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Baseball, Steroids and America
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Ramo Ghosh
 
By Ramo Ghosh
Published on December 2, 2008
 
When people look back at most of the big home run hitters of the 90's and early 2000's they inevitable associate those players with steroids. Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa are all tainted.

When people look back at most of the big home run hitters of the 90's and early 2000's they inevitable associate those players with steroids. Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa are all tainted. The era has been tarnished forever by the notion that these star players were on performance-enhancing drugs, even if they were not.

While I am not suggesting that steroids were advantageous for baseball, it does help to consider how these drugs gave a 'boost' to the game. In the pre-steroid era, there was George Brett, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, and Ryne Sandberg. All were great and are worthy Hall of Famers, but they were all regional superstars. They didn't hit 50 home runs a year. While they are undoubtedly legends, but the fact of the matter is that people were not willing to shell out money to watch them run bases hard. That didn't put people in the stands or generate excitement. On top of this, Pete Rose was caught gambling and baseball was in peril.

However, McGwire and Canseco started generating a buzz which saved baseball. Canseco became the first person in history to join the 40/40 club (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases). People were excited about baseball again and steroids were the reason why. Then the hold outs and strikes came, as baseball began generating more revenue the players wanted their slice of the pie. By the year1994, it seemed that baseball was back on track, especially after a few consecutive exciting post seasons. But the strike painted most big league ball players as greedy and fans responded by focusing their attention on other sports. As a result baseball revenues dipped and the sport was once again in trouble. Enter steroids again.

While Major League Baseball knew about players were resorting to steroids, it turned it's cheek because its sport was now drumming up support, excitement, and most of all - money. It didn't matter to the league that kids were looking up to these guys, what mattered was that baseball was once again America's game. The situation changed with the arrival of Bonds.

A very talented guy(a fact that few people appreciate), he wanted the accolades that McGwire and Sosa had. Bonds recognized their recipe for success and began taking steroids, but he was not so lucky. The reality was that no American wanted to see Hank Aaron or McGwire's records fall. So when Barry came along and broke McGwire's record of 70 home runs in a season, it was then, that the public and media cared about steroids in baseball.

The steroid controversy makes one wonder how much better the players who played by the rulebook, could have been. Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson dominated despite every other guy in the opposing line up taking steroids. Would they have been more dominant? Would some players have had a chance to crack big league rosters but couldn't because they wanted to stick to their morals?

Thus baseball needed steroids to survive and thrive. It might not restore tainted records, erase 20 years of stealing money from fans and demonstrating that cheating is acceptable. But because of steroids, long term solutions can be implemented to ensure playing fields are level in future and that young players keep needles out of their arms. Steps must be taken to finally clean up the sport.

People still love players like Sosa, Palmeiro, Clemens, McGwire, and Giambi and they can still have a strong legacy. These guys were great despite taking performance enhancing drugs and they've all probably, felt regret for cheating. They learned from it, and they need to teach young players the same lessons.

These guys were loved not just for their ability to play, they were loved for their personalities and charisma. Those qualities make good coaches and good mentors. This is why MLB needs to embrace these guys to help spread a more powerful message, to restore it's image and more importantly, restore the game.