A Baseball Historian’s take on the Steroid Era
I’ve been a baseball fan ever since I was 8. I have been a student of the history of the game since I was 14. I became very good at memorizing every single world series winner since the Fall Classic was inaugurated in 1903. I’m the kind of guy that loves the history of the game. I love the game. If I could be alive in a place in history it would be in the 1950s, the golden age of baseball. From New York where Willie, Mickey, and the Duke reigned supreme to Philidelphia where Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn were diamonds in a tar pit, to Milwaukee where Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, and company put up a title in 1957 and choked it up in 58, to St. Louis where Stan the Man was still riding the peak of a stellar career. I could go on and on and on about that era.
But sadly in our day and time. Baseball has lost it’s purity. It has been tainted by steroids. While the past cannot be undone and players have been very vauge regarding their involvement in it. The whole thing stinks. If the sport isn’t already tainted by the fact that the players took steroids, it’s been further tainted by the questionable character of the players because of their dodging of the questions by the press. It makes me sick to see the reality of some of the greatest role models in sports fail in the simplest test of human character. It’s a shame to see that great players such as Mark McGwire, who was the fastest player to 500 home runs, Barry Bonds who (whether you like it or not) owns the career homerun record, Rafael Palmeiro who is one of very few players to have both 500 home runs and 3,000 and now it looks like Alex Rodriguez who is the youngest member of the 500 home run fraternity will more than likely never see their plaques in Cooperstown where folks with those kind of numbers are bound. It’s really sad for our sport. First it was the money and strikes and labor issues, now it’s doping. The reality is that baseball, for all it’s mystery and glory in the past is going through it’s biggest crisis since the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The scandals the past in my opinion pale in comparison comparing to the stain of steroids.
Now here’s my solution to the whole problem. Bud Selig, get your head out of the sand, take responsibility for something that you should have dealt with ever since you became commissioner of baseball. Admit that the testing increases and penalty increases you have implemented now should have been implemented 5 years before Mark McGwire shattered the single season home run record. I’m not saying it was all your fault. But it happened on your watch. You are to blame for this. You were in charge, You had the power and yet you stood by and did nothing until the media blew the whistle on you. You were perfectly content to let steroids fly under the radar as long as no one noticed and now that it is you are so quick to say you are not to blame. That was a bad leadership move Selig. Very bad. Bud Selig is the key to unlock the door for great healing in this game. It may cost you your reputation, but, I believe it’s a necessary move to take responsibility for what went down on YOUR watch. It’s the responsibility of every leader whether you did something or not. It’s still your job and your duty to the game you love so much.
Now for my Hall of Fame solution. I could care less if these guys got in or not. Character was never an issue before. Example, Ty Cobb, the meanest and dirtiest player who ever played the game was also a racist, but the fact that there are some records of his that even to this day will never be touched is a testament to his great game. But on the other hand there was no preformance enhancing substances (or PES because I like acronymns). Even if they do get in the stain of the steroids era will forever be on them and the public. The only way that I think they will ever find their way in is if they own up to their responsibility and just tell the truth about the steroids. I don’t want books. I hate books about this thing. Pete Rose burned me on books about controversial subjects. But if not, the Hall still has to acknowledge the affects of steroids on the game and make a section for it. If I were a voter there’s no way on God’s green earth I would ever put any of their names on my ballot for the simple case that they didn’t own up to their mistakes. These are role models, but they’re human. But humans make mistakes. When humans make mistakes they have to claim responsibility for them. I mean this is an opportunity to really clean up your image in the media who want to skewer you. This is an opportunity for you to redeem yourself in the eyes of the young ones like I was during that time who held you guys in such high esteem. For God’s sake take it. I would rather put someone in the Hall of Fame who would really and truly own up to what he knew he was doing to himself apologize for damaging the integrity of the game and commit himself to preventing this kind of stuff in the game. Now in this time in baseball, character means so much more than numbers.
As far as the media is concerned. They are like me. We want answers. Right now we aren’t getting them. But, I have this to say, there is hope for baseball. There are those who have not done so. We have the Ken Griffey Jr.s and Cal Ripkens and Tony Gwynns who have done extraordinary and are or will be first ballot HOFers and we should honor them. While the stink of steroids has forever marked baseball. There is still some good in it. I for one will cling to that good with everything within me.