Mark McGwire gave me a bad day that lasted well past midnight, in large part because I like the man and think what he did was wrong.
Let's start there. The use of performance enhancing drugs, from steroids to HGH to any of the other alphabet-soup concoctions, cheated every player who didn't try them. And that threatened the integrity of the game.
The issue for me is that PEDs were never a legitimate temptation for most of us. I was a good high school athlete, an average junior college jock in the years before the earth cooled.
What, steroids would have made me the world's strongest slow guy? My home runs went 350 feet, over 348-foot fences. I was a 180-pound wide receiver who could run any route you gave me - but never outran anyone once I caught the ball.
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Oh, and I should add, no one ever offered me a PED. Maybe they didn't exist in the stone age. What McGwire makes me wonder, though, is what if they had been?
If I'd been good enough that a pill or a shot would have made me better - major league better - what would that temptation have been like? Like popping something today that would make me a Pulitzer Prize candidate?
For those of you who didn't come of age in the '60s - and that will be most of you - your knowledge of ill-advised drug useage may have begun with the popularity of cocaine, which took down a few good players in the 80s.
For those of us who did, however, there's always been some difficulty judging anyone who tries a banned substance today. In Haight-Ashbury, we didn't pass PEDs around. If we had, a lot of long-haired stoners might have altered baseball history before McGwire started first grade.
In my career covering big-league baseball, I've seen players pop greenies - amphetamines - and pass a joint around in the back of a team flight. I watched Ellis Valentine do a line of coke in his Porsche outside a spring training ball park. So I don't come to this dance as an innocent.
What McGwire's situation has me wondering is whether our scruples depend upon the reality of the temptation.
What is viagra if not a PED? And though we take stands against drug use, we let our kids see us shoot toxins into our foreheads to erase wrinkles. We are a nation that trains thousands of doctors not to cure disease but to sculpt our abs, lift our butts, augment our breasts and make our lips look like Angelina Jolie.
What if each of us was given the chance to genuinely make us better at whatever it is we love most?
McGwire yielded to that temptaton, and that was wrong. The question he had me thinking about all night was whether I'd have done the same.
Now a few links:
- The Chicago Cubs are making a push for pitcher Ben Sheets, the 31-year-old who missed all of 2009 with an elbow injury. Sheets wants $10 million or more a year, but the Cubs are offering an incentive-heavy contract.
- Former Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez is considering retirement because of back problems that have crippled his career. As it stands now, he thinks he might be able to play three or four days a week next season - for which Oakland will pay him $12 million.
- Should Lou Piniella be looking over his shoulder? The Cubs have hired Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to manage their AAA Iowa team.
- St. Louis columnist Bernie Miklasz lends his perspective after talking o McGwire. Boston's Bob Ryan offers his, and New York Daily News writer Bill Madden has a tabloid take.
- Rich Gossage spent a season in Seattle and another in Oakland and said he loves McGwire. He also tells the Denver Post McGwire should not be in the Hall of Fame.
- The San Franicsco Chronicle, meanwhile, talked to Carney Lansford, Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley about McGwire and got their thoughts.
- Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley is in Arizona, working out daily at second base. Kirby Arnold with the update.