What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
We’ve gotten to the point where you can’t have a discussion about the history of baseball without it getting mired into the “S-word”…steroids.
Yet, leave it to the outspoken Curt Schilling to add yet another log on the “get over it” fire that really needs to be lit under the collective asses of the “steroid moralists.”
The former six-time All-Star and World Series MVP talked steroids during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (via Hardball Talk). “There’s a lot of good young pitchers in the game right now, but far fewer players are cheating,” Schilling said during his interview. “One of the bigger reasons they all did (steroids) was it allowed them to be April fresh in September and that helped you hit home runs. Anybody who ever says performance-enhancing drugs didn’t help players produce offensive numbers is full of crap. There isn’t a team in the last 20 years that has won clean,” he said.
Those last two sentences are the key to the whole discussion. We’ve been arguing for years over the first; Schilling’s statement that steroids are the reason for the offensive explosion in baseball completely ignores so many other contributing factors. But the second sentence ironically drives my point about how the effect of steroids on the game has been hypocritically moralized.
You’ve got to follow me close on this argument, because I understand how the “S-word” drives a visceral reaction that leads to an emotional argument. First, go back to to my original thoughts on the role steroids played in baseball.
Tainting the integrity of baseball under Bud Selig is like shooting out all your lightbulbs so the sun will go down. The sanctimonious hand-wringing on the part of baseball writers that is still happening over this is almost too much to bear. Where were all these scribing Dudley Do-Rights when Mark McGwire suddenly gained 50 pounds of muscle and transformed home plate at Busch Stadium into a bigger launching pad than Cape Kennedy? They were conveniently were sitting on their pencils because the offensive explosion that occurred in the national past time in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s was exactly what they wanted.
Flash the clock back to 1995 when baseball was trying to resurrect itself from the fiasco of the previous year’s labor stoppage that killed a World Series. The writers were bemoaning the fact that baseball is boring, there isn’t enough scoring, and the fans won’t come back to the game after the strike. So, when the moon-shots started flying out of ballparks across the league, the writers could barely contain their overt giddyness. This led to fans flocking back to the ballparks, and Bud Selig couldn’t have been happier.
The part nobody wants to admit is that the whole steroid issue began as attempt by writers to disgrace Barry Bonds. Writers have a problem with players who won’t kiss their collective asses, and Bonds was notorious for treating scribes with utter contempt. When it became clear that Bonds would be the holder of the two sexiest records in all of sports (the single-season and the career home run marks), the press began its delving into Bonds’ connection with BALCO. But much like Dr. Frankenstein, they created a monster they couldn’t control. Next thing you know, we have Congressional hearings and the resultant “outrage” at the “cheaters.”
Now for the fun part…baseball has a long and storied history of cheating. Since day one, players have been stealing signs, corking bats, scuffing or greasing balls, and generally doing anything else they could to win. Steroids are no different. It is far too easy to “blame” the aforementioned offensive explosion on the hypodermic needle, but doing so ignores some key facts.
- In the 90′s, Major League Baseball expanded by four teams, meaning 50 pitchers who otherwise would have been in the minors now were plying their trade in ”The Show.”
- Several new stadia were constructed in the 90′s, and the vast majority of them have outfield fences and small foul territory making them very “hitter-friendly.”
- Of all the players caught using “performance-enhancing drugs,” half were pitchers.
In other words, the increase in offense has several possible contributing factors. The emptiness of the steroid argument becomes clear when one stops to consider that from the list of players named in the Mitchell Report, there wasn’t a case of a player who suddenly became a star due to his use of “performance-enhancing drugs.” Players who were stars before the needle were stars after the needle, and “role players” remained just that.
Shakespeare penned the correct thought on this scandal 350 years before baseball even existed: Much ado about nothing.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying steroids didn’t play a role. What I am saying is that the size of the contribution “performance-enhancing drugs” has been dramatically overstated. Just look at the aforementioned bullet points and tell me those were not factors.
There’s two big problems in the steroid moralist’s argument. First of all, if you believe use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is worthy of exclusion from the Hall of Fame, at which point do you pound the stake in the ground which says “No PEDs Beyond This Point.” The argument already rings hollow because the “no Hall for you” treatment already has been applied to players accused of PED use before baseball had rules against it.
That leads to the second problem…the steroid moralists already have a double-standard as to who draws their rath. Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte largely have been given a pass; whereas Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds might as well have kidnapped and eaten the Lindbergh baby.
This becomes a major issue because depending on who you want to believe, PED use was rampant in baseball, estimates happen between half and three-quarters of players were using something during the “steroid” era. While that doesn’t mean it is acceptable to cheat and break the law? Of course not, but whether you like it or not, it has long been accepted that cheating, PEDs included, is part of the culture of the game.
Simply put, you can’t take new-found morality and use it to go back in time and right all your perceived wrongs. You can’t go back and change history to strip teams of titles just because it was retroactively discovered some of their players were cheating. If you did that, there wouldn’t be a championship team left on the books.