The other day I was looking at the all-time and single-season home run records at Baseball-Reference.com.
I was amazed to find that six of the top 10 home run hitters of all time played during my lifetime (I was born in 1989).
On the single-season home run list, the top six seasons took place while I was alive. Moreover, all six seasons took place over a four-year span (1998-2001).
Everyone knows the reason for this: steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
No one is quite sure how to view this era or the records set during this time. Certain players cheated for an extended period of time and now sit on top or near the top of some of the most hallowed sporting records in America.
This is clearly a problem for anyone who values baseball's past. It is near impossible to frame the so-called "steroid era" in a historical context.
When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, I was furious, more furious than when the single-season record was demolished again and again.
I grew up idolizing the Hammer. As a child my father and I wrote him a letter, to which he responded by sending an autographed photo. (Receiving that photo was one of the happiest days of my life.)
After Bonds, I was left wondering, What does 755 mean now?
My first opinion was that Bonds' record should be stricken from the books. An asterisk would be a start, but really, why stop there? This man cheated and essentially stole a record held by my childhood hero.
Hank Aaron should still be No. 1 all-time.
As time passed, I've come to realize the ridiculousness of my wishes. Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs. Yes, he cheated, but that doesn't change the fact he hit more home runs than anyone else who has played Major League Baseball.
Even if his name did not appear on top the "official" record, people would still know he hit seven more home runs than Hank Aaron. There is no way to erase the memories of every baseball fan who lived through his career.
Ultimately, Major League Baseball failed its fans and the legends of the game.
They failed to implement adequate testing measures for performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and all the other cheaters were allowed to keep playing even as they destroyed the record books.
If Major League Baseball had the mentality of the NCAA, however, Barry Bonds' name would be erased from the top of the all-time home run list. All other cheaters would be erased as well.
The NCAA frequently attempts to rewrite history. The recent scandals involving USC football great Reggie Bush and University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari illustrate this.
Bush voluntary gave back the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005. If he didn't give it back, it most likely would have been taken from him. He was retroactively named ineligible due to violating NCAA rules for players receiving benefits.
The NCAA is attempting to eliminate Bush's career at USC. The only problem is he played phenomenally at USC. No sanction, judgment, or ruling will make me forget his brilliance.
Calipari is in danger of vacating another season with another school. He already owns the distinction of having seasons vacated at the University of Massachusetts and University of Memphis.
From what I understand, the term vacate means all games are taken out of the record books. I'm pretty sure I remember Memphis playing in a Final Four. Quite a few games were played to get there.
While the NCAA is taking action now, the damage has already been done. Reggie Bush played at USC. John Calipari led teams to winning seasons and Final Four berths. Sure, some board can say they never happened, but they did.
As I realized with Barry Bonds, you can't change things once they've been done. The actions taken by the NCAA are no different than rewriting baseball's record book. Associations and leagues can say whatever they like about the past, but they cannot change it.