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The Steroid Era, I Mean Issue In MLB

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Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmeiro, Mo Vaughn, Eric Gagne, Juan Gonzalez, Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza, Kevin Brown, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez. These players either admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, or “P.E.D’s”,  were suspended by Major League Baseball for “P.E.D.” use or were implicated in “The Mitchell Report“. They are a who’s who of baseball’s biggest names and they all have been tied to “P.E.D.’s”. There are many more names that have not been released for reasons that are both selfish and legal, but one thing is certain, “P.E.D.’s” were a huge problem for baseball and also a huge money maker. 

In the start of the 1990’s baseball was thriving on and off the field. MLB had signed a huge televisiondeal with ESPN and baseball was on 4 nights a week, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday nights as well as Saturday afternoon on NBC (and later FOX). Business was booming off the field as well as on it. The “Bash Brothers” were in Oakland dominating, Pittsburgh was the class of the NL East with Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke leading the way, Atlanta had become an up and coming team thanks to John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery and Toronto was a team that had arguably the best overall talent in baseball. The only thing missing was the Yankees being a dynasty and a home run chase.

Then, in 1994, things changed. The collective bargainingagreement had expired and the players went on strike after union chief Donald Fehr rejected the owners “final offer” on a new C.B.A. There was no baseball for 232 days, including no World Series. There were 931-948 cancelled games (these numbers also account for the fact that postseason series can be of varying lengths, in addition, 12 other games scheduled to be played prior to August 12, 1994 were canceled for other reasons, mainly weather-related). It was the first time since 1904 that a World Series was cancelled and baseball became the first pro sport to lose its entire postseason due to a labor dispute.

Baseball returned in March of 1995,  but the fans did not. They felt hurt, scorned and angry that greed got in the way of “the national past time”. Stadiums that were normally filled to capacity were now half, and in some cases only a quarter filled. Fans made signs that condemned both owners and players a like for their role in the strike. No one in baseball had seen this coming, after all it had survived wars, racism and gambling  scandals. Owners didn’t know what to do. Then in 1998, after two years of fan backlash, two players put baseball on their back for a season to remember chasing Roger Marises single season home run mark and but baseball back in fans hearts for all the right reasons, so we thought.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa took sports fans on a whirl wind journey in the summer of 1998 as they both took aim at former Yankee great Roger Maris and his single season home run record of 61. The chase was memorable for many different reason including ther Cubs and Sosa trying and McGwire’s Cardinals both trying to reach the post season in the same division against each other. But even more memorable was the bond that the two men shared, and seem to relish, during the chase. They liked and openly rooted for each otherto break the record and on September 8th McGwire hit #62 off the Cubs Steve Trachsel as Sosa watched from right field. The two embraced at home plate as a celebration  soon there there followed. It was a celebration not only for McGwire and Sosa, both fan favorites, but for baseball and it’s journey back into America’s hearts.

All seemed well with baseball for the next few years then Barry Bonds, who seemed to have noticebly a lot bigger, step to the plate. 

It was 2001 and the whispers about steroids and not just Bonds, but McGwire and other players had started to get louder and louder. Bonds was hitting at a torid pace. In the first 50 games he hit 28 home runs and had 39 by the All Star break. That season he led the majors in base on balls, with major league record 177 walks, and had a .515 on-base average, a feat not seen since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams over forty years earlier. He was poised and determined to break McGwire’s single season record of 70 home runs set in the magical 1998 season and Bonds did by hitting 73 home runs that season.     

Bud Selig was now the commissioner of baseball and was starting to get pressure from the the media and U.S. Congress to test for steroids. Jose Canseco had written a book alleging that McGwire and others used steroids and had said over 85% of MLBplayers used “P.E.D.’s”. Selig along with current and former MLB players and Fehrwent before congress and were asked “tough” questions about steroids in baseball. On this day, march 17, 2005, the lives, careers and legacy’s of McGwire, Sosa, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and the game of baseball was changed for ever.

Baseball has many different era’s to it’s long and rich history. They are the 19th century era, the dead ball era, lively ball era, expansion era, free agency era, the long ball era and now the steroid era. Baseball loves to embrace it’s past. The players, teams, moments, records and even the era’s itself. In the history of baseball there have been many black eyes in the sport, most notably the exclusion of African American players, but yet baseball has done things to persavere  and make the wrong right. Why now is baseball trying to run away from the “P.E.D.” issue and hide the names of the guilty and the cheaters hoping fans forget about it or just let it go? 

If baseball. the players union and Bud Selig want to move on and put this shameful era to rest, then release the names of the other 103 players that tested positive for banned substances so no more names can be leaked and have fans and players relive this painful era. The owners, MLBPA and even Bud Selig are just as guilty as the players who cheated. Owners and MLBPA reaped the benefits financially form the cheaters. The owners and Fehr knew that there was a “P.E.D.” problem in baseball and turned a blind eye because their bank accounts kept getting bigger and bigger. Only when Congress threatend them did the owners attempt to “clean up” baseball and did so with MLBPA dragging their feet.

The question now is do these players involved in the “P.E.D.” scandal belong in the Hall Of Fame. I say, yes. My reasoning is simple. If players that played in baseball when African Americans were not allowed to play are in the H.O.F. then “P.E.D.” players belong because players in the former era didn’t play against the best competition, so their number were inflated. Ty Cobb was an open racist and he is in Cooperstown. The MLB Hall Of Fame has players who doctored balls while they pitch and used corcked bats while batting. That is cheating last time I checked and whether you use P.E.D.’s, throw a spitball or a corked bat, cheating is cheating.

I do however think that players that played in the “steroid era” should have their own wing in Copperstown and it should have a plaque saying something like “Baseball, like life, has had it’s good times, bad times and regretful times. Baseball, like life, is not emune to times where better judgement was not used. Please take into consideration that through the many era’s of baseball and it’s rich history there have been times that the parties involved with baseball have done things that gave them an advantage that may have inflated their numbers.”  

Baseball can’t and shouldn’t hide from the “steroid era”. Yes it is a black eye for the national past time, but in order to let that black eye heal, they must first release every name that tested positive for steroids or “P.E.D.’s” , that way fans, players and owners don’t have to relive that era every time a new name is leaked out. Time and honesty heals all wounds and until baseball and the MLBPA come completely clean, this wound will remain open.


Written by Joe Arrigo

June 29, 2009 at 23:05

Posted in MLB

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