Should Mark McGwire’s Future Include Unemployment?
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.