Take me out to the ball game is the start to the song most synonymous with the greatest sport in the land. The sport that unites fathers and sons all over the land and creates life long memories that still gives you the warm fuzzies decades later. But since the mid-90’s the “Steroids Era” stigma has stood out much more than the actual play on the field. In every major sport with the exception of hockey (sorry original six fans) has evolved to new heights in popularity, competitiveness, management and overall appeal. However with this natural evolution baseball seems to be the only major sport that has the drug-induced ball and chain that can’t be shaken.
It’s estimated that 5-7% of players during the initial full scale drug testing, tested positive which works out to about 37 to 53 or so players. An overabundant amount to cause a national uproar would be an amount far more than the societal usage which stands at 14% circa 2010, so baseball should be in the clear. The media and the public is holding the illegal acquisition of an athletic competitive edge against MLB like a high school sweetheart holds catching her boyfriend under the bleachers with her best friend. I refuse to believe the cause of this bias is directly related to this, but I implore you to consider the following.
Steroids era or not the 1990s were some of the best for the nation and baseball. US spending was at an all-time high, the housing market was through the roof and at the peak of it all was baseball. Great teams, iconic players and an equal split of the sports market were an everyday happenstance on all the major news feeds……AND THEN IT HAPPENED! On August 28th 1994…not the first report of dirty players, but the MLB Strike that caused the World Series to be canceled.
The much ballyhooed disagreement between millionaires and billionaires had stopped the juggernaut dead to rites at the plate. The 1st strike in 13 years had struck the mightiest blow of them all and the giant has been on life support ever since. Even though no one would admit it; media outlets and fans alike have chosen to use the illegal substance battle as the great equalizer. Every other major sport has experienced, overcome and persevered through major drug scandals unscathed. The NBA, NFL and even the NHL have learned from this lesson baseball had the unfortunate pleasure to teach.
So when you see players who have only been linked to banned substances being massacred faster than an early 90s Tyson opponent you know the root of the hatred. Don’t think I am condoning the uses of said products; I’m still old school and believe in earning everything you achieve through hard work and dedication. Baseball traditionalists need to forgive and move on to enjoy the game you fell in love with. And when you look at that chart with the top 25 HR hitters of all time make sure you are looking at it with the eye of the child who fell in love with the old ball game and not the eye of Jim Joyce who can’t see an out is clearly an out……..