Hank Aaron was in Lake Buena Vista on Monday. He met with reporters and spoke about several topics, but his thoughts on Mark McGwire had particular resonance. Here, as reported by the Associated Press, were Aaron’s comments:
“I think baseball is cleaning up its act a little bit, I really do. I’ve said this and I’ll say it again, over and over again, this is the most forgiving country in the world. If you come through and tell the truth, then you’re going to be forgiven. The kid with the Yankees, [Andy] Pettitte, came out and it was a week of news and after that it was over.
“We all make mistakes. If they ever did enhancing drugs, whatever they did, they should come clean and be able to sleep at night.”
Speaking specifically of McGwire, who last fall admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs:
“I would have loved to have seen him do it a long time ago, but since he did it, I think that he himself will tell you right now he’s able to sleep at night and he’s able to look at his teammates. He’s done everything that he can do.”
There are those, many of them in the media, who have criticized the Cardinals’ hiring of McGwire as their hitting coach. (Bobby Valentine, who’s now one of the voices on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” is particularly strident on this issue.) Their point being: So long as McGwire is in full view wearing a baseball uniform, the issue will never go away.
But Valentine and his ilk have it wrong, and the Hammer has it right: Americans are world champions at forgiveness. Fessing up and saying he’s sorry will ultimately work for McGwire, same as it will for Tiger Woods. (Different transgression, I know.) And the worst thing baseball could do would be to banish McGwire and try to pretend the whole Steroids Era never happened.
Baseball got into its mess by trying to pretend nothing rotten was happening. Baseball was good at pretending. But now it knows better, and so do we. There’s no sense in trying to distance itself. Far better to acknowledge the past, however tainted. Far better to do as Aaron suggests and say, “We all make mistakes.”
The action plan for baseball regarding steroids should be: Blanket amnesty for everyone. Say you did it, say you’re sorry and move on.