So now it’s OK to talk about the past? Just because Mark McGwire wants to get back into baseball? Fine. Most of us should have no problem forgiving.
But we’ll need some more time to forget that he was a principal actor in one of the biggest frauds perpetrated on baseball in the 160 or so years it’s been played. And that McGwire lied repeatedly about which performance-enhancing drugs he used and when, then crawled under a rock the moment he was done playing, leaving behind a cast of equally cartoonish cheaters to take the heat. "I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come,” McGwire said Monday in a statement almost certainly scripted by a public-relations firm. "It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. … "I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake,” he added. "I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” Fine. Now all that’s left for him to do is disown the counterfeit home-run titles, including the 1998 crown he claimed after outlasting Sammy Sosa, toppling Roger Maris’ venerated single-season mark and accepting credit for bringing disillusioned fans back to the ballpark in the wake of a devastating strike four years earlier. Let’s be clear: McGwire and all those similarly juiced sluggers didn’t "save” baseball, and they didn’t do the game any favors over the long haul. All they did was shame it. "After all this time, I want to come clean,” McGwire’s statement said. "I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it. I’ll do that, and then I just want to help my team.” That "obligation” would sound a lot more noble if it wasn’t tied to the paycheck he’ll be drawing from the St. Louis Cardinals to serve as their hitting coach. It’s akin to fellow "Bash Brother” and former Oakland Athletics teammate Jose Canseco finally coming clean — ratting out the very same ballplayers he once helped get artificially big — because he had a book to sell. The difference is that Canseco, always bombastic but still not discredited, reveled in his role as one of the architects of the supersized era. During that now-infamous congressional hearing in March 2005, when he and McGwire joined three other players and a handful of major league baseball executives called to testify about steroid use, Canseco was the only one who owned up. "The most effective thing right now is we’ve got to admit to certain things we’ve done,” Canseco said at the time.