The one player who benefits from this week's admission from Alex Rodriguez that he used steroids from 2001-2003 has to be Mark McGwire. It won't be too long that he'll just be seen as part of the crowd. Eventually baseball Hall of Fame voters are going to have to just ignore everyone from the 1990s except Maddux or vote the steroid guys in.
In fact, McGwire at this point should just come out and admit he used steroids (if he did|STAR|) and try to spin it that he's no worse than the rest of the bums and maybe even better since he didn't lie. [We'll he didn't lie as far as I know. There may be some interview or story out there from his past where he denied using drugs]. Sure, he wasn't exactly forthcoming with the truth when he testified before Congress, but the players who are probably going to take the biggest hit for their legacy are the guys who outright lied about using steroids (Bonds|STAR|, A-Rod, Palmiero) rather than the guys who just avoided the question (McGwire|STAR|, Sosa|STAR|) or showed contrition (Pettitte, Giambi|STAR|).
Here's what I'd write for him if I led his HOF marketing campaign:
"I'd like to announce today that I used steriods during the 1990s. It was a short-sided decision on my part and I was caught up in trying to keep up with the masses in baseball at the time who were trying to compete for jobs and money by using performance enhancing drugs. At the time of my usuage, these drugs were not specifically banned from being used in baseball, although I realize their legality overall was in doubt. Still, it was my own body and I decided the long-term risk was worth the short-term gain. In hindsight, this was a bad decision as I've become more aware of the health impact of these drugs and the influence my actions had on the youth of America.
But I never lied about using these drugs. I made my own decisions and I'll have to live with them, but I've been careful up at this point not to compound the error by lying to the public about my usage.
While I realize these drugs helped further my career, I believe that it was only a minor part of my success and I still think my career stands on its own merits. In fact, I'm unhappy that HOF voters seem to think that somehow I'd have been Dave Kingman without the used of PEDs. Didn't you guys vote Tony Gwynn into the HOF because he was a guy who got on base and got things going? What was his career OBP? It was .388. My OBP was .394! My career wasn't just about the long ball."
[ok, maybe a good PR person would not include that last paragraph]
Pretty soon HOF voters are going to realize it's futile to try to figure out what players in the steriods era were or were not using performance enhancing drugs. As I've written about before it's unfair and flawed logic for voters to try and figure out who would have been a HOFer with our without steroid usage. Bonds may have been a HOFer without steroids. But when did he start using? Maybe his career would have had a George Foster-like dropoff. Same with A-Rod. Since he lied about his steroid usage, who knows when he even started? Who knows what his career path may have taken without them? Don't tell me you can vote for Bonds because he would have been a HOFer without steroids or his career was already HOF-worthy before he used steroids, but McGwire wouldn't have been anything without illegal additives. You either vote against anyone who used illegal substances or you evaluate their careers in the context of their era.
And with A-Rod's admission, the guessing game isn't who used steroids, but who didn't use Steroids. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution guesses the only safe bets are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Charlie Hough and David Eckstien. But when the first ever suspended player for steroids, Alex Sanchez, had the kind of body type no one would suspect of steroids, who can you trust? And many sportswriters would have had Alex Rodriguez in their list of sure fire non-steroid users before last week.
As for A-Rod, this will all blow over. Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun has a great take on the situation. Since A-Rod will be playing for many years, he'll be able to prove himself on the field and earn some love back. If you don't think time will minimize the damage, then just look at Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis. Both were accused of far worse things than A-Rod.
[|STAR| allegedly took steroids.]