier and stronger for the duration that he was crushing home runs in the late ’90s. McGwire was riddled with injuries during the early part of that decade and it’s easy to see now how the drugs helped him regain the body capable of putting up the numbers he did.

Whether McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame is a whole other issue on which I can't seem to come to a conclusion.

The part I think is saddest of all is that numbers like 70, 73 and 762 are here to stay. It’s too hard to know exactly which home runs are tainted for an asterisk to solve anything. No baseball officials -- certainly not Bud Selig -- are racing to strike the numbers from the record books, and most people seem content to shrug them off to “the steroid era.” … It’s hard to imagine any player -- any unequivocally clean player -- ever putting up those kinds of numbers.

Here's some of the good reads I've collected ...

a McGwire beats Sosa to confessional, but it's too little too late
a McGwire talks confession, steroid effects... and pinch-hitting
a Mark McGwire must stop denying the obvious
a Canseco says McGwire is still lying
a Finally, McGwire in the cleanup spot
a Carlton Fisk blasts Mark McGwire
a So now it's OK to talk about the past?
a The Onion: Mark McGwire Admits It Was Really F***ing Fun Hitting Baseballs So Far

Updates: Feb. 4 ...
a McGwire Is Testing a Loyal Baseball Town
a Apologies are never enough for cynics

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