By Alton Beermann
As the 2013 baseball season ramps up I can’t help but think about the role of steroids in the game, especially with new allegations against A-Rod making the news. Baseball has a long and celebrated history. However, the history of the game is also littered with stories of cheating to gain an edge. There has been cheating in baseball since the game began. From the 1919 Black Sox scandal, to Pete Rose and his gambling, and recently, steroids or HGH, cheating has long been part of the game. What other sport allows participants to “steal” to get ahead? This is just part of Major League Baseball and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, cheating may have improved the quality of the game in some circumstances, and the “steroid era” (that most likely isn’t over) brought more excitement than shame to the game. Look at the facts:more home runs were hit over a 20-year span than ever before while, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire were all part of a media frenzy to become the next home run king.
Barry Bonds epitomized the steroid era. Whether or not you were a casual fan, a fan of Barry Bonds or even a fan of baseball, you sat down and watched Barry when he was up at bat in 2001, destroying the home run record Mark McGuire had set just three years earlier.
So I’m going to come out and say it: cheating in baseball is a part of the game and players who used steroids should not be kept out of the Hall of Fame because of it.
With the recent findings coming out of a Florida lab that players such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were implicated as users even after baseball imposed sanctions and mandatory testing and AFTER the Bonds, Clemens and Sosa testimony before Congress in the early 2000’s, it raises questions on just how widespread steroid usage was and is in baseball. What is it about baseball that makes people want to cheat so badly? I love baseball and I don’t think HGH has tarnished the game. I, like most fans, love to see the long ball. The so-called steroids era shouldn’t have asterisk next to broken records in the Hall Of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both belong in Cooperstown.
I think the excuse that “everyone was doing it,” is somewhat valid. Everyone makes their own choices but it doesn’t make steroids less easy to do when they are accessible, under a doctor’s supervision, and are making a physical difference in muscle size and stature. There has been no proof that steroids make someone “better” at baseball but clearly they do have benefits. These players made bad mistakes in choosing to use drugs but the records that were broken still were broken and we can’t simply ignore what happened. Steroids don’t build muscle by themselves. Athletes (even couchletes) have to still be committed to working hard in the gym to build strength. Steroids simply allow faster recovery and harder workouts in the gym. I think as time goes on this point of view will gradually be accepted. I see it as players trying to do everything possible to win, and that’s much better morally than taking money or gambling to lose a game.
So even though I’m not condoning drug usage or cheating, I do think we need to recognize it and accept it as part of the game of professional baseball. These players did what they did and I don’t think you can look at them and try to speculate what numbers would have been like without steroids. These guys like Barry Bonds have great numbers and because of that, deserve to be Hall of Famer’s. Maybe I’m a biased Giants fan, and drugs have changed the game, but with baseball’s long history and reputation, it will bounce back, even without that extra boost.