Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Former Hero Comes Clean -- Sort Of
The 1st man to walk on the Moon was Number 2.
Number 1 was O.J. Simpson.
Now, it says something about my generation of kids that we were willing to select a black man over a white man as our Number 1 hero. And it's not like O.J. hadn't done some amazing things. He led his college's football team to a National Championship, and only Woody Hayes' 1968 "Super Sophs" stopped them from getting another. He won the Heisman Trophy. He won the NFL's Rookie of the Year. He became the 1st man in pro football to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He made 80,000 people pay to watch the Buffalo Bills play in bitterly cold weather. He went on to rush for over 11,000 yards in his career. In a time when over 20 guys have rushed for over 10,000, he was the 2nd man, after Jim Brown, to do it, and only at the end, when he was a broken-down 49er, did he play in a 16-game season (and then not all 16). This was something.
Then again, he only played in 1 NFL Playoff game, in 1974, and the Bills lost. It wasn't his fault that he played during the same decade as Shula's Dolphins, Noll's Steelers and Madden's Raiders. Nor was it his fault the Bills had no D back then.
In fact, in 1995, there was a joke that, for the first time in his life, O.J. had a good professional defense.
Aye, there's the rub: At some point, O.J. became a former hero.
Lots of guys become former heroes. Pete Rose.
Which brings me to Mark McGwire. Apparently, he's finally "here to talk about the past." He finally admitted to using steroids.
He says that he did it for comeback from injury, not for increased batting power.
Riiiight. And I root for the Yankees because I liked Reggie Jackson's Volkswagen Rabbit commercial, not because they won the World Series when I was 7 and 8 years old.
In today's Daily News, Mike Lupica (in a rare moment of common sense on the subject of baseball) says that if McGwire expects us to believe he didn't do it to increase his hitting power, then he's deluding himself.
Without steroids, McGwire would not have recovered to become an apparently Hall of Fame-worthy player. Sammy Sosa would not have become one. Neither would Jose Canseco. Nor Juan Gonzalez. Nor, ha ha, David Ortiz. Nor Mike Piazza. Nor 2000s Yankees Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi -- and Giambi won't make it anyway. Brady Anderson would not have hit at least 50 home runs in a season. Nor would Luis Gonzalez. Nor would Albert Belle.
Rafael Palmeiro might have made it to Cooperstown without steroids. So might Ivan Rodriguez.
Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and, yes, Alex Rodriguez did have the talent to reach the Hall without steroids. They did it anyway.
And if any of those guys did not use steroids, then they can sue me. But then they'll have to say, in court, under oath, that they did not use steroids. Bonds already fell into the perjury trap. The others won't. Well, maybe Manny. He might be just that stupid. We know he's just that arrogant.
Mark McGwire is back in baseball, as the hitting instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals. But who would listen to an admitted cheater?
Well, some of the best hitting instructors weren't very good hitters: Walt Hriniak, Charlie Lau, and current Yankee instructor Kevin Long. As for Don Mattingly, he was a really good hitter -- for a while, a great hitter -- but he's proven to be a lousy hitting instructor. (Or else he would have gotten a ring that way.)
One Cardinal who doesn't need McGwire's instruction is Albert Pujols. He might turn out to be the best hitter since The Babe Himself. Even better than the Cards' best hitters ever to this point, Rogers Hornsby and Stan Musial.
Please, Albert, be steroid-free. We want to believe in you.
Big Mac? Can he redeem himself? Rose hasn't. Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn't given the chance to try.
McGwire is trying to come clean. But as Shakespeare (whom I've already quoted once in this post) would have said, a little water doesn't cleanse him of this deed. He won't get out the damned spot anytime soon.
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying... we do not yet know what.