In what has to be one of the least-surprising revelations in modern baseball history, former Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire admitted today that he used steroids during his playing career.
In a statement given to the Associated Press, McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs for almost 10 years during his career, including during the 1998 season when he hit a then-MLB record 70 home runs.
Now, the reason for McGwire finally coming clean after years of being surrounded with suspicion is simple — Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa wants McGwire to come aboard as a hitting coach. Ergo, in an effort to start anew, McGwire must admit to past transgressions, possibly to appease the higher-ups at Major League Baseball. Or something like that. Regardless, McGwire is in as St. Louis’ hitting coach, and the world must now respond accordingly.
As we like to do, let’s take a look at it from a sports betting perspective. From this view, the initial response to the McGwire revelations is “Who cares? He’s not a player, he’s not even their manager. How can he affect the game?” And hey, fair enough — McGwire is only coaching the Cards in a limited capacity, at the plate.
But if anyone thinks McGwire will come and go without a lot of media hoopla, they’re dreaming. St. Louis is already considered a viable World Series contender — Sports Interaction’s online sportsbook has the Cardinals listed at 14/1 for the 2010 MLB World Series Outright (see: MLB baseball betting). The team also just signed OF Matt Holliday to a franchise-record $120-million deal, so there’s been a lot of media attention already, and we’re only in the middle of January. The Cardinals promise to be a traveling circus this year.
The McGwire situation will almost certainly provide some distractions. The first will likely come in Spring Training, when the “newness” of having such a unique, imposing and controversial figure is still there. Then will come the prospect of McGwire — often regarded as one of the best sluggers in MLB history — working with a virtual murderer’s row of hitters in the Cardinals lineup. Holliday, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus are as good a heart of the order as you can get; throw in solid contact hitters like Yadier Molina (.293 batting average) and Skip Schumaker (.303) and the Cards promise to be lethal.
There’s also the unique relationship between LaRussa and McGwire. LaRussa said he has a “dream” of using the 46-year-old McGwire as a pinch-hitter during the season; things like this tend to get played up in the media because of McGwire’s history and — let’s be honest — the fact it’s a storybook finish that everybody would be at least curious to see play out. Regardless if McGwire actually gets to bat or not, the relationship between him and LaRussa will be a major theme this year.
While the breaking McGwire steroid news might not take much of an effect of the players on the field, it’s certainly a situation to monitor as the season progresses. Because for a Cardinals team with World Series aspirations, unnecessary distractions are not really needed.