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Confessions of a shrunken slugger

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 13, 2010 11:38 PM

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Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Like wearing ill-fitting pants in public at all times and sidling in for seconds at the press center buffet, it is part of the sportswriter's code to opine solemnly whenever a baseball idol admits that, yes, those 520-foot home runs and 32-inch biceps might have been chemically enhanced. But try as I might to fulfill my duty, I just can't get too worked up about McGwire's admission. The summer of '98 was a true joy -- well, maybe true isn't the right word -- but anyone who has acquired a hint of skepticism along the way had to have strong suspicions even then about the method to McGwire's magic, particularly after AP reporter Steve Wilstein wrote about the androstenedione spotted in his locker. Though a forthright confirmation from McGwire was always lacking, we knew he was chemically enhanced long before yesterday, whether it was because of the eyeball test, the impossibly swollen numbers and biceps, reports from the credible (T.J. Quinn), creepy (McGwire's own brother) and the cartoonish (Jose Canseco), or his own whimpering performance before Congress. We also knew he'd have to address his past and provide his version of the truth if he ever wanted back in the game, and that was only a matter of time after he was named the Cardinals' hitting coach by his longtime manager, friend, and apologist, Tony La Russa. Yesterday, the time came. McGwire talked about the past, revealing nothing new beyond the fact that he is in serious denial about how much steroids helped him. His words should have come as no surprise. We'll reserve that emotion for the day he tells the whole story,

2. As far as McGwire's well-executed, semi-sincere, tear-stained mea culpa tour goes, the most staggering talking point was this: He used steroids in moderation because he didn't want to look like Lou Ferrigno. Child, please. He was huge even compared to "The Hulk," and he was probably one cycle away from telling rookie teammate J.D. Drew, "You won't like me when I'm angry." The only way his comment made any sense whatsoever is if he meant he didn't want to turn green. And I strongly suspect he would have been fine with looking like he had undergone photosynthesis had it ensured him of a few more home runs.

3. I'm not saying trading up 16 spots in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft was the Patriots' worst personnel maneuver of the Belichick Era, at least as long as Duane Starks and Monty Beisel aimlessly roam the earth. But it should be pointed out that in the Packers' 51-45 loss to the Cardinals in Sunday's varsity game, Greg Jennings had six fewer receptions for 41 fewer yards than Chad Jackson has in his entire NFL career. I'm going to assume no further explanation is necessary.

4. Which of these options would be the more appropriate way for the Patriots to start the offseason? Putting Adalius Thomas on the plane back to Baltimore after the game Sunday, or allowing him to join the Jets for their game this week since such an unholy union is inevitable next season? In a sense, the Thomas Error is one more sad result of the blown lead in the 2006 AFC title game. Had the Pats not lost to the Colts, Belichick wouldn't have been coaching in the Pro Bowl, and there a possibility he never would have been smitten with and suckered by Thomas's versatility. If ever a trip to Hawaii is regrettable, that was the one. (Update: Or maybe not. As reader Alex C. reminds me, "Robert Edwards and the Brady Bunch say hi.")

5. Maybe it's because he's been out of the public eye for five years, but McGwire looked strikingly older than we expected. Maybe the stress of his secret has taken its toll, but it was strange to see him looking like some bizarre, gray-bearded combination of James Hetfield and the Cowardly Lion.

6. Please give me a reason believe Wes Welker can come back a year from now at close to 100 percent of what he was before that ill-fated cut that caused his knee to collapse on the damned Reliant Stadium turf. Because right now, I'm having a hard time convincing myself that a player so dependent on quickness and cuts -- even one as uncommonly determined and dedicated as No. 83 -- can fully recover from such a devastating turn of events.

7. I can't blame Pete Carroll for pulling a Calipari, hopping in his vintage '91 Fiero convertable, and zipping up to Seattle before the NCAA posse can get to Los Angeles. What I can't figure is what the Seahawks are thinking, because Carroll is the exact same happy-go-lucky enabler of a coach that he was during his maddening time here, and there is no doubt that this will be his third strike as an NFL head coach. He'll get walked on by professional athletes -- hell, you could say that's what happened at Southern Cal. They were the college version of the '99 Pats, underachieving and relentlessly frustrating, mostly a lack of discipline. One difference: The Trojans might have had more depth than those disintegrating Pats of yesteryear. Southern Cal has roughly a half-dozen backs right now that are better than Sedrick Shaw '98.

8. Revisiting the Carroll/Grier era actually helps temper any lingering frustration with the end of the Patriots season, and anyway, I'm perfectly content believing in the Belichick Way even after a loss so embarrassing that those who live to question his methods had some justification for once. But I do wish one aspect of his approach would change: He needs to be more forthcoming about injuries, not for any benefit of the media (though that would be swell, too), but because he's doing his players an injustice in denying the details after the fact. The perception of Tom Brady's performance Sunday might be different if Belichick revealed that, yes, Charley Casserly was right for once and Brady was playing with three cracked ribs, not to mention a busted finger that prevented him from throwing deep, a shoulder that was never quite right after Albert Haynesworth plopped on it in preseason, and whatever else ailed him or any other player who is perceived to be underperforming when he reality he's playing in agony.

9. Programming note for you Sox old-timers, sentimentalists, and baseball nostalgia junkies: The MLB Network will premiere the 1967 episode of "Baseball Seasons" Wednesday at 8 p.m. From what I gather, there may be a mention or two of some fella who goes by Yaz. Also, the episode on the 2004 season will debut by the end of February.

10.

As usual, I'm on board with my wisecracking cousins at Surviving Grady. "Chicks dig the longball" is the single greatest baseball-themed commercial ever filmed. Who'd have ever pegged Glavine and Maddux as such an effective comedy team? They're like Leary and Clarke, but, you know, funny.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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