Watching ESPN’s SportCenter for the first time in a long time, I was surprised to see Mark McGwire holding a mike and laughing it up with a baseball analyst. The emotion and setting reminded me of the farcical summer of 1998.
That year, ESPN’s coverage of the home run chase never hinted that something might be amiss. They were part of the baseball machine drawing monster ratings as Americans checked in to see who hit a home run on Baseball Tonight. Why should they, a news gathering organization and provider of content, question something that was so good for business?
Integrity is one reason. Even after that summer and people started to question baseball players accomplishments as being legitimate, ESPN and their baseball experts stuck to their guns and toed the baseball line: there’s no drug issue in baseball.
Turns out they were wrong. Whether they were wrong intentionally is another issue, but with the Mitchell Report, Game of Shadows and other revelations emerging that many players were cheating (including McGwire), ESPN then turned a different tune.
With that about face, ESPN should just cover McGwire returning to baseball as the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and move on. Instead, he’s being buddy-buddy with the analysts like the good old days. There’s a simple reason for this: he wants to get back in the good graces of baseball and possibly end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It should also be questioned whether McGwire is even qualified to be a hitting coach. He was known as a home run hitter with a less than mediocre average. His home run strength came from PEDs. It doesn’t appear to be a good fit.
McGwire's brother has even come out and said that Big Mac used PEDs to get bigger according to SI.com. This would contradict his previous explanation to heal from injury why he cheated the game.
McGwire can chum it up with ESPN as much as he wants, but we know the real Mark McGwire and he’s not that guy on ESPN.