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Mark McGwire: A polarizing figure

As I have scanned the numerous and varied fan and media reactions to the return of Mark McGwire to organized baseball as hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, one conclusion has been reinforced – Big Mac remains a polarizing figure.

As such, his upcoming plan to speak to the media may have repercussions that could affect the perception of his entire generation.

There are some that believe McGwire needs to say no more than he already has. At the other end of the spectrum, some expect more details than McGwire may be able to give. The majority likely fall somewhere in the vast gulf between.

Below, I have characterized over a dozen different points about which I have read in the last 24 hours, with issues organized into those covering McGwire’s past and those more related to his present.

A pro/con format is used to suggest every point has a counterpoint, rather than to suggest any particular thought is right or wrong. Some believe certain points are relevant while others may see the same items as insignificant. That further illustrates the challenge represented by Mark McGwire.

Regarding the past

Pro: McGwire has been punished enough. Even under today’s rules, a positive steroids test would have been only a 50-game suspension.

Con: McGwire’s absence from the game has been self-imposed, furthered by his bungled 2005 congressional testimony.

Pro: There is no proof against him. McGwire did nothing illegal at the time.

Con: Adding to the weight of evidence against McGwire included details of usage provided by his own brother.

Pro: McGwire should not be singled out when hundreds are assumed guilty, including players on the current Cardinals team.

Con: McGwire evaded the truth. Others have apologized. Are any of them big-league coaches?

Pro: Why should McGwire try to say more when the questions will not stop?

Con: Many other players have been able to move on following apologies. Remaining in limbo will not work while being in a job in the public eye.

Pro: MLB has not banned McGwire, so why should the Cardinals?

Con: There is no ban, but strong sentiment against McGwire exists. He has yet to receive more than about 25 percent of the Hall of Fame vote, for example.

Pro: McGwire chose not to talk to Congress to protect himself and others.

Con: Why did he not follow up on his offer to educate youth against steroids?

Pro: McGwire was my favorite player and is a local hero.

Con: McGwire has a tarnished image, especially outside of St. Louis and his signing sends a bad signal to youth.

Regarding the present

Pro: McGwire was a great hitter, so he will be a great hitting coach.

Con: A number of great players have shown they cannot effectively teach others.

Pro: McGwire has worked with major league hitters informally.

Con: He has no experience as a hitting coach in organized ball.

Pro: The Cardinals need a more patient hitting style – too many strikeouts, too few walks.

Con: McGwire was a home run hitter with a below-average average.

Pro: The hiring was done to help in the efforts to re-sign Matt Holliday.

Con: Holliday didn’t fully embrace McGwire’s advice and money factors may be more important.

Pro: The move was engineered by Tony La Russa to resurrect McGwire’s national image.

Con: Even with an apology, many opinions about McGwire have been set.

Pro: Having McGwire back is a good PR move by the Cardinals.

Con: Without closure, McGwire’s presence will be an ongoing distraction for the team.

Pro: If McGwire can coach, that is all that matters. MLB hitting coaches need not be role models.

Con: McGwire needs to address the past so he can move forward.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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