Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Unpsoken Issue About Steroids in Baseball

Prior to the revelations about Bonds' alleged steroid use, I used to wonder if baseball fans fully appreciated the chance to see perhaps baseball's greatest hitter ever perform. My view now is that Bonds remains a great hitter but the accolade of greatest ever no longer applies, given that his use of them, if true (and based on what I've read/heard to date, it is true), has given him the extra power boost to jack up his numbers to the level of super-human/immortal.

Of course, there is no way to tell by exactly how much steroids increased his homers. But the point is that he used a substance to help him do it. Whether others did it or not is not the point, he, and others already possessing a high level of skill and power seem to have benefited the most - see McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro. Who knows? The only other ideal to no one using them would have been that everyone used them.

The not knowing of the actual impact of the steroids is what makes this issue so hard to get a handle on. And there's another area of not knowing that I have not seen discussed but I think is even more important than the individual records and hall of fame issues that have been bandied about. This question which has no answer is: did steroid use help a team win that otherwise would not have won a game? Did any steroid ringers hit game winning home runs or deep sacrifice flies that gave their team an edge they would not have had? Again, we'll never know. And that will be the enduring problem with this whole thing, that the use of steroids by a group of ballplayers to gain an advantage in strength has tainted a whole era of ballplayers.

We like our baseball to be pure. A bad call here or there we can live with. We can tolerate Robert Fick and Alex Rodriguez slapping at fielder’s gloves, because we can see it’s wrong and there’s real time public humiliation. Stealing signs has intrigue to it. We can tolerate bad character in a player, and even misdeeds off the field, but anything that casts doubts about the purity of the game takes us aback – corked bats, thrown games, gambling on your team.

p.s. Based on Ron Darling's commentary on Met telecasts I believe he agrees with me - and he went to Yale.

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