Pearlman on McGwire

Jeff Pearlman brings the Mark McGwire sanctimony:

Worst of all, however, McGwire was a baseball thief. At the very moment his 341-foot home run landed behind the outfield fence, he robbed Roger Maris of the most important record in professional sports. He robbed the Maris family of future income from 61-related merchandising and events. He robbed the Hall of Fame — which swooped up McGwire memorabilia as if it were free Twinkies — of its credibility, he robbed those fans who spent hundreds of dollars for a ticket in order to witness history and he robbed thousands upon thousands of kids of a seemingly genuine role model.

If the baseball record book is the sport’s Holy Bible, than McGwire is a 3-year old armed with a permanent marker. The damage is not merely done — it is un-erasable. (Of course, along by such analogous measures, Barry Bonds is a 3-year-old with a permanent marker, a torch and a vat of gasoline).

Pearlman often writes how disgusted he is with what baseball has become. I can’t help but think that if he hadn’t had such a ridiculously idealistic notion of what it was in the first place, he never would have crashed so hard to begin with.

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Comments

  1. YankeesfanLen said...

    Having just finished “True Compass” I can state that both Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds are just misunderstood pillars of baseball, just a little misunderstood that 511 pages can easily explain.
    But I’m too bored to hear it again, so me and ARod will concentrate on the here and now.

  2. Matt M said...

    Wait, you mean baseball wasn’t more pure when only white guys were allowed to play and gamblers could buy the World Series?

  3. MikeLavalliereDiet said...

    “I can’t help but think that if he hadn’t had such a ridiculously idealistic notion of what it was in the first place, he never would have crashed so hard to begin with.” Perfectly said.

    The use of the Bible as an analog is indicative of the flawed thinking of people like Pearlman. The Bible was written a long time ago and is basically unchanged after the “sequel” (ignoring for the moment different versions of the text).

    The baseball record book is a dynamic entity.  If was not set in stone, waiting to be marred by the bad, bad men of the present.  The “the past was awesome and must be protected from progress” mindset drives me nuts.  Not to mention the “permanent marker marks” left by things like segregation, spitballers in the hall of fame and rampant amphetamine use.

  4. Mike H said...

    I simply do not understand what all the fuss is over McGwire.  At no time, proven or suspected has anyone shown that he did anything illegal.
    He did what others did, that was considered state of the art supplemental diet and training aid.

    He hit more home runs in less time than anyone in the history of the game. (my guess not proven).

    I paid to watch him play and I’ll pay to watch him coach. 

    While I will never dismiss the 61 home runs hit by Maris as being less than a grand record of it’s time, the year McGwire and Sosa both went over 60 was an incredible baseball feat.  Then to have Bonds do it again shows that the record was meant to be broken.

  5. Ted said...

    I was at Busch when McGwire hit 60 and then 66 to take the lead back from Sosa. Those were some of the best games I have ever been too.

    McGwire did not rob me of anything. The Cardinals were awful that season and yet I had to watch every game because he was entertainment, which is what baseball is all about anyway.

  6. Simon DelMonte said...

    I have one word: Andro.  We knew about the Andro when the great home run chase was going on.  And we all pretty much dismissed it.  We knew what he was when we loved him.  We didn’t care.

    Maybe we were all idiots back in ‘98.  But McGwire and Sosa and MLB gave us what we wanted: dingers, and lots of ‘em.  McGwire took nothing from us that we didn’t give willingly.

    Never mind that part of baseball’s problem these days is that the record book is treated like it’s sacred.  It’s just a game, Mr. Pearlman.

  7. MikeLavalliereDiet said...

    Another problem is that I don’t see the jump from preventing the Maris family from selling “61” coffee mugs to defacing holy texts.  I understand hyperbole, but Pearlman is a sloppy writer.

  8. Michael said...

    Jeff Pearlman’s only regret is that the guy who called Selena Roberts didn’t call him.

    Dude makes his living being a mean-spirited ass.

  9. Erik said...

    It does amaze me how many people who report on baseball really don’t enjoy it at all. I mean, your job is to follow the goings-on of a sport … and you hate doing it? I mean, not that I’m complaining, but to dislike your job so much as to try publicity suck the joy other people might get out of it is downright deplorable.

  10. DonCoburleone said...

    I can say now that I don’t care what McGwire did while he played, but to be honest when he went in front of congress and made an ass of himself a little piece of my baseball soul died that day.  Big Mac (and Canseco) were the reasons I started watching baseball in the first place (I was 7 in ‘89, that World Series is my oldest memory of baseball). 

    But, to be as old as I am now (or to be Pearlman’s age) and still have this view of the game it tells me that he never really liked baseball all that much to begin with.

  11. DonCoburleone said...

    Oh and by the way, i seriously doubt that ANDRO was the only thing McGwire was doing.  Big Mac’s brother is (and has been) a personal trainer here in SoCal for 20+ years, and, uh, yeah ANDRO is not the only thing that guys associated with.  Mac is still one of my all-time favorite players, but this assumption that all he ever did was ANDRO is extremely naive, if not ignorant.

  12. Matt Aux said...

    That first line made me immediately imagine McGwire wearing a Hamburgler outfit while laughing hysterically as he raids the Rawlings factory.

  13. michael standish said...

    Anyone with the slightest shred of decency would alert Jeff Pearlman to the fact that a moronic psychopath has been signing his name to some deeply weird comments.

  14. Mike F said...

    If we are going to start talking about the sanctity of baseball records, lets call out Misters Ruth, Maris and Aaron for robbing Ned Williams (27 Homeruns in 1884) and Roger Connor (196 from 1880-97) of their records with a league approved! juiced baseball.

    I mean if it’s a Holy Bible then any change is evil.

  15. kendynamo said...

    i think its pretty obvious that steroids made baseball more exciting.  i understand in the long run why you want to remove them from the game but but people like mcgwire et al did not immoral except sacrifice their health to entertain sports fans.  oh boo hoo, roger maris’ family doesnt get moeny off the number 61?  so what makes roger maris’ family so special?  and where does perelman draw the line anyway?  what if maris drank, smoked tobacco and cursed and cheated on his wife? is that better or worse than taking HGH?

  16. Grant said...

    Wait. Can we get together on which broken record was more sacred? I thought it was Aaron’s record, and that Bonds was the defiler. Now I’m hearing that it was Maris’ and McGwire was the ruiner.

    Let’s call Cy Young’s wins the most sacred record. That’ll never get broken.

  17. Chipmaker said...

    When Pearlman decides to, effectively, turn his gorge onto his own fraternity, the writers who have locker room access, see the players’ physiques, pick up some of the buzz, made jokes with players like Piazza about exactly what he was doing, were staring a Woodward-Bernstein class Pulitzer for sports writing in the face, and did NOTHING about it, then he might write something worth reading.

    There’s plenty of mud to be slung onto all parties, and one party is still without stain.

    I won’t click through to the original column.

  18. Funzo said...

    @Grant: For me, it’s Mark Reynolds’ single-season strikeout record. Curse that Mark Reynolds for breaking it!

  19. yg bluig said...

    @ Mike H, “I paid to watch him play and I’ll pay to watch him coach. ”

    Dude, you’ll pay money to go to the park to watch him be a batting coach? Really? What does a batting coach do during the game that is worth paying to see. All you’ll be able to see from the stands is him spitting sunflower seeds and nodding approvingly to everything LaRussa says.

    Actually, McGwire’s contributions at that Congressional hearing are best remembered but of all the people there, he was actually the most ethical one there. He basically took the 5th Amendment and refused to incriminate himself. It is a right. If they don’t have any evidence against you, you don’t have to supply it for them.
    Palmiro lied (and was later caught), Sosa pretended he didn’t speak English, and Schilling retracted earlier comments.

    If the Cards want to hire McGwire to be a hitting coach, I don’t see it as a slap in the face of the honorable men, past and present, who have served in that capacity.

  20. DSFC said...

    Ahhhhh, the good ol’ days, when the alltime hit king was a violent, racist lunatic rather than a pathetic degenerate gambler.

  21. kilroy1234 said...

    Perlman’s rantings aside, the problem with steroids in the game is that it takes average players like McGuire and turns them into superstars. Unlike other great athletes, his ‘greatness’ came after age 30. Comparing his 30 and under stats to his 31 and over stats, he hit an additional 165 HR (238 vs 403) in only 40 additional AB (3342 vs 3385). He never had an OPS over 1.000 for a 100+ game season until age 31 & then only had 1 season under 1.000 after that.

    The top 5 HR list for age 31 and after highlights the issue. They are: 1) Barry Bonds 2) Babe Ruth 3)Hank Aaron 4)Rafael Palmeiro 5) Mark McGuire. The 2 HR kings and 3 roid boys. Babe started as a pitcher and didn’t get 500 PA until 24. Aaron is number 7 on the 31 and under list and 31 is the midpoint of his career. As you would expect of a normal athlete he hit more HR when younger than older (398 vs 389).

    Illegal or not roids is still cheating because it gives the player an artificial advantage over non-roided players. If you reward the roid cheaters then you need to let in Pete Rose and any other player that has been kept out of the HOF for cheating.

  22. sansho1 said...

    Pearlman should be showing up any time now to defend himself.  A few years ago on my 25-hits-per-day blog I criticized something he wrote, and he took the time to fire off a dismissive comment.  Man’s a self-Googler.

  23. kilroy1234 said...

    Alex K – cheating is defined as using artificial means to influence the outcome of the game or a performance by either artificially improving your performance or weakening your opponents. This
    causes fans to question the integrity of the game/performance because it is impossible to tell if same result would occur without the cheating. Since fans pay to see athletes perform, not cheaters cheat, if this goes on long enough they lose interest and stop watching/attending the game.

    Gambling on baseball is banned for the same reason. The outcome of the game is determined via artificial means and fans can’t tell if the performance is real or the game is fixed.

    The game is supposed be about who is the best athlete, not who has the best pharmacist or bookie. The only difference between Rose and McGuire is that Rose worked under a commission, Giamatti, who cared deeply about the integrity of the game and enforcing standards while McGuire worked under Selig who doesn’t seem to care much about anything but making $.

  24. Alex K said...

    Gambling and steroids are not the same thing.

    Trying to fix the outcome of the game and taking substances that may or may not help your performance will never be equal.

  25. kilroy1234 said...

    Gambling and steroids are the same issue.

    Nobody ever accused Rose of fixing a game, simply betting on the game. However, once the betting is there people question if the game has been fixed.

    Once roids are in everyone questions who is taking them and who isn’t, whose performance is real and whose is chemically induced. Since when have roids NOT improved a performance? There is no question that performance enhancing drugs significantly enhance performance. McGuire doesn’t do roids and he simply becomes another guy with a great rookie year that never panned out.

    Again the game is supposed be about the best athletes, not the best pharmacist.

  26. Alex K said...

    Are spit balls and scuff balls the same as gambling? They are also trying to gain an advantage.

    Can you name every player that took PED’s? How do you know if they improved their performance? I’m not saying that steroids do nothing, I’m just not going to paint every steroid user with the same brush.

  27. MJ said...

    McGuire doesn’t do roids and he simply becomes another guy with a great rookie year that never panned out.

    You really need to stop alluding to things like this, as you couldn’t be more wrong.  Here are his stats.  Career 162 OPS+ hitter, only two years below 129 and one was his last year.  The guy was a great hitter with a triple slash of .263/.394/.588. 

    Unless you are assuming he took steroids for his entire career, of which there is no proof, stop saying that he was an average hitter.

  28. opie said...

    so, pearlman writes a book about what a hoot the drug taking, cheating,  violent, drunken ‘86 Mets were…a celebration, really.

    and, he writes a book about what a cheating cocksucker barry bonds is/was…

    and, now, he’s down on Mac.

    i don’t find a continuous thread of well considered, rational opinion tying the three of these topics together.  is it possible that pearlman’s one of those guys who like to hear himself talk so much that it really doesn’t occur to him that reflection’s a necessary thing…when you write for a living…so that you’re presenting some sort of coherent viewpoint?

    without the coherent, consistant viewpoint…the writing is a mush of addled bullshit.

    could pearlman not know this?

  29. kilroy1234 said...

    MJ – please go back and read my previous post about pre age 30 and post age 30 performance. You can’t use his roid numbers to justify he was great player with or without roids. His post age 30 numbers are significantly better than his under 30 numbers which is a pretty clear sign of performance enhancing drugs since without them athlete’s performance declines with age.

    If you use his career PA and average his age 30 & under (prime of an athlete’s career) performance numbers to calculate non-roid career numbers you get a line of 0.258/0.372/0.524 with only 455 HR. His numbers would match up pretty closely to Fred McGriff and he would move from #8 on the all time HR list to #33. Respectable numbers but not HOF numbers. My ‘never panned out’ statement was misleading. What I meant was he would be an above average player, but not an all time great player.

    Alex – yes, cheating is the same as gambling, that is why both are illegal and why players get fined for that activity. As for who uses PEDs, my posts are rather clear. Anyone defies the effects of aging and starts posting consistently improved numbers year over year after age 30 is almost certainly using PED.

  30. MJ said...

    MJ – please go back and read my previous post about pre age 30 and post age 30 performance. You can’t use his roid numbers to justify he was great player with or without roids. His post age 30 numbers are significantly better than his under 30 numbers which is a pretty clear sign of performance enhancing drugs since without them athlete’s performance declines with age.

    If you use his career PA and average his age 30 & under (prime of an athlete’s career) performance numbers to calculate non-roid career numbers you get a line of 0.258/0.372/0.524 with only 455 HR. His numbers would match up pretty closely to Fred McGriff and he would move from #8 on the all time HR list to #33. Respectable numbers but not HOF numbers. My ‘never panned out’ statement was misleading. What I meant was he would be an above average player, but not an all time great player.

    This is a false setup because you don’t know definitively when he started taking steroids.  You can’t just say everything after age 30 = roided years b/c (wrongly) every athlete performs worse after age 30. 

    The following athletes all had fantastic seasons after age 30, some better than pre-30 seasons, did they all take steroids?
    [fake edit:  can’t post links to B-ref since the server thinks i’m spamming]
    Killebrew, Aaron, Randy Johnson and McCovey are all good examples.

  31. Kilroy1234 said...

    MJ –

    Wonderful job finding excellent examples to prove my point. These numbers are the averages for ba/obp/slg/ops for each player from the age they started playing thru age 30 and from age 31 thru their last year (B-ref has some cool functionality that made this very easy)

    Killebrew:
    30 & before: 0.263/0.371/0.535/0.906
    31 & after   : 0.247/0.381/0.478/0.859

    Aaron:
    30 & before: 0.320/0.376/0.567/0.943
    31 & after   : 0.288/0.371/0.540/0.912

    McCovey:
    30 & before: 0.278/0.370/0.537/0.907
    31 & after   : 0.262/0.378/0.494/0.872

    McGuire:
    30 & before: 0.250/0.362/0.507/0.869
    31 & after   :0.278/0.430/0.683/1.113

    Gee, wonder which of the above players used roids?

    I am not saying that a player cannot have a great season or 2 after age 30, of course they can. But human beings get weaker as they get older so power numbers will reduce as a player ages. That is why Killebrew’s, Aaron’s, and McCovey’s power numbers are significantly lower after than 30 than before. NONE of them shows the almost 30% improvement in OPS & 35% improvement in SLG after age 30.

  32. Diesel said...

    @ Kilroy

    Anyone defies the effects of aging and starts posting consistently improved numbers year over year after age 30 is almost certainly using PED.

    This statement simply cannot be made with any authority or sincerity, because it’s completely unfalsifiable. If you wish to be taken seriously, it’s best not to make outlandish general statements such as that (I’m not saying this as an insult so much as a person who once almost daily made statements like these about baseball, and then realized that stating incorrect things unequivocally is much worse than being wrong in the first place).

    Let’s say that the odds of a player being better after his 30th birthday is 90:10 against. Even with those incredible, over-the-top odds, 10 percent of players should experience a spike in performance in their 30s. And considering most of the people you’d incriminate with your statement are also among the best players in baseball (or were at the time), it would follow that they’re prime candidates to be a part of that 10 percent.

    Age and growth curves are based on massive samples and indicate a trend, not law. Not only do individual data points three or four (or more) standard deviations from the mean occur naturally and frequently, they MUST occur, or the mean would be lower.

    This isn’t to say no one was using PEDs. It’s just to say that your method of rooting them out is as scientific as saying only witches float.

  33. kilroy1234 said...

    Diesel – I found a variety of great players, with exceptional careers after 30, that prove my point. Let me know when you find a single person that played more than 1 or 2 years after 30 that proves yours. Let me know how many players you find that improve their power number by 30%+ as they get older.

    Alex – all are forms of cheating, but obviously doctoring the ball is less important. Is your point that steroids isn’t cheating?

  34. Diesel said...

    My familiarity with the wisdom of Oscar Wilde prevents me from engaging you further. I encourage you to read him as well, Kilroy.

  35. Alex K said...

    The 1919 Black Sox called, they want to explain the impact on the outcome that gambling can have.

    To me, steroids are the same as doctoring the ball. They give you whatever advantage they can, but they won’t turn anyone into a better baseball player. Maybe you will hit the ball further, and throw a little harder but they will not enhance skill. Steroids are not going to turn Gabe Kapler into Mickey Mantle. 

    It seems clear that neither on of us is going to change their minds on the subject. I think it’s time to say nice discussion, and we need to agree to disagree.

  36. kilroy1234 said...

    Diesel – I’m glad you found my argument convincing, hopefully you didn’t find it vulgar.

    Alex K – Why is gambling worse than steroids? Betting on a game has no impact on the outcome. Steroid use obviously has an impact on the games, in the favor of the cheater.

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