COMMENTARY | Here are the things admitted steroid user Mark McGwire can do in the game of baseball: He can coach for a team (which he has been doing since 2011, serving as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers); he can manage a team; and, theoretically, he can still play for a team.
But he will never be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This isn't a plea for McGwire's induction into the flawed Hall of Very Good because there are greater tragedies in life, and McGwire knew his use of steroids could potentially put him in this spot.
Do you think he cares, anyway?
Steroids allowed him a 16-year career and made him millions of dollars. He became a worldwide celebrity and he was given the opportunity to coach all these years later.
Mark McGwire is doing just fine.
He is doing better than the reputation of Baseball Hall of Fame and its voters, who have been playing ping pong with morality for years. Commissioner Bud Selig recently suspended New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for 211 games over alleged steroid use. Not a failed test. Alleged use.
But in 2010 when McGwire was hired by the Cardinals, Selig sang a different tune. "I have no misgivings about this at all," Selig told ESPN at the time. "Mark McGwire is a very, very fine man and the Cardinals are to be applauded."
Selig added: "I give Tony La Russa a lot of credit and [Cardinals chairman] Bill DeWitt a lot of credit for making this happen. I was -- and am -- very supportive of their decision."
Mark McGwire the admitted cheater can coach while Alex Rodriguez the alleged cheater will sit. Neither player will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, though, because the Hall of Fame and Bud Selig put the onus on a bunch of sportswriters to decide who was clean and who wasn't. Who was eating their Wheaties and who was injecting needles in the bathroom stall.
Wednesday, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were inducted while McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens fell further down the ballot. Have you ever seen Frank Thomas, though? He was a power hitter built like a Mack Truck who played alongside McGwire and Bonds and so many other steroid users.
The sportswriters decided Thomas was clean while others weren't. They did this while hiding behind the Hall of Fame's character clause, which states: "5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
But Major League Baseball and its Hall of Fame have rarely been about integrity or character. Black players weren't allowed to play until almost 1950, thanks in large part to Hall of Famer and former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. You can find players with questionable pasts at every turn in the Hall.
But when it comes to players who never failed drug tests, writers are tasked with playing judge and jury because Major League baseball waited until 2005 to implement a legitimate drug policy. Major League Baseball refused to give writers a strict voting code. "Fail a test and you're out" would be nice. Or perhaps acknowledging the last 25 years weren't a good look for either side, the users or the police, and putting an asterisk between 1985 and 2010 or so.
What we're left with is a watered-down museum void of some of the sport's greatest players because they may or may not have taken drugs that, in all likelihood, weren't banned at that time.
It's a problem that is making the Flawed Hall of Very Good more flawed every year.
Kory Carpenter has followed the St. Louis Cardinals for nearly 20 years and currently lives in Lawrence, Ks. He has written for numerous publications, most recently as a Big 12 basketball contributor for RushTheCourt.net. You can find him on Twitter at @KoryCarpenter.
- Sports & Recreation
- Baseball Hall of Fame
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Mark McGwire
- Bud Selig
- Alex Rodriguez