It’s easy to shoot the messenger, especially when his message contains details about shooting up in the Oakland Coliseium toilet. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell writes that it is time to stop treating the biggest name implicated in Jose Canseco’s forthcoming tell-all, with kid gloves.

The Canseco bashers will line up and attack him as a liar. They will call him a self-promoting snitch who violated nearly every sacrosanct law of the clubhouse by ratting out his former teammates. They will say he’s trying to soil baseball to get onto the best-seller list. And they’ll be right, of course. Yet despite that, they’ll still come away looking like the bigger snake oil salesmen because they’re defending a sport whose greatest records and biggest stars are just as fraudulent as Canseco.

Whatever they say about him, it won’t be enough to detract from the overwhelming evidence that Canseco is probably telling plenty of truths about baseball’s Steroid Era. And if you are willing to reconcile that troubling truth, then by extension, you must be willing to accept an even more unsettling fact that will surely make many folks here in St. Louis squirm:

Mark McGwire is just as big a propped-up, juiced-up fraud as Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and the late Ken Caminiti.

It has to hurt to swallow this, because we all drank the Big Mac Kool-Aid back in 1998, when he and Sammy Sosa (another guy with mounting circumstantial evidence tarnishing his act) saved baseball with their engaging season-long home run onslaught that produced Big Mac’s record 70-homer season.

We all made daily pilgrimages to Busch Stadium to worship at the baseball altar every time one of McGwire’s monstrous home runs edged him closer to Roger Maris and Babe Ruth in the baseball history books. We all bought into the romance. He was this larger-than-life Paul Bunyan character who was embraced by Cardinal Nation unconditionally.

But now what do we do with him now that the circumstantial evidence keeps piling high? If we all felt quite comfortable convicting Bonds, Giambi, Gary Sheffield and all the other BALCO boys with simple circumstantial evidence long before we saw their court transcript admissions of guilt, shouldn’t we apply the same standards to convict McGwire?

Or does he get a pass because he’s “Our Guy”?