By: John Molori
December 05, 2006

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McGwire bashers choose fiction over facts

When an athlete is perceived as having screwed up, it gives many sports media personalities a chance to jump on the old soapbox and wax poetic about morals and all that is supposed to be right in the world. Take the case of Mark McGwire.

The former Oakland A?s and St. Louis Cardinals star is eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year and many voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have taken great joy in spouting that they won ?t vote for McGwire because of the cloud of steroid suspicion that hangs over the slugger?s head.

AP sportswriter Tim Dahlberg wrote a column on November 28 depicting these writers as sentinels, guarding the integrity of the game. He wrote that the writers are looking for answers from McGwire who has sidestepped all pointed questions about possible steroid use from reporters and the United States Congress.

Dahlberg opened his utterly asinine column by literally lying about McGwire, writing that in an upcoming book, McGwire says that he dislikes Sammy Sosa and that he faked the emotions he expressed toward Roger Maris and the Maris family when he broke Maris? single season home run record in 1998.

Of course, there is no such book. Dahlberg was just attempting to be funny, and to further tarnish McGwire?s luster. The gist of his column is that McGwire does not belong in the Hall because of the steroid suspicion. And let?s make this clear. It is only suspicion.

Other than the words of Jose Canseco, expressed largely to sell books, there is no documentation or hard proof that McGwire ever took steroids. McGwire has admitted to using Androstenetrione or Andro, a substance that at the time of McGwire?s use, was 100% legal in baseball.

Those who wish to indict McGwire point to his growth in muscle and mass from his rookie year of 1986 to his home run heyday of the late 1990s.

Again, there is no proof that steroids, as opposed to intense training combined with legal supplements, caused that growth, but that is the perception. The fact that McGwire slugged 49 home runs as a ?skinny? second year player is apparently immaterial.

The other evidence that the anti-McGwire camp points to is his Harpo Marx impression at the infamous congressional hearings on steroids in 2005. McGwire chose to remain mum on any and all questions regarding steroid use.

Do I wish he had made a confession or denial? Sure, but the fact is that he was under no obligation to do so. He admitted to nothing. Here are some more facts.

In 16 seasons, McGwire hit 583 home runs and drove in 1596 runs. His career slugging percentage was .588 and had a career fielding average of .992. He was a Rookie of the Year, three-time Silver Slugger and led his league in on base percentage twice, OPS twice, slugging four times, home runs four times and at-bats per home run seven times.

Those are facts. Now back to the idiocy of Tim Dahlberg. In his column, Dahlberg writes that ?people? are confused as to how McGwire got so big and hit 70 home runs in 1998 and that ?people? are confused about why McGwire said nothing at the hearings.

Dahlberg says that ?people? are confused about why McGwire has not fulfilled his promise of becoming a spokesman for the dangers of drug use and that ?people? are confused about how McGwire can even be on the Hall of Fame ballot.

First of all, who are these ?people?? Once again, a member of the almighty media deigns himself qualified to speak for the masses.

Dahlberg is the one who is confused, so let me answer his feeble questions. According to what we know, McGwire got big by working out and taking legal supplements. He hit 70 home runs because he was a hell of a home run hitter.

As for McGwire becoming an anti-drug crusader, that would be great, but given the overwhelming hatred and animosity that most of the press has generated toward him, I don?t blame him for remaining aloof.

Why is McGwire on the ballot? Well, Tim, according to the facts, he is eligible five years after retiring.

These answers are based on facts, on what we know, not on what we think, what we are guessing or what we feel. Dahlberg?s entire column is based on speculation. It?s about as valuable as the bird droppings that I whisked off my windshield this morning.

What?s worse is that according to an AP poll of 150 voting writers, of whom 125 answered, Dahlberg reports that 3 out of every 4 voters won?t vote for McGwire based on speculation.

Luckily, Dahlberg says that there are 575 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Maybe some of those scribes will actually cast a vote based on the facts, on McGwire?s credentials as a player.

Voting writers can do whatever they want with their votes, and that is dangerous. Yes, they have earned the privilege to vote, but they are required to vote based on fact, not on hearsay or opinion.

There is no proof, no hard evidence and no admission that Mark McGwire ever used steroids. The likes of Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro have admitted to using steroids, albeit unknowingly.

McGwire has made no such statement. If a writer excludes McGwire from the Hall based on speculation, that writer is as guilty and as dirty as he or she thinks McGwire is.

Dahlberg quotes voter Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News as saying, ?gHe (McGwire) doesn't want to talk about the past? Then I don't want to consider his past."

Simply put, McCoy is irresponsible and should not be allowed to vote. He has no right to make such judgments. This country affords its citizens the right to say nothing. Who the hell is Hal McCoy to hold that right against McGwire?

In the column, Dahlberg paints the voting writers as some lofty legion of super heroes ?who are charged with protecting the legacy of the game, and they take their responsibilities quite seriously.? Do they?

The Hall of Fame is speckled with such beacons of integrity as Ty Cobb, an avowed racist, Babe Ruth, whose off field womanizing and carousing would make John Matuszak blush and Ferguson Jenkins, convicted of narcotics (cocaine, hashish and marijuana) possession in Canada in 1980.

Why are these men in the Hall of Fame? Because the pertinent facts said that they were great baseball players despite their personal shortcomings. The ills of these players were factual and documented, yet they still were inducted. Why should McGwire be ostracized based on mere conjecture?

In an effort to further paint McGwire as a selfish monster, Dahlberg says that McGwire owes the fans a statement regarding steroid use.

?McGwire became a very wealthy man playing baseball, and it wasn't just because some team owner gave him his millions,?h Dahlberg writes. ?That money came from fans who bought tickets, fans who scraped together enough money to bring their kids to the game to watch him play.?

That statement is true, but McGwire does not owe any fan an admission or denial. He owes the fans a sincere effort on the playing field. He owes fans his undivided dedication to the game and he owes fans his best effort to be a good role model.

By all factual accounts, McGwire was a dogged competitor, a spectacular performer and a great father to his son. Regarding the fans, it seems to me that he is paid in full.

Dahlberg writes, ?If he (McGwire) didn't do anything wrong, he should have taken the opportunity while under oath before Congress to say so. He didn't, so now those fans and writers simply - and rightfully so - assume the worst. ?

This clinches Dahlberg?s first class ticket to Stupidville. He readily admits that McGwire may not have done anything wrong and that writers are assuming that he took steroids. I am not saying that all voting writers agree with Dahlberg, but this line of thought is frightening.

A voter cannot decide on something as important as the Hall of Fame based on an assumption. In the context of baseball, that would be criminal. I don? t care if McGwire?s body ballooned from Olive Oyl to Fat Albert, unless there is factual proof that he cheated by using steroids, the writers cannot use perceived guilt as a basis.

I am sure that there are many writers out there who do not let speculation cloud their judgments, but there are also far too many Tim Dahlberg?s and Hal McCoy?s who choose to let personal bias override the facts.

Snubbing McGwire because he struck out too much or because of his low career batting average is a voter?s right. Snubbing McGwire because of unproven steroid use is an abuse of that right.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly,, Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life,,,,, and Email John at M[email protected]