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McGwire needs to separate coaching from the Hall

Diffusing the ongoing outrage over Mark McGwire may require a clarification of the end objective.

    As the divisive battles rage on over the status of former home run king-turned St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire, there is one perspective that I do not think is being fully understood.

    McGwire's hallway press conference (Dustin Mattison photo)I see two main issues here that are tangled together. One is the acceptance of McGwire as the Cardinals new hitting coach. The other is his legacy in the game and his standing for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

    Personally, I think he has done enough to satisfy the former and I sense many agree. I think many in the national media are hung up on the latter because though that prism, McGwire did not do enough in their eyes to clear his name – not as a hitting coach, but as a former home run hero.

    To date, Mac has been coy about the Hall of Fame, saying he is leaving it to the voters to decide. The writers then understandably want to know more about what he used, when he used it, etc. to try to determine how to assess his results.  They are clearly unconvinced by McGwire’s assertion that steroids did nothing to help his numbers. That is understandable.

    Unless/until he can separate the two, the job and the Hall, I believe the controversy will continue.

    Of course, that is easier said than done. McGwire has already made his statements and clarifications. He should have said that he has no way of knowing how steroids affected his results. That would have been believable, but it would have put his numbers into question (as if they weren’t already). There does not seem an easy way to backtrack. At this point, perhaps there is nothing McGwire can say to help his cause, especially if the past details he is avoiding are too damning.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a way out.

    Assuming McGwire does not want to provide specifics at the level the national press demands, one way to try to cut the ties would be to say, “I will not talk further about my past steroid use just to try to improve my Hall of Fame chances. I believe I have said enough to be allowed to become the Cardinals hitting coach. That is all I want.”

    That would most likely cement his low vote totals into the future, but would return him to the more familiar world where “I am not here to talk about the past.” This would offer a safer port for Big Mac in the storm and perhaps allow him to carry out his new hitting coach assignment in some semblance of peace.

    Having suggested that, we have no idea if McGwire is willing to chance giving up what remains of his legacy for this job. Yet the entire Cardinals community in its broadest sense (including ex-players, fans, etc.) has both dealt out and taken a lot of heat on his behalf with no end in sight. It may be time for McGwire himself to do something more to turn down some of that heat.

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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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