Fergie would’ve sung Big Mac sweet chin music

22 01 2010

Aren’t sneering old men fun? I’m convinced they provide half the world’s humor, and I write that with all due respect since my parents taught me to treat elders with appreciation — but I’m going to make an exception this time.

Ferguson Jenkins is the latest old-timer to take a shot at Mark McGwire’s steroid use, perhaps momentarily opting for selective memory and forgetting that many players of his era took amphetimines a.k.a. greenies to stave off the wear and tear of a baseball season.

In this ESPN.com article, Fergie, who used an open letter to the Associated Press to air his feelings, inferred that McGwire cheated the careers of pitchers by doping. This paragraph from the story effectively sums up Jenkins’ rationale:

“You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced,” Jenkins wrote. “You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”

Who wants to let Fergie know that pitchers also sampled in the finest performance-enhancing drugs on the market during Big Mac’s career? In fact, I ran through the pitchers identified on the Mitchell Report as having been linked to PEDs, then cross-checked their careers against McGwire through his home run log on his baseball-reference.com player profile.

It turns out that McGwire slammed 16 home runs off nine pitchers who were linked to taking PEDs. Here’s the list:

  • Ron Villone – 5 HR (in 15 AB!)
  • Ricky Bones – 2
  • Roger Clemens – 2
  • Andy Pettitte – 2
  • Jason Christiansen – 1
  • Matt Herges – 1
  • Darren Holmes – 1
  • Jim Parque – 1
  • Steve Woodard – 1

To be fair, we can’t be sure if the pitchers were on the juice at the time they surrendered these home runs to McGwire, but since when are we sympathetic to guys who cheated our holy game?

I get tired of PED-related arguments based around the broken sanctity of the game. Baseball, as much as we like to joke about it, is not a religion. There is nothing holy about it. Perhaps at one point in its history, baseball was a truly American endeavor, one of the cultural backbones of our country. But that ship sailed a long time ago. I’d argue baseball and America haven’t truly been in harmony for at least 50 years, a point of time in which race relations, assassinations, the Cold War and the Vietnam War began to break some of the innocence our country built in the ’50s.

Baseball wasn’t ruined by steroid abusers. It was just modified for a time until Major League Baseball’s front office accepted the fact that public pressure — and Congress — would force them to deal with the steroid suspicions they swept under an apparently very large rug.

Cry as they might, Jenkins and any other PED critic miss the point when they verbally attack one player. They neglect to mention that during that “unholy” era, it was more commonplace than we realize for juiced-up players to directly compete against one another.

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