Mark McGwire accepted to job of hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers today, prompting me to scratch my head in the irony of McGwire still involved in Major League Baseball — as a hitting coach no less — after admitting to using steroids for the bulk of his would-have-been Hall of Fame career. In no way am I trying to pile on McGwire, nor do I want to sound righteous in any kind of way, but I do think it’s legitimate to wonder how likely McGwire would still be in baseball if he hadn’t cheated as much as he did? The reality is McGwire built his entire career not on being a successful hitter, but instead as one of the biggest, strongest, and most successful power hitters to have ever played the game (on steroids).
Similar to Lance Armstrong, McGwire’s success was largely a result of cheating, not because he trained harder. And while Armstrong still has not admitted to performance enhancement usage, he has been banned from cycling and will probably never again be connected with the sport. McGwire, on the other hand, has admitted to cheating and, ironically, is still very much involved with MLB today. Both of these former iconic sports role models cheated, yet each has been treated differently with respect to public perception and post-career opportunities.
Assuming Mark McGwire hit the bulk of his HR’s (pun intended?) while being infused with various illegal anabolic steroids, then it’s pretty safe to say that he might not have been half the player (another pun?) he was without the drugs. If that premise is true, then McGwire would have not only had a very short career, but would probably never go onto becoming a professional baseball coach, either. In other words, McGwire is a hitting coach today based primarily on a career that was artificially enhanced, and continues to coach built on his reputation as a skilled hitter (that was created by cheating).
Unlike other athletes who have been caught cheating and left the game entirely after that (likely because of embarrassment), Mark McGwire continues to go. Personally, I’m all for second chances, so from that perspective I’m happy to see McGwire continue to be involved with the game he loves. Still, seeing him continue his career based on a false record is, in some ways, like somebody beating you out for a job but then later finding out that person lied about his education and experience — yet still got the job over you! I have to believe there were other candidates for the hitting coach position McGwire just got, and that some of those folks are upset that McGwire got the nod over them because of HR records he really didn’t earn.
So what is the formula for an athlete rehabilitating him- or herself? Similarly, what are the “taboo” things that prevent athletes from ever being given a second chance? Is there any rhyme or reason how the public decides on these things, or is it all left to chance?
armstrong, baseball, cardinals, cheater, coach, dodgers, hitting, lance, mark, mcgwire, steroids