Steroids, mention that word in a MLB clubhouse and you will probably see some dirty looks-cursing your way even. Its a dirty word-one of the dirtiest non 4 letter words. We’ve seen the steroid era come and go and now we have entered the Pitching Era in MLB. It seems you can not tune into a game and see a pitcher throwing the ball 95 mph+. There are still remnants of PED users still playing-here’s looking at you A-Rod. It is cheating according to the rulebook. Its cheating according to most rulebooks in any organized sport across the globe. How often have you heard of Olympic runners or Tour de France cyclists being banned for months, years, even life for “doping”. There is another non 4 letter dirty word. My dad always told me that he never wanted to hear of me “smoking dope”. At first I did not know what he meant, doping was what athletes did to get an illegal edge. He was referring to marijuana, which will be legal here in the States in the next decade I predict. I can remember my high school days, I was probably 14 or so and I was introduced to Creatin in the field house by some of the older guys lifting weights. They chose to put that into their bodies and I chose not to let that in mine. I was never made to play football honestly, I was a runner and I saw no positive outcomes for me to bulk up with some powder stuff. So I never took any of it and went on to become an All-State cross-country runner in Arkansas (Didn’t make to the track capital of the world-Fayetteville though). The point here is I had enough sense as a teenager not to put something in my body that might effect me later in life. To my knowledge none of the guys that took Creatin at my high school have not had any either, but they never made it to the MLB, NFL, NBA etc. None of us ever made to a D-1 school. So why am I writing this? I can remember watching the Great Home Run Chase of 1998. Mark McGwire versus Sammy Sosa hitting bomb after bomb in search of Roger Maris’ home run record of 61 in a single season. The Cardinals were not the machine they are today back in ’98, they finished 83-79 and 19 games back of the Central Division champion Houston Astros (yes the current American League West leaders). They drew 3,195,691 fans into Busch Stadium. Wait they finished nowhere near playoff contention, in fact they had the 14th best record in MLB and still drew over 3 million fans? That was good enough for 6th in MLB. Lets look at the other participant-the Chicago Cubs. They finished 2nd in the NL Central and made the playoffs. Their attendance was 11th in MLB at 2,623,194. Those two fan bases really did not factor in who won the World Series yet the Cardinals outdrew the World Champion Yankees and the Cubs outdrew the NL Champion Padres. Why? The reason was the Great Home Run Chase. The reason baseball was saved after the 1994 labor stoppage was the Great Home Run Chase. I was pissed that baseball ended during the ’94 season, can you remember the commercials showing someone making a “snow angel” on the infield dirt? I can, I can still feel the hatred I felt towards baseball at that time. I played, probably Little League or thereabouts. I played the game as hard as I could, outfielder by trade. I could not fathom in my little mind why these guys that made millions of dollars a year could just stop playing a game that I loved to play. So once the next season rolled around it took a little while for me to come around to start following the game again. Then the bombs starting going, the “Chicks Dig the Longball” commercials in 1998 happened. McGwire versus Sosa happened, then Barry Bonds happened. Once Barry Bonds happened and powers that be had their greedy pockets full and baseball was saved they started cracking down on steroid users. “Kids aren’t just talking about their favorite teams’ chances in the pennant race,” said Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the committee. “They are talking about which pro players are on the juice.”
Kids like I was at the height of this over criticized era in MLB. The whole reason Congress stepped in and did anything was kids. It is NOT a player in any sport’s responsibility to raise the worlds’ kids. That responsibility falls onto the parents of those children to teach them the right from wrong. I have two boys, I don’t care if taking a substance would help them pedal a bike faster, hit a ball further, even build a lego statue better, they are NOT taking those things. It is not because some league somewhere mandated that steroids are illegal, it is because as their father I care enough about their well-being to not want them to have an episode where their heart explodes in their 40s or they snap and kill their families as we’ve seen in the professional wrestling community. Those instances can be traced back to steroid use. To get this back into baseball, lets look at something besides home runs as a stat to see if steroid use. Sammy Sosa was a career .252 hitter and was a 30-30 man in 1993, 11 of 18 seasons Sosa hit over 30 home runs and averaged 33 per season. Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs as a ROOKIE in 1987 and was a career .263 hitter. However in 12 of 16 seasons McGwire hit over 30 home runs. Unless he was juicing his whole career that is impressive. Averaging 36 home runs per season is impressive. They were not great hitters before alleged steroid use. Barry Bonds was a HOF caliber 5 tool player before all the home runs he hit, a 40-40 player in 1996. You think steroid use had anything to do with Bonds drawing 177 walks in 2001 when he hit 73 home runs, drawing 198 walks in 2002, 148 walks in 2003, or 232 walks in 2004? Last I checked steroids did not help eye sight or hand-eye coordination. He batted .328, .370, .341, and .362 in those 4 seasons. You think of steroid use as beefing up a player to look like Mr. Atlas not helping them stealing 30-40 bases in a season. These are three of the major players in MLB that SAVED the sport in the exact manner that Bird-Magic did in the NBA during the 1980s. Now the Hall of Fame won’t even recognize the existence of these players or their on the field accomplishments. Look some players it helped some it did not, if you hold what Canseco says true then most everyone was on them. I say so what if they want to destroy their bodies for an extra edge on the field. The problem is rampant use apparently, and anabolic steroids have long been proven to deteriorate the human body. However human growth hormone is a much more natural approach and has a more natural progression to building muscle. This is what Bonds allegedly used during his playing time. You can spend days reading about the steroid era and how over publicized it was, Congress having any say in the sports realm is utterly ignorant in my opinion. Make laws that pertain to the masses not the best 1% at playing a game. MLB officials: don’t turn your back on the very players that saved your sport. Parents: teach your children right from wrong instead of being too busy for them and relying on “role models”. And finally players: abide by the rules, play the game hard and at your collective bargaining agreement meetings submit benefits of legal nutrition and whatever else you can to help your bodies as you play the game. Injuries are too often the cause of a potential great players career being cut short. To the fans: keep up the good work of showing up to games and demanding reform when you see something go awry. It was apparent that the steroid era didn’t effect attendance and it increased popularity of baseball because guys were going bananas at the plate and owners’ wallets were growing.