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Jeff Pearlman Vs. Mark McGwire

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If I had to name the most pompous, self-righteous and judgmental mainstream sportswriter around it would probably be Jeff Pearlman. Pearlman is also one of the most talented sportswriters around. His pieces at Sports Illustrated and his personal blog are daily must-reads, no matter how much I disagree and am annoyed with what he is writing. Yesterday's Pearlman article at about Mark McGwire being hired as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach falls into the "extremely annoying" category. He gripes about the hiring, on the grounds that McGwire is a dirty cheater who screwed over Roger Maris and the Maris family. A few snippets:

As I sit here at my computer, dumbfounded by the St. Louis Cardinals' numbingly inane decision to hire McGwire as the team's new hitting coach, I think back to Maris. Actually, I really think back to September 8, 1998, when McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season at Busch Stadium, then immediately walked toward the stands to engulf Maris' family in an enormous bear hug. Later, with tears streaming down his cheeks, McGwire told the media how, earlier in the day, he had held the bat Maris used when he set the old mark.

Worst of all, however, McGwire was a baseball thief. At the very moment his 341-foot home run landed behind the outfield fence, he robbed Roger Maris of the most important record in professional sports. He robbed the Maris family of future income from 61-related merchandising and events.

We've read/heard stories like this a hundred times before from high priest moralizers like Bill Plaschke, Joel Sherman and Jayson Stark. Interchange McGwire with Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens and we get the same tale: "The PED users of the last 20 years ruined the game, a game so pure and so innocent until the juiced era." The mainstream media led the prosecution of the PED users. Unfortunately the average baseball fan is too dumb to form his/her own opinion on most topics and takes cues from these writers. That's why we hear "you did steroids!" chants at baseball games when Manny Ramirez bats. 

I'm pretty sure one day the general public will wake up and realize the ruse that was pulled by the steroid era sportswriters. Until that day, I'll be thankful we have the likes of Bill James, Rob Neyer and Tom Tango to provide some relevant, non-Pearlman type insight on the PED topic. Good luck, Mark McGwire. Hopefully you can do your job without being hassled by athlete-hating jock sniffers still demanding "hard answers" about your Andro usage 11 years ago.

It seems to me that, with the passage of time, more people will come to understand that the commissioner's periodic spasms of self-righteousness do not constitute baseball law. It seems to me that the argument that it is cheating must ultimately collapse under the weight of carrying this great contradiction-that 80% of the players are cheating against the other 20% by violating some "rule" to which they never consented, which was never included in the rule books, and which for which there was no enforcement procedure. History is simply not going to see it that way.

Maybe the cheaters were wrong; that's the direction in which I lean, probably because I've got a streak of the moralist in me. But I will not sit idly while great athletes looking for an edge -- not all that different from the many generations before them -- are demonized by the high priests of baseball opinion. I will not.

We care about this less than the players do.  As I keep saying, this is a workplace issue, a personal issue.  If players have a problem with it, they have to deal with it as a union.  And if they can’t, that means the majority of the players doesn’t want to deal with it.  We as fans can’t expect more from players than they themselves expect from each other.  And fans respond with their feet and wallet by giving money to MLB.  It’s that simple.