Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire, who infamously admitted to using performance-enhancing… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)
Big Mark McGwire has been strangely invisible to the media at Dodger Stadium this season. He’s never in the clubhouse during their time there. The coaches’ room has been oddly made off-limits to reporters.
So the only time he's seen is when the Dodgers hitting coach darts from the dugout to behind the batting cage every day, all business, all very serious. The only other time the local media really see him is on TV. Interviews have to be requested.
On the road, however, he is more accessible. And the Dodgers were on the road Monday when Major League Baseball announced its drug suspensions, and in all places, St. Louis, where McGwire had captured baseball’s imagination so dramatically in 1998 when he broke the single-season home run record.
McGwire did not admit to his use of steroids until he signed to become the Cardinals hitting coach in 2010. Each discussion of performance-enhancing drugs still seems painful to him, so you can understand his reluctance.
Yet, there he was in St. Louis on Monday, an obvious go-to guy for a reaction to Monday’s suspensions. He seemed to understand a certain obligation, even if it was not something he could warm to.
“I wish I was never a part of it,” McGwire told reporters. “Just get rid of it. If it's better to have bigger suspensions, then they're going to have to change it.
“I wish there were things in place earlier. They were put in in 2003 I think. I just really hope and pray that this is the end of it. Everybody, especially the players, don't want any more part of it, and I hope this is the end of it.”
If that sounds more hopeful and naïve than realistic, you can at least understand his longing. But McGwire’s turnaround is hopefully a sign of something else -- the majority of players themselves have turned the corner on steroid use.
When it first became a hot-button topic in the early ’90s, players seemed almost unified in their peculiar support of PED users. Players against steroids were too silent.
Now, the clean players seem to be taking control. They are the outspoken ones. They are demanding an even playing field and feel it’s coming. Harsher suspensions in the next collective bargaining agreement seem inevitable.
McGwire wouldn’t say if he felt the current suspensions were too callous or not, yet he was clearly pleased MLB was cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs.
“It doesn't matter what I think,” he said. “I think it matters what the players think, and from what I hear every day in the clubhouse, they're just happy it's coming to an end. They're happy that Major League Baseball is taking care of it and we can move forward. Hopefully this will be the end of it.”