Everyone’s got an opinion on former slugger Mark McGwire’s recent admission that he used steroids during his playing career. For a variety of reasons, the “admission” was deficient, and a few folks have called McGwire on it.
But none better than former Chicago Cubs ace and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins.
“How many pitchers do you think he ended their careers by hitting numbers of home runs off them?” Jenkins said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
Jenkins also maintained he would have known how to handle the bulked-up McGwire, who hit a then-record 70 homers in 1998 and followed with 65 the following year.
“It’s tough to hit a home run off your back,” Jenkins said. “In my era, Seaver, Gibson, Drysdale, Carlton, there were so many guys that would have probably knocked him on his butt. He wouldn’t have hit home runs the way he did in that era.” …
“You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced,” Jenkins wrote. “You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”
Fifty-one pitchers gave up a total of 57 homers to McGwire in what turned out to be their final major league seasons, according to STATS LLC, among them Bert Blyleven, Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Charlie Leibrandt and Donnie Moore.
Jenkins said in his letter that McGwire needs to apologize to several constituencies.
“You need to apologize to your family for depriving them of your presence as time goes on because you are likely going to die earlier than if you had never relied on andro to carry you to all your successes,” he said….
Jenkins dismissed McGwire’s assertion that he took steroids because of injuries and that they didn’t help improve his performance. He also didn’t think McGwire will make a very effective hitting coach.
“La Russa is his buddy,” Jenkins said. “That’s the only reason he got to be hitting coach. I’m not sure a home-run hitter can teach a good hitter, a contact hitter, how to play, how to hit. He swung for the fences most of the time. How you going to teach a guy that’s a .240 hitter to put it in play?” Yahoo! Sports.
Whether or not McGwire will prove to be an effective hitting coach, you do have to question the wisdom of injecting this circus into the Cardinals’ clubhouse. And there’s no doubt that LaRussa knew this was coming – his denials notwithstanding. The selection of McGwire was LaRussa’s hubris poking through, and it will come back to bite him. It already is.
If McGwire learns that a young player has decided to improve his physique by resorting to performance enhancing drugs, how exactly is McGwire going to respond? Is he going to discourage it? Obviously he should, but what position is he in to offer counsel and corrective advice?
Thank you to Fergie Jenkins for keeping the discussion going. It is useful, important, and deserved.