You may have tried to forget that Mark McGwire will be returning to Major League Baseball as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. He's been recruited by Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa, who coached McGuire on both the Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics, to try to help teach the team the best practices of hitting where the ideal location to stick needles is.
McGwire, you may recall, broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in a memorable 1998 battle with Sammy Sosa. When Barry Bonds broke that record just a few years later, alarm bells started ringing in rational heads that maybe something wasn't quite legitimate here. A congressional hearing was held on the subject, and McGwire, among others, pretty much unanimously gave embarrassing testimonies that shamed themselves and the sport.
We haven't heard or seen much from McGwire since 2001. We really haven't even gotten many comments from him about his new hitting coach gig. But something just rubs me the wrong way about the poster boy for performance enhancing drugs getting a job to rub elbows with baseball's greatest hitter - the one pretty much everyone is counting on to break all the records he can, do so cleanly, and restore some credibility to the game.
On top of this, Tony La Russa had another great idea, which was reported on after this interview with Contra Costa Times: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4804082.
The highlight, of course, is this gem of a plan:
"If we're in contention, we'll put him on the roster Aug. 31. It's a nice little dream," said La Russa, who's managed the perennially contending Cardinals since leaving the A's after the 1995 season.
"Is it likely? Probably not. I don't think it's a zero possibility. The point is, you'll see him in spring training. He won't be leaning on the batting cage chatting it up. He'll work his (butt) off, and hitters will be thrilled he's there helping them."
Whatever the likelihood is, this just seems like a monumentally terrible idea to even bring up. Let one of the main faces of all that's wrong with sports make a guest cameo in a pennant race and playoff appearance as opposed to a hard-working player who's been on the field helping the team win the rest of the year? And if McGwire actually hits a couple of dingers along the way, does no one think this might raise a few eyebrows about McGwire and what exactly he's bringing to the team?
Sigh. Maybe I'm overreacting. I just don't want to see the game I love get knocked back another ten steps as it still struggles to take one step forward.
Sure, for all we know half of the Major League teams are made up of players still using steroids and HGH, and for all we know the entire sports world is still full of them. Eliminating PED's is a long process, and doing so will take more than stricter testing and stronger suspensions, it will take an entire change in the athletic culture. And now we're telling a player who, for all intents and purposes, only reached this massive level of stardom due to the shortcuts he took, that he'd be welcome right back to the forefront?
Forget the marketing and ticket sales in St. Louis. The only thing La Russa's "dream" has a huge potential to do is to reinforce the idea that the best way to make it big in sports is by cheating.