Comparing and contrasting Mark McGwire’s dramatic return to public life with the clumsy handling of Alex Rodriguez’ admissions of PED use a year ago, the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir reports yesterday’s media tour was stage manged by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

McGwire and his handlers surely knew his credibility would be enhanced if he confessed before spring training and made himself widely available, not only on Monday but Tuesday. An interview with ESPN is to be scheduled, but because it’s not exclusive, its thunder will be muted.

“I like the door-to-door strategy, in that he is telling his story in long form and in less confrontational settings,” said Kevin Sullivan, a former White House communications director who runs a strategic-communications company. “He needed to rip the Band-Aid off before heading to spring training.”

Sullivan added: “I suspect McGwire will soon have some form of a press availability where he takes questions. He won’t be able to completely turn the page until he satisfies the pent-up demand and takes some questions.”

The McGwire interview was a coup for the year-old MLB Network and justifies what the channel is paying Bob Costas. It provided McGwire with a stage for acceptance on a channel that is majority-owned by the league that has, after a long goodbye, welcomed him back to his old team. MLB has a little more than half the subscribers ESPN has. But MLB had an edge in Costas if, indeed, McGwire wanted to be interviewed at length by a smart interrogator.

(A corporate connection should be noted: Costas is represented by IMG, which owns half of Fleischer™s crisis-communications company.)