(Mark McGwire, before and after)

Dan Patrick has been wondering aloud why Mark McGwire isn’t threatening to sue Jose Canseco, using the example of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s legal actions against his numerous French accusers. I don’t think the analogy works ; were McGwire to try and sue for slander, libel, seek a restraining order against Canseco’s book, etc., the burden of proof would be upon McGwire to show that he had not used steroids. Which, unless you’ve been tested regularly (like say, Lance Armstrong), isn’t an easy thing to prove.

In today’s Newsday, Jon Heyman jumps on Bryan Burwell’s bandwagon and calls out Mark McGwire.

McGwire should stop hiding out somewhere in Southern California, hiding behind big-status supporters such as Tony La Russa and Sandy Alderson. McGwire should step to the microphone and tell the truth.

Beyond Canseco’s believable account, the case for McGwire as steroid user is mostly circumstantial. Yet, the evidence is enormous, bigger even than McGwire’s playing-day biceps. And unlike McGwire himself, it’s never going away.

When I laid out that case last night, La Russa insisted: “That’s your opinion. I’d like to take you on in a court of law, and I think I’d kick your –.”

La Russa referred to Canseco as “the guy you’re backing,” said he is “very suspicious” of Canseco’s motivations and speculated they are about money or revenge.

Everyone’s piling on Canseco, an easy target. Even Giambi, who lied consistently for three years, dared call Canseco “delusional” for writing exactly what Giambi finally admitted to. Giambi lamely said Canseco did it for the loot, as if anyone could possibly top Giambi’s world record: $120 million in ill-gotten gains from steroid use.

Anyway, McGwire is fortunate to have friends in high places. But I don’t think a jury would have trouble with this one, either.

So here’s the case, starting with McGwire’s body. By the time he retired, he looked like half-man, half-mountain. He was strong when he came up, but he was inhumanly powerful a decade later when he hit 70 homers. In batting practice, he turned Busch Stadium into a big red pinball machine.

(La Russa says McGwire’s power came from hard work, nutrition and weight training.)

We’re only getting started here. Plenty of signs conveniently were ignored while we chronicled his 1998 chase of the home run record and deified McGwire. When testosterone-producing androstenedione was spotted in his locker, McGwire got huffy. He said it didn’t help him hit home runs.

Maybe he liked the taste.

The andro reportedly was supplied by brother Jay McGwire, a bodybuilder who, according to Time magazine, was so hooked on steroids that family and friends staged an intervention.

Giambi often cited McGwire as the one who schooled him about weight training. At one time, that was a compliment. Now it’s an indictment.

McGwire suffered the classic pains of steroid abuse. He had a foot injury that wouldn’t heal. A diseased tendon in his knee forced his retirement. (La Russa noted that a lot of big players suffer foot injuries and wondered if I’d have accused Mickey Mantle.)

Meanwhile, McGwire remains out of sight. A flack issued a murky, practically worthless statement saying McGwire asserts he always told the truth and is saddened to have to “face this line of questioning.” Yet he isn’t facing it.