Performance-enhancing drugs are once again at the forefront of Major League Baseball, and once again, nobody seems to have a clear solution.
Last semester, in HIS 265: ‘Baseball in American Life,” Professor Borus taught us that what happens in America is always mirrored on the baseball diamond. It seems only fitting that the era or should I say error of performance-enhancing drugs coincides with an era of irresponsibility in America.
I remember the 1999 MLB season like it was yesterday:
Everyone was saying that the McGwire-Sosa home-run race of 1998 saved baseball, so there was a lot of anticipation for ’99.
Babe Ruth established the single-season home-run record at 60. It stood until Roger Maris hit 61. Until 1998, Ruth and Maris were the only players to ever hit at least 60 home runs in a season, yet from 1998 to 2001, Sammy Sosa did it three times, Mark McGwire twice and Barry Bonds once. No player has done it since.
How lucky was I to be witnessing this? Or so 12-year-old Matt thought. Oh, ignorance is indeed bliss.
One of the best statistical seasons in baseball history was 1999, especially for a Red Sox fan. Pedro Martinez led the league in wins (23), ERA (2.07) and strikeouts (313) en route to the A.L. Cy Young Award. His teammate, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, won the batting title with a .357 average. He would win it again in 2000.
The Yankees won the World Series that year, just as they had the year before and just as they did the year after. But such was life for a Sox fan in 1999.
The discussion of performance-enhancing drugs was virtually non-existent in ’99, especially compared to the talk about the perils of Y2K.
Fast forward to the present:
The last great hope for a somewhat clean era goes down.
Although the revelation that A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs completely denied the Yankees slugger his privacy rights, the fact remains that this is the final piece in the puzzle that proves just how deep baseball’s steroid problem runs.
Who would have thought that out of the entire scandal, Jose Canseco would emerge looking the most forthright?
There is no clear step forward for MLB. Certainly the league should upgrade its testing program, but that doesn’t fix the problems of the past.
Will baseball historians remember what happened on the diamond or what happened off of it in the turn of the 20th century?
Will we remember Andro, HGH, the Cream and the Clear? What about Radomski, McNamee, BALCO and the Mitchell Report?
How will the Hall of Fame treat Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa and now Rodriguez? Will history remember them as the great players that they were or dismiss them with a permanent ‘*”?
Baseball may be the American pastime, but the game has lost a lot of its allure.
I finally realized that it was about much more than steroids when I was reading an article in the New York Times this past Friday, entitled ‘Trying Not to Root For the Yankees.” The article was far away from the Sports Section, written by metro columnist Clyde Haberman, a lifelong Yankees fan.
Haberman writes, ‘The Yankees have almost gone out of their way to make it hard to root for them.” Seeing this article in the Times was at first a dream come true, but after a second and a third look, I realized that Haberman made it hard to root for baseball, not just the Yanks.
In this period of American excessiveness, baseball has once again mirrored the nation. The overspending on players and stadiums, the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs: how can we make anything of the mess we have gotten into?
‘You don’t have to be a wallower in nostalgia to miss the days when players resorted to performance-hindering drugs, usually liquid,” Haberman wrote. ‘One can only guess at how many of [Mickey] Mantle’s 536 career home runs came while he nursed an epic hangover.”
Starr is a member of the class of 2009.