The Controversy of Baseball and Steroids
Steroids Make Baseball "Impure" ? Not so fast.
This lens was created to dispel the myth that somehow steroids in baseball has caused the game to become less "pure." People who claim to be baseball purists have selected amnesia. I am not saying steroids in baseball is right, so PLEASE do not put words in my mouth. What I am saying, is that steroids in baseball is just one item in a very long list of things that have caused the game to change and not be "pure" anymore. Once you have read this, you will wonder just what baseball purists mean when they talk about keeping the game pure. Manny Ramirez was not even caught using a steroid but another so-called banned substance. Seems like all big stars will eventually be caught doing something.
I remember when wearing stickem in football was the norm but illegal. Now all players wear gloves. That was unheard of 40 years ago. Wide receivers wearing gloves is a huge unfair advantage to those players who were bare handed. But let's get back to the topic of baseball, steroids, and asterisks! Steroids in baseball is only one small part of baseball's past that has created controversy..
Image source: Wikipedia: Public Domain
American Icon The Fall of Roger Clemens and the rise of steroids.
Number One Reason Why Asterisks are a Bunch of Baloney.
Did you forget this about baseball's past?
So somebody took steroids. Big deal. Let's take a look at something that really make's this whole argument look rather lame.
When people talk about the purity of baseball, most think of the 1920s and 1930s. The Babe Ruth- Lou Gehrig era. Hmmm. That's strange because they talk about putting asterisks by Barry Bonds, but fail to want asterisks by Ruth and Gehrig. What for, you may ask. Simple. Black players were banned. That's right, people. Barry Bonds would have never even been allowed to play! How fair was that? Do we put asterisks up for those players' records before African American's were allowed to play? I'd say so. What kind of a record can it be if you did not face anyone from a certain race? So before you talk about asterisks and the sulliness of Barry Bonds and others, let's talk about the racism that occurred in baseball.
***EVERY statistic before black ballplayers were allowed should have an asterisk!
Second Reason Why Baseball, Steroids, and Asterisks are a Farce.
You still have to hit the ball!
If you have never stepped into a batter's box, you have no idea what a truly difficult thing it is to hit a baseball at 90MPH with a wooden bat.
You still have to have excellent reflexes, bat control, eyesight, batting mechanics, and concentration. Steroids do absolutely NOTHING for those things. In fact, one could argue they actually hurt. Look it up. High doses of steroids cause cataracts.
Hitting a baseball out of the park is perfection at its peak. Everything must be perfect.
So anyone who took steroids did nothing to improve the above. Nothing. And believe it or not, sheer strength has little do with hitting homeruns. Tall, lanky batters with sweet swings are much more likely to hit the most homeruns overall.
Roid Rage is not going to make you a better batter. In fact, not only does it not make you a better ball player, but it makes you a worse human being. I've seen Barry Bonds stand in the outfield, take all sorts of shouts and slurs from fans right behind him. And all he does is stay silent. Roid rage would have kicked in if he was such a heavy user. He would have lost his composure. And believe me, I am a Dodger fan. I rooted against Barry Bonds.
Do a little experiment. If you have never played baseball beyond little league, visit a local batting cage. Step into just a 70mph cage and see how successful you are at even getting some wood on the ball. Then you will realize how much training and talent it takes to even get a lousy single in a real baseball game.
You thought cheating was a modern phenomenon?
So steroid taking is cheating. Let's ban the cheaters! Put up asterisks!
Think again. In 1920, the spitball was banned from baseball. That means, pitchers up until that time legally tossed what was really a legally tampered baseball. So, what do you do to the unfortunate ballplayers who had to bat and hit a spitball? Babe Ruth had to. Ty Cobb had to. Do we put asterisks on every pitcher and batter before 1920?
And here is the kicker...Anyone who was pitching the spitball in 1920 could still toss it after it was banned! The prohibition was only for NEW pitchers! So, the legal cheating continued past the ban! Amazing how baseball purists forget!!!
Gaylord Perry Cheated all the way to The Hall
If you think Perry did not cheat, well...
Here is a quote from the Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry:
"I became an outlaw in the strictest sense of the word - a man who lives outside the law, in this case the law of baseball."
This type of cheating, however, has always been condoned. Makes baseball quirky. Adds flavor to the game. But where were the baseball purists?
Baseball Gloves, Then and Now
Would that glove on the right be cheating in 1920?
How about if you showed up on the field with that over-sized-2013 glove in 1920?
Would you have been laughed off the field? Accused of cheating?
Is it okay to get a competitive edge using better equipment but not by some other enhancement? How can you possibly say that using the glove of today is not a farce compared to the gloves of yesteryear? Legal? Sure, but these new gloves are vacuum cleaners compared to the past. C'mon! Be fair!
This Had the Most Dramatic Change to Modern Baseball
The Mound. Here's one that many baseball purists forget. Or don't even know about. You know what happened in the 1960s? I lived through it, albeit as a little boy, but I do remember. Pitchers ruled! (And this was before the DH) Nobody was hitting anything. Baseball was in a tizzy! What to do? Denny McClain won 30 games. The last man who will ever do it. Pitchers like Denny and Bob Gibson were just killing the swingers.In 1969, baseball took a tremendous step to dramatically change the game. The height of the mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. Many teams had even made it higher. With a steeper, higher slope, the pitcher gets an advantage. At a lower height of 10 inches, pitchers really took a hit, pun intended. So, what to do with the pitching stats before and after? Who gets an asterisk?
The Changes in Baseball Over the Years Have Dramatically Changed the Game
If you support asterisks, you need these as well. Don't be shy! Make it pure!
If steroid use is so bad, and so detrimental to the game, and so on, let's take a look at things that really changed the game. Steroids have had little effect compared to the ones below.
Night Baseball. 1939 brought the era of sunshine to a close. No more playing baseball under a hot sun. The lights and cooler temperatures alone changed the way people played and batted.
Wool Uniforms. Playing baseball in a wool uniform on a hot muggy New York day must have been murder. How easy is it to play now in all cotton in the cool of the evening?
The Shoes! Baseball players wore real steel cleats. How horrible! Ty Cobb even was known to sharpen them up! And oh those awful leather shoes! Nowadays, players wear custom shoes!
The Bats. Baseball players had to save on bats. They really had to keep the trademark up. Many players used the same bat game after game! Today's ballplayer has an unlimited supply of custom made bats!
The Mitts! Well, it would be hard to actually call them mitts. Have you seen the gloves from the early days? They were nothing more than gloves! They were very, very small. It's a wonder anyone caught anything! How about the gloves of today? They are oversized-waffles! You could catch a bear in one. Hard to imagine anything getting by any fielder today. That alone is the unfairness of playing today as opposed to yesteryear.
The Stadiums. They were huge and cavernous. In New York, the polo grounds in center field was over 450 feet. Holy cow! Many stadiums were similar. Batters had to really hit it far to get a homerun. How fair is it now to bat in a small stadium? Many are maxed out at 400ft or less. And how about playing inside a dome? How crazy is that? Air conditioned and climate controlled! Yeah, that's pure!
Astroturf. Thankfully, astroturf is on the way out. But many, many times in the 1970s I saw people get astroturf hits. And if you watched the Cincinnati Reds, you saw Dave Concepcion come up with the one bounce out. This would have been unheard of before astroturf. I'd say every single hit on astroturf should not even be counted. It worked both ways. Many ground rule doubles that took a huge astroturf bounce over the fence may have been triples.
The Designated Hitter. What a farce. If people really, really wanted baseball to be pure, the first thing mentioned would not be steroids. It would be the DH! This has prolonged many an old timers career. Old timers who can't run, but can still swing a bat. Every pitcher before this rule had to bat. How reliable are the stats, then? And now? Pitchers in the American League can sit on the bench and rest. How do you count hits and homeruns by designated hitters? Are they worth the same as ones that are hit by real ballplayers? I say no! Put an asterisk by them! Count them as only worth half! Maybe pitchers became so lousy from the mound being lowered, they had to do something.
The Length of the Season. It is now 162 games. Used to be 154. So right off the bat it makes no sense to match up stats from one era to the next.
Anti-Trust Exemption. Because of this act of congress, baseball has been able to ignore the laws of the land for all other business ventures. Up until the 1970s, players were locked to one team unless traded. If they refused to play, they were fired. Long term contracts were non-existent.
Baseball's History. All through the history of baseball, numerous players have had their share of cheating. In the past, it was looked upon as being cute or cunning.
We Need More Asterisks Because of These Things as Well.
Next up on the list: The Cushy Job of a Major League Player Today!
Travel, Food, Health, Physical Fitness, Off-Season Jobs
Teams traveled by overnight train in cramped cars. How could they possibly perform as well as a pampered major league player of today? The best planes, best hotels, best food, even a meal allowance!
Health. Today's players have access to an unlimited plan for health. Team doctors, the best hospitals, therapists, and more. What did the player of yesterday get? Lou Gehrig had to play while sick and injured. Players knew they would not have a place on the team if they did not. There was no injured reserve list or guaranteed contracts. Can we put an asterisk by Lou Gehrig because he would have done much better had he not been sick and injured? Yeah! Let's add 25 points to his lifetime batting average just to be "fair."
Physical Fitness. Today's player has access to a state-of-the-art fitness room. Sauna, spa, weight room, whirlpool, etc. These things did not exist back when baseball was pure.
Off Season jobs. For most baseball players, their salary was very little. Most had to get jobs during the off season to make ends meet. Can you imagine A-Rod driving a truck in the off season? He's too busy making the cover of People magazine.
How about food? Do you think baseball players ate better then or now? Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns on hot dogs and beer. How about we put an asterisk by his name? better still, how about if we just pump his total up by, say 30 HRs to be fair?
An Often Over-looked Game Changer: WWII
World War II took a lot from the game.
Many major league baseball stars went into the service. Some of them volunteered.
Joe Dimaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, and Hank Greenberg are hall of fame players who lost up to three years of playing time during World War II. The game was not nearly the same during these war years as all able bodied men and boys were going off to war. What should be done about those stats? Some of the best players were overseas.
Baseball, Asterisks, Steroids, Cheating
The argument is not whether taking steroids is right, wrong, or even cheating. The argument is about putting asterisks only for Barry Bonds and others. Baseball is not pure and never has been. Remember Curt Flood? Batting helmet flap rule? Not to mention the fact that every umpire has a different strike zone. Major League Baseball also has the Pete Rose farce, players strikes, antitrust, union busting, and more. And lowering that pitching mound instantly decreased the pitchers ability. Any doubt Gaylord Perry cheated most of the time? All his stats should definitely be asterisked. The season is 162 games now. The expansion of the league, the DH, and the live ball, are probably the number one reasons why batting average and homeruns are up.
So, raise the mound back up, ditch the DH, put Pete Rose in the hall, and even go back to Pre Jackie Robinson days of purity. That'll show 'em! Keep baseball pure. You do all these things, then indeed, I will agree to toss Barry Bonds and the like.
Old Time Baseball Videos - Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and more
Vintage footage of the golden age of baseball.
Classic Baseball Photographs
If you love old time baseball, you will love this book.
Golden Age of Baseball
Golden Age of Baseball Photographs.
Any good arguments, for or against, or just an opinion, will be published. What will not be published is just plain rants and raves. You don't need to be nasty! I'll get your point.