Through the Steroid Era, Baseball Still Has Been Very Very Good to Me
Former MLB slugger Sammy Sosa once said, "Baseball has been very, very good to me." Actually, in his Dominican accent, baseball was actually "berry, berry" good to him. And for me, the sport has been nothing but "berry, berry sweet" to me.
Well, then the whole performance enhancing drugs fiasco came along. Baseball icons like Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Rodriguez have been linked to PEDs.
Most recently, Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez tested positive for women's fertility drugs and on Tuesday, Roger Clemens went on the radio to once again tell everyone that he is innocent.
So how has baseball been good to me? Because of these guys I just named.
Growing up in the Oakland area, the Athletics were my team of choice to follow. Being only 12 years old at the time, it was exciting for me to start to pick up sports while growing up. And the Athletics had this fantastic promotion that year: all children ages 14 and under pay only 98 cents for any general seating area in the park.
Obviously, a ticket to a baseball game at that price is a steal. Sitting right behind the dugout at the Coliseum at that price was just phenomenal for a budding baseball fan.
I started to follow baseball during that 1998 season. And it was a season for the ages.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris' single season record. David Wells threw a perfect game. Roger Clemens had the pitching Triple Crown. Kerry Wood struck out 20 Astros in a game. The National League Wild Card race was truly wild (Cubs beat Giants in one game playoff for that spot).
As much as it was interesting to see former Oakland Athletic McGwire break the home run record, I think that the national attention to baseball gave me a desire to follow the game. After the 1994 strike, any good news for baseball was great news.
But as the years continued where home run records would fall, I started to follow the little bits and pieces of the game. I began to appreciate batters that could work a walk (in what most people know now as "Moneyball").
My appreciation for great defense (thanks to amazing Gold Glove efforts from Jim Edmonds, Torii Hunter, and Eric Chavez) grew as the years continued. The pitching matchups and the late-inning clutch hits became my yearly summer friends.
While these great things kept my passion for baseball fresh every season, the steroid era clouded everything that I loved.
Don't get me wrong, I am in no way a supporter of any kind of performance enhancing drugs. But it's hard for me to accept the fact that a good portion of my love for baseball came at the hands of cheaters.
McGwire refused to talk about the past. Palmeiro pointed and lied. Sosa forgot how to speak English. One by one, all my favorite stars looked weak and insecure in front of Congress. That was much different than the strong, powerful sluggers that I saw at the plate only a couple seasons prior.
My friends who aren't fans of baseball always question my passion for the sport.
"How could you like a sport where nearly everyone's a cheater?" they would ask.
My best reply would just be because I love the game that much. Every sport has a handful of cheaters; but only baseball has been put under the microscope for so long.
Baseball is still a game of speed, strategy, and sometimes just pure luck. That still hasn't changed through all these years. Players still go out to the field with a desire to play the game with a passion.
I'm not going to let some people who decided to take a shortcut ruin the sport for me. These athletes will get their just punishment when their time comes. It's just a shame that these athletes were the reason why I started to follow the game.
However, baseball is still baseball. The basic concept of the game hasn't changed. And the excitement I get while watching a game still will never change. Baseball has, is, and always will be very, very good to me—no matter how sour it has become right now.
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