Frankly, on the afternoon of March 21, 2009, I really wasn’t sure who Buster Posey was.
Sure, he had been the Giants’ first-round draft choice the year before and the name had filtered through every fan’s head, but as the line-ups were introduced at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the exhibition game between the Giants and A’s, I confess to snickering a little. Buster Posey? Did they just say Wayne Housie? Ray Cosey? Post Toasties?
Just to the left of home plate, a group of fans who seemed at distance to be college age or just a little older, did more than laugh at the unfamiliar name. They serenaded him. Cries of “Bus-ter!” alternated with a Yankee Stadium-like chant of “Bus-ter Po-sey!” This was not a bunch of adoring kids performing the incantation of their favorite’s name. They were making fun of him, big-time. And they never stopped. Posey, of course, never even let on that he heard them, which would have required him to have total hearing loss.
But Buster Posey was wearing number 28 in his first major league training camp and was catching a pretty good game. He was athletic and agile and the A’s made a major league mistake trying to double-steal on him in the third inning – he nailed Jason Giambi at third base with a perfect strike that would’ve gotten Giambi from about 150 feet.
But the serenading continued. And then it happened. In the seventh inning, Posey got hold of a pitch from Russ Springer and made it disappear into the Arizona sky, high and far over the 410-foot sign in left-centerfield. And as he trotted in from third base, Buster Posey acknowledged the little group that had been deriding him all afternoon. He stared at them, tipped his helmet, and froze them into silence. It was impressive enough that I wrote it down in my scorebook.
And as the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants – who would be sitting at home with the rest of us if not for Buster Posey – continue to celebrate in Arlington, I keep wondering where those guys are now who were taunting him then…and what they’re thinking.
The question from Bob Costas, paraphrased: Could you have had those homer-to-at bats ratios, and could you have hit 70 homers in 1998, without steroids:
“I truly believe so. I was given this gift by the man upstairs.”
Which gift was this, Mark? The gift of steroids?
Mark McGwire, who in his statement this afternoon seemed to understand something at least of the damage he had done to the game, has undone this tonight in the Costas interview on MLB Network.
He insisted he used steroids only to restore his health after his physical trials of the early ’90s: “My track record as far as hitting home runs, the first at bat I had in Little League was a home run. They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school, they still talk about the home runs I hit in Legion – I led the nation in home runs – they still talk about the home runs I hit in the minors. I was given the gift to hit home runs.”
“All I’ve wanted to do was come clean. I’ve been wanting to come clean since 2005.”
Then do so. Saying you used steroids, but denying the steroids had anything to do with your ability to hit more and longer homers – and to not even connect the idea that even if it was merely for purposes of restoring physical health, that still means the steroids contributed to your ability to hit these homers – does not constitute an apology, an acknowledgment, or the truth.
THREE UPDATES (8:15 EST): Why did McGwire repeatedly insist he’d been looking for the opportunity to come clean since 2005? Why not earlier?
Secondly, is the connection not clear in McGwire’s mind? That steroids permit the user to work out more frequently, to rebound more quickly from the wear and tear of exercise and weight-lifting? That as dedicated to the hard work in the weight room as one might be, it is the steroids that physically enable the user to increase the frequency of that hard work?
Thirdly, props to the MLB Network group: Matt Vasgersian, Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, and my friends Joe Magrane, Harold Reynolds, and of course Bob Costas, for not simply rubber-stamping McGwire’s ridiculous disconnect between the steroids and the productivity.
This apology is about one percent more substantial than Jason Giambi’s. And it came five years later.