Get Over It: The Steroids Era

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Get Over It: The Steroids Era
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Now that a little time has passed since Mark McGwire admitted what we all already knew anyway, I encourage everyone to step back and take a nice deep breath.

 

Once the news broke, every sports radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and reporter grabbed their paddle and lined up to give McGwire the bottom spankerin' of a lifetime.

 

It’s almost as if the entire “steroid era” was his fault. Are we seriously going to do this every time a former user comes forward?

 

It’s time for everyone from the casual fan to Hall of Fame voter, to get over it.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I hate all the crying too. Every time I see McGwire on TV he is whimpering like he just got booted off of American idol. I despise all of these supposed “confessions” that are still laced with lies and justifications.

 

But I also think that everyone who is about to take a swing at Mark McGwire should take a look back at the last 120 years of baseball history first.

 

They would see that baseball is a blend of many “eras”, which need to be examined and considered in a broader context. That is what makes baseball history so great. It’s time to embrace the steroid era and get over it. It happened, tons of players were on roids and we can’t go back and fix it.

 

Just like we can’t go back and fix the Dead-ball Era, the Live-ball era, the World War II era, the High-mound era, the advent of the DH or interleague play. Every Hall of Fame voter should know this.

 

All of them should understand the historical context of baseball statistics and be able to adjust their criteria over time.

 

This is why a player doesn’t appear on the Hall of Fame ballot until he has been retired for five years, and even then voters have 20 years to consider voting him in until he is turned over to the Veterans Committee.

 

Get over it, guys: 500 homers is not what it used to be.

 

If you asked me if I speak for a younger generation of baseball fans, I would say I think so, and we don’t care about steroids. The people who do covered the game prior to the rise of steroids, or the era.

 

They had to watch the actual change from one type of baseball to another first hand. If you honestly remember baseball in the 80’s then good for you, but it doesn’t look that sweet.

 

This happens around the fault line of any baseball era though, or whenever a great record is broken. Few could stomach Babe Ruth’s record falling to Roger Maris in 1961, so they attached an *asterisk to the new record.

 

That asterisk is a symbol of the baseball establishment’s inability to come to grips with the fact that their game and how success is measured transforms over time.

 

Ruth’s 60-homer season in 1927 was eight games shorter than Maris' 61-homer season in 1961. But he never had to play night games and travel to the west coast like Maris did 34 years later. Ruth played against fewer teams and less diluted pitching, Maris had to face the screwball.

 

All I am saying is a record is a record, debating it is healthy, but trying to quantify exactly how many home runs Ruth would have hit had he played in 1961 is a total waste of time. It’s fun to talk about, but in the end you have to just go with the actual number.

 

Get over it. You can’t be in favor of removing an asterisk from Maris’ record and in favor of adding one to Barry Bonds’ at the same time.

 

Why is it that we want so badly for baseball’s records to be consistent and applicable over the decades? The sport is simply not the same today as it was in 1961, 1947, or 1927. That’s a fact.

 

America is different, science is different, why can’t baseball be different? If anything baseball is more different than anything else.

 

No two swings and no two windups are exactly alike. The actual field of play is different in every stadium. There is no clock and no overtime. These are the parts of baseball we celebrate and accept.

 

So why not accept a statistic accrued in 1946 (before an entire race of people were permitted to play in the major leagues) was done so under difference circumstances than a statistic accrued in 1998?

 

We need to get over it. Statistical achievements fade.

 

Not only that, but the fans and media who are screaming for apologies need to take a long look in the mirror. We all bought into the steroid era hook, line and sinker and the McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens bashing can’t hide that.

 

We all wanted our baseball back after the strike and we accepted what they gave us. We all bought tickets and we all watched on TV too, probably even seeing a few Viagra commercials along the way (get it)...

 

This includes the players, too. Retired players from a previous generation deploring steroids have the luxury of never having to play in an environment where its abuse was so rampant.

 

I feel for the guys who thought they just needed to keep up (besides the understated fact that a rule actually against taking steroids didn’t exist until 2002).

 

I suppose all these retired and current players pointing fingers were perfect angels too. Are we to believe they never did anything that helped them gain an advantage? None of them ever stole a sign from a catcher, or took a ball they thought was a strike, or cheated on their wife?

 

Get over it. Nobody is better than anybody else.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I wish that steroids weren’t a factor, I wish that life was simple. But what makes baseball different over time is what makes it unique. It makes it more interesting to discuss from a historical perspective.

 

You have to know not only about baseball history, but American history to truly understand and judge the game.

 

Healthy debate and argument is what’s going to keep baseball alive now more than ever. It’s going to give sportswriters more to say and think about.

 

Why change that? Why dull it down to step-by-step instruction manual when what we really have is a layered and colorful novel?

 

So don’t worry, baseball is still great and in some ways because of the steroid era. It has allowed us to examine what we really do love about the game. It taught us more about the human condition, and our desperate obsession for fortune and fame.

 

Most importantly, it taught us again that baseball is just like life. It’s not simple and straightforward and perfect. It’s complicated and hard, and sometimes it’s not fair.  It’s a combination of dark and happy moments.

 

Steroids will always be a part of baseball lore now and that is just that. The sooner we get over it, the sooner we can all move on and start enjoying the game again.

 

Jimmy Weinland

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