Increased Strength an Unfortunate Steroid Side Effect

January 13, 2010 | Thyrl Nelson

This just keeps getting better and better. The Mitchell report pretty much confirmed what we all knew about baseball already, what we all feared about baseball already. Still, with all of the steps that have been taken in regard to policing the game over the last 5+ years, I doubt there are many who believe that the game is anywhere close to truly clean. And yet, as the so-called confessions of user after user would have you believe, somehow we’re still supposed to be debating whether or not steroids even help you at baseball. At least Mark McGwire would be willing to debate it.


Do steroids make you good at baseball? The short answer is no. But there are no short answers here.


Does money make you more attractive? Again the short answer is no, yet the number of ugly rich guys sporting arm candy is way out of line with those who are broke.


Do dressing well, and being better-groomed make you better at your job? Again, no, but time after time promotions are handed out with those being among the heaviest of deciding factors.  


So again, the short answer to all of these questions is no, yet we have real world evidence that supports these notions. None of the above mentioned activities guarantee a person the end result described above, but all will go a long way toward supporting whatever other requisite skills a person already has, and help toward the desired end result.


Maybe the fact that none of Mark McGwire’s revelation would be news to the average baseball fan was lost on McGwire and his likely soon to be fired PR machine. All we were really tuning in to see was how much he’d be willing to say, and how truthfully he’d come off. After all, since the outings of most of those who have faced them haven’t been much of a surprise to anyone, the only real satisfaction that the fans who have been paying salaries to these players year after year get, is from seeing these guys forced to own up to and defend their actions, or even better is when they continue on their course of denial.


There was Raphael Palmeiro, who staged his memorable denial before ever being caught, then failed to deliver on any real admission or excuse once outed officially. There was Roger Clemens who advised us that because he hadn’t turned into a mutant we should think him clean. Clemens has since brought a rash of people down with him, presumably kicking and screaming. And there was A-Rod, who owned up to his use, but was sure to distance his use from his time with the Yankees and his MVP seasons. It’s funny how guys always seem to find their way back to good old-fashioned hard work and genetics when their short cuts don’t work.


So when the McGwire headline broke, I was intrigued, mildly at least. When the subsequent crawl went across my screen stating that he not only admitted to using it, but also admitted to using it during the best years of his career, I was proud of him. And then I watched the interview,


Surely even McGwire couldn’t believe the nonsense that followed what otherwise would have been the best steroid admission so far. McGwire justified his use as a means of staying healthy, even though all evidence at the supposed time of his first usage (1989-1990) pointed to steroids as a likely contributor to muscles breaking down over the long haul, the exact opposite effect of what McGwire was looking for.


Still, McGwire believes that with or without steroids he would have been the same home run hitter, and then in practically the same breath offers that steroids prevented his body from breaking down during a 162 game season. Somehow I fail to see the logic that allows 70 homeruns to be possible with a broken down body at the 81 game mark or thereabout. But somehow McGwire would have us believe that he’d have done it. 


Here are a few more questions I wish Bob Costas, or someone would ask McGwire:


You had to be lifting weights while taking PEDs right? Did your numbers not go up in the weight room as a result? And if so, would you argue that increased strength was simply an unfortunate side effect of your usage?


Did you intentionally leave out the Andro in your locker as a red herring to offer for the press?


Do you believe that the rise in homerun totals during the steroid era and subsequent decline is a coincidence?


Do you think you belong in the Hall of Fame?


Do you think we’re all stupid?


But before we judge McGwire too harshly, maybe we should ask a few questions of ourselves too. Like what do we ultimately hope to accomplish by holding these guys accountable?


If we’re just trying to punish them, then fine, but let’s just admit that. The lesson we teach our children is that cheaters won’t prosper. Isn’t that the goal?


Because if we’re really willing to face the truth, it may simply be this, steroids do what they’re supposed to do, and if prescribed and regimented correctly, they do it really well. Deep down we keep waiting for someone to admit that; but is that really the message that we’re ready to send to our kids? Maybe in McGwire’s ridiculous comments, and Bud Selig and Tony LaRussa and the rest of the baseball establishment’s unilateral endorsement of his heart felt comments, we can draw the conclusion that they think they’re doing us a favor. As we continue to see, people try to justify crazy actions with even crazier rationalizations. And the hits just keep on coming.