As the list of players who tested positive for PED's in 2003 continues to be made public, I'm struck by the number of people who consider this some horridly damaging black-eye on the sport of baseball.
Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote this in response to Alex Rodriguez's admittance, saying Rodriguez had committed "a crime against the once-proud history of the sport."
Full disclosure: Jayson Stark is a better writer than I am. He knows more about baseball than I do. So please, if you disagree with me, don't pepper me with comments about how I'm an idiot for questioning him.
However, I just don't understand where Stark is coming from here. He seems to be implying that Major League Baseball had a proud history, and this steroid scandal has tarnished it. Bear in mind, this is a sport that:
1. Had a World Series fixed in 1919.
2. Didn't allow black players to play the game until 1947.
3. Had widespread amphetamine use starting in the 1940's.
4. Had a cocaine scandal in 1985 resulting widely publicized drug trials and leading to the suspensions of 11 players.
5. Had owners engaging in league-wide collusion in the mid-'80s.
6. Had a World Series cancelled by a player's strike in 1994.
So apparently, racism, game-fixing, collusion, drug-use, and strikes all contribute to a "proud history"? And yet, steroids damage it irreparably? Are you kidding me?
Look, I get some of where Stark's coming from. We weren't alive in when the Black Sox scandal broke, most people agree that segregation and racism are terrible things, and again, we weren't around for it. You can't carry the burden for things you didn't experience. I understand that part.
But there's a difference between saying, "It's not part of MY history, and most fans' history," and saying "It's not a part of BASEBALL'S history."
Whether or not we were around for it, those six things (and others) happened. And they were all things that chipped at either the integrity of the game itself, or the way we view players and owners.
A lot of baseball fans—and writers—have a romanticized view of the sport, and as I said, for many of their lives, the sport have been relatively unscathed by scandal.
But turning a blind eye to the history of the sport, while roundly criticizing modern players for causing damage to the soul of the game unlike anything we've ever seen is not only unfair, it's ignorant.
Make no mistake, this steroid thing is a mess. It's not a good thing for baseball; not in the least. But let's not kid ourselves here: Worse things have happened to baseball before, and the sport has survived. Bad things will happen to the sport in the future, and it will survive.