Should Mark McGwire’s Future Include Unemployment?

by Chuck

I’m not here to talk about the past. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci writes in his column today, “If, by now, you still believed in the magic of 1998, you believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician.”

I’m here to talk about the future.

Specifically, Mark McGwire’s future.

On November 1st, 2004, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired former Mets’ infielder Wally Backman as its new manager. Within twenty-four hours after his hiring, media reports began surfacing with reports of legal and financial problems in Backman’s past.

Admitting they hadn’t done a proper background check before hiring Backman, Dback’s general partner Ken Kendrick hired an independent firm to either confirm or deny the media reports. Kendrick received the report back two days later and it contained, among other things, a 2000 DUI arrest, a 2001 arrest for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge and a bankruptcy.

All of which Backman concealed from the Diamondbacks during his interview.

Four days after his hiring, Kendrick, while admitting an obvious faux pas with their interview process, fired Backman, citing “non-disclosure” as the reason. Kendrick stated Backman was asked during the interview, “if there was anything in his past the Diamondbacks should know about”, to which Backman replied, “no”.

During his interview last evening with MLBNetwork’s Bob Costas, Mark McGwire said he kept his steriod use secret from “everyone, my family didn’t know, my friends didn’t know.” When asked by Costas if Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had known about his use, either with the Oakland Athletics or the Cardinals, answered “no”, further stating that he, McGwire, had broken the news to LaRussa by phone that very morning.

So, the question becomes, should the Cardinals treat Mark McGwire in the same vein as the Arizona Diamondbacks treated Wally Backman five years ago?

Would the Cardinals have asked McGwire about steriod use in the interview?

I know I would have.

As a coach, he’s now in a position of leadership, he will impact not only the hitters on the major league roster, but during spring training and Instructional Leagues, every player in their minor league system.

Its one thing to do something wrong, it’s something else entirely to not be truthful about it. Mark McGwire, to Congress, to Bud Selig, has never denied steriod use. He denied opportunities to talk about steriods, but never denied using them. So, he wasn’t being less than truthful, he was, in a sense, “taking the fifth.”

But if Cardinals ownership, or GM John Mozeliak, or even LaRussa himself had asked McGwire directly about his use, and if he did, at that point, had denied using, the Cardinals would be well within their rights to ask McGwire to resign, or, failing that, terminate his employment.

The Cardinals would have other factors to consider if they decided to make the change. I don’t live in St. Louis, but I would guess they’ve invested time and money into some sort of “Big Mac is Back” promotion, whether it be with ticket packages or advertising spots.

There’s also been speculation the hiring of McGwire, was, at least in part, a carrot dangled in front of Matt Holliday as an enticement for him to re-sign. The two are good friends, with Holliday working on his hitting the past three off-seasons at McGwire’s home in California. If the speculation is true, at least in part, what would Holliday’s reaction be to the change? Would there be clubhouse repercussions?

I don’t believe McGwire was 100% forthcoming in his statement regarding his use, but I admire him for at least coming somewhat clean. It’s not our place to speculate on his intentions or why it took so long.

And while no one will argue the fact there’s a night and day difference between Mark McGwire and Wally Backman, the punishment should fit the crime, if, in fact, one took place.

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22 Responses to “Should Mark McGwire’s Future Include Unemployment?”

  1. Lefty33 Says:

    Two things Chuck:

    1. If I remember correctly, even though the D-Backs hired Backman he never signed a contract. I doubt they would have cut Backman loose if they were on the hook for a few Million dollars. The matter would have been buried in-house.

    2. Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t believe that McGwire didn’t tell LaRussa anything about this. Also, unless the whole Cardinal organization is stupid they had to have had an idea that this day was coming and that Mac had done something.

    Like I posted earlier, to me this is part of a big PR plan between Mac and Tony to restore his credibility with the public and HOF voters to make a run in the future.

    Should Mac get canned like Backman? Probably, but I really doubt he will.

  2. Jim Says:

    We don’t know what went on in the interviews between McGwire and the Cards, what questions were asked and what were the responses, so this is speculation.

    Michael Vick receives a standing ovation when he first took the field for the Eagles, I fully expect McGwire to get a standing O from Cardinal’s fans who will forgive and forget or perhaps deny.

  3. Jim Says:

    Just watched part of the interview w/McGwire on ESPN conducted by Bob Lee and obviously Mac believes denial is a river in Egypt. The man is delusional.

  4. Hossrex Says:

    Tom Verducci: “If, by now, you still believed in the magic of 1998, you believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician.”

    Which is ironically a BETTER metaphor for the counter-point.

    Who cares whether or not the lady actually gets sawed in halves? The fun is the experience of watching it happen, and the wonderment of seeing a master at work.

    There are a lot of people who… metaphorically… seem to believe the magician actually cuts the beautiful assistant in halves. Then when they find out she’s still alive, call for the magicians head.

  5. JD Says:

    While I’m glad he’s come, for the most part, clean in his use of steroids, I do believe that this now becomes part of MLBs, not only the Cardinals, right to punish McGwire for past use. At least a 90 day suspension, but I’d go even further. He’s now being asked to be a mentor, someone people look up to, and model their careers after. He’s in a higher position than a player is. I give players a slight pass because of the complicity of baseball and ownership in not putting a stop to the PED use while it was going on; I wouldn’t ban them from baseball or even ban them from the HOF if their stats, modified in some way to take into account the increase that PED use caused (yes, Mark, they caused some increase, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of doubt about that), still got them in. But now, in a staff position, he at least deserves a 90 day suspension, and I might give him more because of the delusion he’s under that his use didn’t help him get to 583 HR and 70 in 1998. In my opinion, Mark McGwire would not have 500 HR now and nowhere near 70 in 1998 if he had not used. I think most fans, and others, think that’s likely true.

  6. brautigan Says:

    Well, apparently some think several years of self imposed exile isn’t good enough. We must have our pound of flesh…………….

  7. Hossrex Says:

    JD: “right to punish”

    You sir sicken me.

  8. brautigan Says:

    Also, at the time, I thought the Diamondbacks screwed Wally Backman.

    I still think they screwed Wally Backman.

  9. Larry R Says:

    Snore.

  10. Chuck Says:

    Great insight, Larry.

    Thanks!!

  11. Raul Says:

    If Mark McGwire wasn’t trying to get a job as a hitting coach, he would have never admitted taking steroids. He’d be in his house, hiding from everyone like the pathetic hermit crab that he is.

  12. JD Says:

    Just trying to adhere to the same rules that baseball now holds its players; I believe it should hold its off field personnel in the same way. Each to his opinion.

  13. Kerry Says:

    JD: “I give players a slight pass because of the complicity of baseball and ownership in not putting a stop to the PED use while it was going on; I wouldn’t ban them from baseball or even ban them from the HOF if their stats, modified in some way to take into account the increase that PED use caused (yes, Mark, they caused some increase, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of doubt about that), still got them in.”

    Ditto.

    JD: “Just trying to adhere to the same rules that baseball now holds its players; I believe it should hold its off field personnel in the same way.”

    OK, here I have to disagree. Generally speaking, this probably a good idea, but the rules for players when McGwire was playing did not forbid steroids. I don’t see why baseball should use current standards to judge his past behavior, especially since baseball was complicit by inaction to steroid use in the past. That would be very hypocritical.

  14. JD Says:

    You might be right. But steroids were illegal and I’m sure there was a prohibition and penalties for doing illegal activities. I guess this might be under the “what’s good for baseball” clause that the commissioner has discretion over. Not a big deal for me, but the penalty phase of anything is involved in judging past behavior. And it’s not much of a judge; he’s admitted it. Actually alot more concerned now in the baseball community about the possibility of Bud ruining the World Series by making it just another round in the playoffs with a Global Series with Japan afterwards. To me, that’s a big mistake they’re contemplating now. I’m surprised almost nobody is talking about it.

  15. Chuck Says:

    I’m surprised at your thought process, Professor.

    Steriods are illegal in society, which makes them illegal in baseball, by law.

    Having some fine print in the CBA about drugs is irrelevant.

  16. Hossrex Says:

    Chuck: “I’m surprised at your thought process, Professor.

    Steriods are illegal in society, which makes them illegal in baseball, by law. “

    I know people who say the exact same thing. It’s maddening. I wonder what JD would say if someone at his work caught him smoking pot, and he was fired from his job because “since it’s illegal, he should be punished at work also.”

    I’d wager JD would have a different opinion about the subject after that.

  17. JD Says:

    Not at all. I think it’s the prerogative of the workplace to adhere to society’s rules. They don’t have to, but I think it’s okay. And I know it’s an odd slope, but with baseball, or high profile positions, I think it’s more important to try to show that you shouldn’t do things that are illegal and then profit from them. Again, I’m not against Mark McGwire working in baseball, but I’m also not against a 90 day suspension from that job for the infraction. We are talking competitive advantage here and to me, a significant one. It is called cheating. But you’re right to invoke the “baseball being complicit” argument that muddies the waters, and how muddy the water was, i.e. how many players were using vs. not using, will likely never be known.

  18. ralph Says:

    “the more widespread awareness of use of other drugs such as amphetamines (“greenies” in baseball vernacular) and marijuana[citation needed] in the game. Both have a long history in baseball; Milner (who had retired two years earlier due to recurring hamstring injuries), in fact, spoke of Willie Mays and Willie Stargell, both iconic figures and Baseball Hall of Famers, giving him “greenies”.”

    Baseball has turned a blind eye to many “little helper’s”. How many players used “greenies” to get an advantage or stay on the field? Did Hank ever use greenies? If a player used illegal greenies to pep up for a game he is just as guit of cheating as McGwire. Right?

  19. ralph Says:

    “Guilty”

  20. Hossrex Says:

    JD: “I think it’s the prerogative of the workplace to adhere to society’s rules.”

    Of course you’ll say that now. I don’t care what you say now.

    I’m curious what you would think of that if on top of any legal troubles you had, all of a sudden you lost the livelihood you’ve worked for your entire life.

    I’m curious how you think society would benefit from ruining a mans life because he participated in a victimless crime.

    I’m curious how you think you have the right to even suggest any of this would be okay.

    I’m curious if you’ve really lived the sort of life where you have all these industrial strength “holier than thou” stones to be throwing around, and whether you’ve taken the measures of calling the “Glass House Repairmen” in advance.

  21. JD Says:

    Still think adhering to rules is important, but that’s just my opinion. And that’s all it is. One man’s opinion out of billions.

  22. Mike Felber Says:

    I oppose the “double jeopardy” of punishing anything illegal in society at work, or wherever else possible. Yet 1) The effect of breaking the rules of society had on the game is large, & deeply unfair to other clean players, fair competition, & the fans, & 2) Baseball’s bylaws permit said discipline, & 3) How often need folks be reminded that it was SPECIFICALLY prohibited at the start of the ’90’s by baseball’s commissioner? Steroids were made explicitly forbidden.

    So it is nothing like baseball being an arbitrary moral arbiter & choosing to punish a tax cheat, or someone who commits some violence. It is highly relevant to the integrity of the game,fair competition & its success & public tenor. Only the 1st several years Big Mac played, & not it seems when he was using, were steroids not banned by the game. This was done shortly after they were ruled a controlled substance.

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