The Hall of Fame ace sent an open letter to The Associated Press this week, telling the former home-run king: “You have not even begun to apologize to those you have harmed.”
“How many pitchers do you think he ended their careers by hitting numbers of home runs of them?” Jenkins said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
Jenkins also maintained he would have known how to handle the bulked-up McGwire, who hit a then-record 70 homers in 1998 and followed with 65 the following year.
“It’s tough to hit a home run off your back,” Jenkins said. “In my era, Seaver, Gibson, Drysdale, Carlton, there were so many guys that would have probably knocked him on his butt. He wouldn’t have hit home runs the way he did in that era.”
Thirty years ago, Jenkins himself became one of the first players caught up in baseball’s struggles with drug discipline. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Jenkins following the pitcher’s arrest in Canada on charges of cocaine possession, but the penalty was overturned by an arbitrator less than two weeks later — the first time a baseball commissioner’s ruling was reversed. A judge gave Jenkins an absolute discharge: no fine, no jail term and no record.
Hired in October by manager Tony La Russa as hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. McGwire last week admitted he used steroids for a decade, including when he broke Roger Maris’ season home-run record in 1998. Jenkins is one of several Hall of Famers to criticize McGwire, a group that includes Goose Gossage and Carlton Fisk.
Hank Aaron has said he’s willing to forgive McGwire, tied for eighth with 583 home runs.
“You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced,” Jenkins wrote. “You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”
Fifty-one pitchers gave up a total of 57 homers to McGwire in what turned out to be their final major league seasons, according to STATS LLC, among them Bert Blyleven, Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Charlie Leibrandt and Donnie Moore.
Jenkins said in his letter that McGwire needs to apologize to several constituencies.
“You need to apologize to your family for depriving them of your presence as time goes on because you are likely going to die earlier than if you had never relied on andro to carry you to all your successes,” he said.
McGwire admitted at the time of the home-run chase in 1998 that he used androstenedione, a steroid precursor that was made a controlled substance in 2004, when it also was banned by baseball.
Jenkins dismissed McGwire’s assertion that he took steroids because of injuries and that they didn’t help improve his performance. He also didn’t think McGwire will make a very effective hitting coach.
“La Russa is his buddy,” Jenkins said. “That’s the only reason he got to be hitting coach. I’m not sure a home-run hitter can teach a good hitter, a contact hitter, how to play, how to hit. He swung for the fences most of the time. How you going to teach a guy that’s a .240 hitter to put it in play?”
Jenkins, who plans to make appearances at spring training for the Chicago Cubs, was especially vocal about McGwire’s scant Hall of Fame support: He doesn’t expect it to increase. He also thinks the admission last week was directly related to McGwire re-entering baseball.
“He wasn’t going to stay in hiding the rest of his life. Why did it take five years? Why didn’t he come clean as soon as he quit?” Jenkins said. “They’ll be a lot of pressure put on him by a lot more reporters come spring training. He really hasn’t touched on what he ought to be saying to the public or to fellow ballplayers. If you’re going to hold a press conference, hold a press conference.”