It's been a little more than four years now since Senator George Mitchell released a report detailing the history of steroid use in the majors and incriminating 87 players as offenders. Among those in the report were stars of the game such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada.
It has only been in the past couple years that steroid users have been up for Hall of Fame induction and the result has been clear: Players who use steroids will not reach Cooperstown. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been the two biggest names, but more are soon to come. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will all be on the next ballot and Bonds and Clemens will be the largest test so far of the writers' view of the steroid era.
The game has clearly been affected by steroids. Home run numbers have dropped every year since 2006, starting at 5,386 and decreasing to just 4,552 in 2011. The last two years have both been referred to as "Year of the Pitcher." At this point, it's clear that the increase in testing for steroids and the harsh punishments for cheating have curbed the impact of PEDs substantially.
All of this is not to say that there are no more players using illegal substances. Major league players such as Edinson Volquez, Ronny Paulino and Sergio Mitre have all been hit with 50-game suspensions over the last few years. Ryan Braun faces a 50-game suspension as he has been publicly smeared after a potential positive test. Manny Ramirez became the first MLB two-time offender under the new policy and was given a 100-game suspension that has likely cost him his career and a sure Hall of Fame induction.
Players are going to try to cheat. Any smart person would try to gain an edge, but those without a moral compass will do so outside of the rules. That said, Senator Mitchell would be hard-pressed to create another list of the same size thanks to the increase in preventative measures.
The new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union includes random blood testing to detect Human Growth Hormone. The MLB is the first major professional sports league to institute these tests in North America. This should increase the disincentive to attempt to illegally gain an advantage.
The history of baseball was changed by the steroid era and it will show in the players left out of the Hall of Fame. The good news is that we have entered an age where the league will no longer act like there is no problem and justice will be served. The post-steroid era has begun and now, baseball fans can argue about more important topics, like expanded replay and radical realignment.