Archive for March, 2013

The steroid era is officially over.  The two biggest figures, Clemens and Bonds have both been through perjury trials and both acquitted.  Juries found both not guilty of lying under oath about using steroids.  Attorneys from the United States Department of Justice were unable to show that either man used steroids.  In short, there is reasonable doubt that either man ever used steroids despite any other information to the contrary.  Baseball’s Steroid Era exists in a cloud of loud shouts and quiet disappointments.  We will never know definitively just how many major leaguers took PEDs and how it effected their statistics.

If nothing else, the steroid era in baseball reminded us of a few simple truths about the game.  The increasing emphasis of numbers by management led players and coaches to abide in them.  Fans re-discovered the ugly side of baseball as enterprise.  Yet we also enjoyed the potent offense and dominant pitching the steroid era provided.  We also had to begin questioning the legacy of the game we loved.  Where does this era fit?  How do we judge the achievements?  Here are the truths we learned and how I think we should view it.

Baseball is more than numbers.  The business of baseball is all about stats, but the memory of it disregards them.  Bob Costas said recently that Maris and Aaron had “lost their rightful place in history” because of the “inauthentic” numbers put up by McGwire and Bonds.  That’s not true.  Maris and Aaron have a mythic quality to their names, yet no one my age ever saw them play.  Our knowledge of them is in grainy television footage and grandpa’s recollection.  We learned about those men from our mothers, fathers, teachers and coaches.  Our forebears cared enough about these ball players to tell stories about them to their offspring.  Storytelling creates heroes, not statistics.

Baseball is a business.  Professional athletes are just that: professional.  Adults need to get paid.  Without my job, I can’t pay my rent and I’m living with mommy and daddy.  The vast majority of professional baseball players live around the poverty line.  Most professional ball players are in the minor leagues and live hand to mouth.  Hit more homeruns and you’ll get more money.  The incentive is clear and the assistance is available.  Baseball is a boy’s game played by men but men aren’t boys.  Money matters.  Being a ball player doesn’t make that any less true.

Baseball is entertainment.  Baseball, whether watched or played is a diversion from the monotony of the daily grind.  Watching a baseball game, no matter how boring, still beats standing on your feet all day taking shit from your boss.  During the steroid era, we got to see more homeruns than ever before.  Homeruns are awesome.  Seeing Pedro Martinez shut down hitters throughout the peak of the steroid era was even more entertaining.  Even if we think that steroids are awful and that taking steroids make you a cheater, it doesn’t change that baseball was simply fun to watch during their reign in the majors.

The Hall of Fame is Overrated.  There are hundreds of players in the Baseball Hall of Fame I’ve never heard of and dozens more I don’t care about. There are a few baseball legends that everyone knows, Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, Aaron, etc.  But ask your Average Joe who Christy Mathewson is and he won’t have a fucking clue.  People remember their personal favorites.  Scott Brosius is a god to any Yankee fan under the age of 40.  He’ll never be in the Hall of Fame, but I’ll always know his name.

The Steroid Era is over.  We’ll be arguing for generations over the authenticity of Barry Bonds’s homerun record against Hank Aaron’s.  We’ll still pay top dollar to go see the best baseball players in the world ply their trade and be rewarded for it.  The players we’ve always loved will forever hold a special place in our baseball hearts regardless of their steroid use.  No matter what sports writers may say, the steroid era didn’t really change anything.  Inflated numbers and deflated trust can’t stop us from loving baseball.  No one statistic, no one player, no one owner, no one scandal is bigger than the game.  The greatest truth: Baseball is a game, don’t take it too seriously.

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