Discussion

McGwire's brother about as bad as it gets

Updated: January 23, 2009, 4:10 PM ET
By Buster Olney
A candidate for least interesting story of the year so far, for me, is word that Mark McGwire's brother, Jay, has circulated a book proposal in which the brother says the former slugger used steroids.

I think the overwhelmingly one-sided public opinion on whether or not McGwire took steroids was cemented long ago, shaped largely by his refusal to testify about the issue before Congress on March 17, 2005. And now, four years later … NEWSFLASH: BROTHER SAYS MCGWIRE USED STEROIDS.

What's next?

NEWSFLASH, 2009: FORMER TEAMMATE CLAIMS NOLAN RYAN OCCASIONALLY DRILLED HITTERS INTENTIONALLY.

NEWSFLASH, 2009: NEW BOOK REVEALS RIPKEN HAD SERIOUS WORK ETHIC.

NEWSFLASH, 2009: FORMER CLUBHOUSE KID COMES OUT ON EVE OF HALL OF FAME INDUCTION AND SAYS RICKEY HENDERSON OFTEN SPEAKS OF HIMSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON.

This is almost worse than rubbernecking, trying to catch a glimpse of a wreck's aftermath. This is almost like pulling off to the side of the road to hang out and take digital shots of the cleanup.

The McGwire saga is almost entirely played out. He made his choices, including his decision to not testify openly at the congressional hearing March 17, 2005. For that, he will never get in the Hall of Fame, because his decisions that day cast him into an inescapable catch-22.

If he says nothing, he'll probably continue to receive a vote total in the 25 percent range, as he has in his first three years on the Hall of Fame ballot. On the other hand, if he were to come out and admit that he used steroids, then I suspect about 40-50 percent of the writers would never vote for an acknowledged steroid user.

And it's not absolutely clear, by the way, that McGwire really even spends his days fretting about all that. He certainly understands by now that he's been convicted in the court of public opinion, and the fact that his brother is indicating that McGwire used steroids doesn't change any of that; all it does is create a media squall that will go away in a few days, until the next McGwire-related tidbit drifts out from somebody trying to make a few bucks.

A lot of columnists are writing that he should come out and come clean and be open, for the sake of garnering forgiveness, for the sake of his Hall of Fame chances. If McGwire asked for my advice (and he wouldn't), I'd tell him that there would be only two reasons he might want to speak out.

No. 1: He should open up if he is absolutely devoted to the idea of following up on his words from the March 2005 hearing and is willing to throw his whole heart and soul into the fight against steroid use. If this is something for which he does not have a deep passion, well, any suggestion from him that he wants to help would come off as insincere, a weak effort to win a few public-relations points in a battle he will never win.

Most importantly, No. 2: McGwire should talk about it if he feels it's important for the sake of his own children.

Several years ago, I worked on a piece on Ken Caminiti, and in the midst of a discussion about Caminiti with Wally Joyner, I asked Joyner benignly about whether he had spoken to his late teammate about steroids. And during that conversation, Joyner told me that he had asked Caminiti to get steroids for him, and that he had used them very briefly: He took two pills before flushing the rest down a toilet.

What Joyner said that day was that he wanted the record straight for the sake of his daughters: He did not want somebody coming out after the fact and making accusations, leaving Joyner to explain himself to his children. Wally wasn't selling a book when he talked to me. He just wanted, above all else, to do the right thing as a parent.

Maybe McGwire doesn't need that. Maybe he's settled the whole issue with his kids. Maybe all the McGwires, except for the brother, have moved on.

Maybe it's time the rest of us do, too.

Richard Justice feels this family squabble should never have gone public.

McGwire has been working out with Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby.


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