La Russa has made it crystal clear, beyond a doubt, certain that Mark McGwire never used "any illegal or unethical performance-enhancing substances". My question of how he can be so sure is not the focus of this piece. Nor is the focus La Russa's possible motive for being so strong in his comments.
In his steadfast defense of McGwire, La Russa also attacked Canseco. In fact, so vigorous were his attacks, that La Russa admitted several times in recent days that he was aware that Canseco was using steroids and discussed it with him at the time.
In doing so, La Russa has exposed himself.
In his defense, these substances were technically not against MLB rules at the time and La Russa probably didn't know exactly what Canseco and others were using and whether or not those substances were illegal.
He probably didn't want to know. The question is whether it was his job to know and if so, what he was obligated to do about it.
La Russa is defending his inaction at the time because the player's union was too strong and that it would have done no good to turn Canseco in. Perhaps he is right.
However, La Russa also opens himself up to second-guessers wondering if there were other more compelling reasons to keep quiet that had to do with team and individual goals.
And, there is the issue of losing control of his clubhouse and his team, along with the code of silence in the clubhouse regarding illicit matters by players and coaches. Realistically, ten years ago could La Russa have stepped out of line and taken the risk himself?
Just yesterday, an FBI agent accused the head of MLB security of not taking action for almost ten years even when confronted with repeated FBI evidence that players were using steroids. Yet, had the evidence been so compelling, why didn't the FBI take action themselves? They didn't need permission to enforce the law.
There seems to be plenty of people who were completely satisfied to look the other way for years.
Yet, the court of public opinion will be looking for a scapegoat – someone to take the fall. Could it be MLB or the MLB Player's Association? No, they are organizations, not people. Mac is sticking to his guns and will likely never be disproven. Canseco is already discredited. That may not be enough to satisfy the lynch mob.
Who has the most to lose here? It seems to be La Russa. Did he say too little or say too much or both?