Monday, October 26, 2009

Black mark remains on silent McGwire

He's supposedly coming back from his self-imposed hell, a place far removed from the limelight, the TV commercials and the public adulation he enjoyed during most of his baseball career. He went there to get away from his final seasons, but he couldn't shake free of those years or the rumors that trailed him there.

Whoever figured Mark McGwire would return?

He is coming back, though. He's coming back to baseball as manager Tony La Russa's hitting coach with the Cardinals, which causes hell for Major League Baseball.

League officials know what McGwire's return will mean: more talk about steroids. They would prefer that he stayed where he was -- his career in the netherworld of baseball, a place where Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro took their careers.

It's hard to resurrect careers like theirs from the dead. Just ask Pete Rose. They should only be resurrected when the questions that men like McGwire and Rose ran away from have been answered. Those questions can't still be floating high in the air like a hanging curveball.

They are with McGwire.

The game knows no more about McGwire and his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs today than it did when he chose to retire in 2002. He could have cleared up those suspicions long ago. He should do so now before he puts on a uniform again.

He should sit down in front of Larry King or Peter Gammons or Oprah Winfrey and tell the baseball world what he refused to tell Congress: Did he or didn't he?

Confess his sins and the truth sets him free.

An Oprah moment won't rehabilitate McGwire's image; it would be a start. His silence about 'roids has sullied the reputation he once had. It has also cost him induction into Cooperstown, just as Rose's lying about betting on baseball cost him his.

Rose has remained an outsider; he has not been allowed to participate in the sport he helped to prosper.

McGwire, who'll reportedly replace Hal McRae, is getting back inside the game, except in the minds of those who care about the sanctity of it. He tainted their records, baseball purists say. They hold a grudge, too.

For his part, McGwire seems not to care what they think. Had he cared, he would have kept his pumped-up biceps in retirement. He would not have reopened a discussion that had, in the main, been quiet since Manny Ramirez sat out 50 games earlier this season for testing positive for PED.

On the eve of the World Series, baseball needed the public's attention on McGwire like the NBA needed its referees on strike. In October, attention should be on the World Series and not on the hiring of a hitting coach who needs to address his past.

Timing is everything, and McGwire could have orchestrated his return to baseball to minimize the damage it will do to the game. He'd done enough to ruin the sport already.


Post a Comment