Bob Lutz

McGwire: Come clean or be a distraction

There's a lot to get to today, starting with Mark McGwire. You just knew I was going to address Mark McGwire, didn't you? Here goes:

* McGwire is joining Tony La Russa in St. Louis as the Cardinals' hitting coach and I have mixed feelings.

Because of my unconditional love for the Cardinals, I have to sign off on this move. But being a trained and most-of-the-time unbiased journalist, this hire bothers me.

Unless . . . McGwire clears out the elephant in the room by talking openly and honestly about his involvement with steroids at a time when they were rampant in Major League Baseball.

If McGwire chooses to remain in his 'That Was Then, This Is Now' world, it won't fly. He'll become a huge distraction to the Cardinals and will not be able to hide from the scrutiny the way he has as a private citizen since leaving baseball after the 2001 season.

McGwire can smooth the waters with a one-time-only news conference, making it clear that it's the only time he'll address his involvement in the steroids era.

It's such a no-brainer, I hope La Russa made it a stipulation before he hired McGwire.

If McGwire is forthright, he'll have St. Louis back in the palm of his hands, especially if the Cardinals' offense improves in 2010 and left fielder Matt Holliday signs as a free agent.

Nobody meant more to baseball's recovery following the 1994 strike than McGwire, whose home run chase with Sammy Sosa in 1998 was magical, dramatic and perfectly satisfying.

But McGwire has given back all of that good will, disappearing to his home in Southern California and refusing to talk about the only topic people want him to talk about.

By choosing to return to baseball, McGwire also must choose to take on the beast that has been riding on his back for eight years. If not, he'll be swallowed alive.

*

Why is Larry Johnson still suiting up for the Chiefs?

I know, they still owe him a bunch of money, and you hate to pay a guy for doing nothing. But by keeping Johnson around — and allowing him to share his stupidity on Twitter for all the world to read — the Chiefs have only themselves to blame for Johnson's frequent transgressions.

Johnson's insults to first-year Kansas City coach Todd Haley are offensive — even if they're probably not too far off base.

Haley does appear to be in over his head. None of his decisions have panned out. The Chiefs are not an improving football team, as evidence by the beat-down they took from San Diego on Sunday.

Haley is making one strange decision after another. Head coaches in the NFL need to at least appear as if they're in control rather than pace around like their head is about to explode. Haley wears too much of his heart on his sleeve.

I want my coach to calm the seas, not part them.

Speaking of the Chiefs, might I suggest a marketing campaign. It goes something like this: "Hey, at least we're better than Washington, St. Louis and Tampa Bay."

* * *

It's time for a few of my weekly Top 5 lists.

Best NFL teams: 1) Indianapolis; 2) New Orleans; 3) Denver (tough game at Baltimore this week); 4) Pittsburgh; 5) Minnesota. Note: No New England, yet. Beating Tennessee and Tampa Bay 94-7 doesn't mean squat.

Best prime time television shows I'm watching: 1) The Office; 2) Curb Your Enthusiasm; 3) Flash Forward; 4) Parks and Recreation; 5) Modern Family.

Five compelling NBA questions: 1) Does Shaq push Cleveland into The Finals? (I don't think so); 2) Does Ron Artest improve the Lakers? (I don't think so); 3) Does the Oklahoma City Thunder make the playoffs? (I don't think so); 4) Is Michael Beasley going to be able to handle the pressure of being an emerging NBA star? (I sure hope so); 5) When will I watch my first full NBA game? (I'm shooting for mid-November).

* * *

Interesting fact I picked up from reading Peter King's weekly NFL storylines at SI.com:

Tony Romo played at Eastern Illinois, Miles Austin at Monmouth. Both are undrafted NFL free agents with the Dallas Cowboys. And in the past two games, they have combined for 421 yards.

I love that.

* * *

Sam Bradford has decided to have season-ending surgery on his shoulder and should be back to full speed in 4-6 months.

Question becomes: Will he have enough time to ensure NFL general managers that he's fully recovered and ready to be a first-round draft choice?

I'd be nervous as heck about picking Bradford, especially with one of the top 10 picks. And the top 10 pickers are usually the teams that most need a quarterback.

* * *

I went back and checked my preseason picks for Major League Baseball and was thrilled to see that the Yankees were my American League choice to reach the World Series.

* * *

The reason I think . . . Wait, you want to know what team I picked to reach the World Series from the National League?

Umm, the Mets.

* * *

As I was saying, the reason I think college football is the craziest sport out there was reinforced Saturday by Texas Tech's 52-30 loss to Texas A&M.

Huh?

When I heard that score on my drive back from Lawrence, I was so distracted that I sped right past the McDonald's at mile marker 132 despite my longing for an Oreo McFlurry.

I asked myself: Didn't A&M just lose to Kansas State 62-14? Then I asked myself: Didn't Texas Tech recently beat K-State 66-14?

Then I realized there are things in life more important than a McFlurry.

* * *

I have a Halloween Night dilemma.

I'm greatly anticipating watching the Texas-Oklahoma State game, but the costume I'm planning to wear for my Halloween party includes a mask with no cut-out holes for my eyes.

* * *

Ball State won its first game Saturday against Eastern Michigan and had a 300-yard rusher (MiQuale Lewis, 301) and a 200-yard rusher (Cory Sykes, 203).

You know how many people are already saying they were there to see it? Two million.

You know how many actually were in Ypsilanti, Mich., for this historic event? 1,535.

* * *

It should be a classic World Series between the Yankees and Phillies, provided there are no issues with frostbite or hypothermia.

Playing a World Series in November crosses the line of common sense. Not to mention everything our mothers told us about coming in from the cold.

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