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McGwire double negative sounds like a positive ...

I saw a news item in the New York Times the other day that said Mark McGwire had been working with four current major league players helping them on their hitting, which he clearly knows a little something about.

According to the news report, McGwire agreed to the interview with the understanding that “it would focus on his work as a hitting tutor and not on other issues.”

I was glad to see the story, in part because I was never comfortable with the public pasting that Big Mac took as a result of that ill-fated appearance in front of the chuckleheads in Congress. He took a lot of heat for declining to discuss the past, including seeing his initial Hall-of-Fame vote opportunities plummet, for essentially doing what every last one of us would have done had we been put in the same untenable circumstance.

I don’t much like government compelling people to testify about stuff that they know ultimately puts them in serious jeopardy for their livelihood or even their freedom, or in this instance for well-deserved recognition (HOF) for a lifetime’s achievements.

All the clamor about performance-enhancing drugs drowns out the reality that McGwire was as exemplary a major league ballplayer as we’ve had over the last 20 years, his treatment of the family of Roger Maris during the historic home run chase in 1998 being way up there on my list of stuff that helped remind me that some of the modern guys can be just as cool as my favorte old-timers.

I’ve known a number of people in our hobby who have had considerable contact with McGwire and they pretty universally defend him as being one of the genuine good guys. He took a lot of heat even before that 2005 Congressional hearing because of the price of his autograph or even his willingness to sign in the traditional show setting, but I’m not sure that’s been fairly presented either.

I also really liked a quote in the New York Times article from another modern ballplayer I’ve heard good things about, Matt Holiday. He was one of four ballplayers from the A’s and Cardinals that McGwire tried to help; the first one, Chris Duncan of the Cardinals, credited McGwire’s role in helping him to a .302 batting average last year.

Holliday reportedly brushed off suggestions that working with Big Mac might affect his reputation. “I wouldn’t ever not want to have somebody in my life that could be a good friend or somebody I could really enjoy or learn from based on what other people might think about it,” he said, according to the Times.

I won’t quibble about grammar in a sentiment that I so readily agree with, certainly not from a ballplayer who reminds me of McGwire in terms of the way he conducts himself as a teammate and as a citizen of the world.

It says here that McGwire’s Hall-of-Fame prospects are going to turn around someday and eventually he’ll wind up where he belongs.

Gee, I hope that’s not just wishful thinking.


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