I have been reading different viewpoints as to old time players vs. modern day and steroids destroying baseball's integrity or just being part of the game. I figured I'd give my take on this as a long time baseball fan. Yes, I'm a Yankee fan, and proud of it but I fully respect opposing teams and players.
I view the steroid controversy in the following light - perhaps over simplistic - but nobody's perfect:
If you have been a long time baseball fan and value the integrity of records - particularly the most prestigious ones - being all time HR and single season HR totals to name a couple, then the proven and alleged steroid usage is something that destroys the integrity of the game. Let me explain why. I will readily and proudly admit that my favorite all-time player was Mickey Mantle (with Don Mattingly being second). Despite all his personal demons and flaws, Mickey wound up with 536 life time HR's and when he retired in 1969 he was 3rd on the All-Time list behind Ruth and Mays. Mantle played in pain throughout his career and teammates often wondered how he could perform at that level considering how bad his knees were. Despite those ailments he could hit a ball over 500 feet and one that was estimated at 625 feet had the facade of Yankee stadium not gotten in the way. And that was natural power! Mantle's poor lifestyle did everything to bring his numbers down. I'm not going to defend what he did but anyone who wants to read Mickey's bio would be more sympathetic to his flaws based on his family mortality rate. Oh, as an aside up till the 1962 season (his prime) he led the great Willie Mays in almost every offensive category.
Why am I bringing this up? Because to today's fan the steroid usage of the past decade or so makes 536 HR's look like a very good to great career but definitely not all time great - hey even Rafael Palmeiro hit 569 HR's if you wanna believe that.
So from a purely selfish viewpoint to the current die-hard baseball fan the steroid era illegitimately minimizes the achievements of past all-time greats.
But here is the larger issue. Baseball, more than any other sport is records oriented - particularly the biggest records like All- Time HR's & single season HR record. Aaron legitimately broke Ruth's record. While I might argue that Aaron played in a band box for a good portion of his career while Mantle had to deal with 461 ft to dead center and not much less to right and left center coupled with the fact that he was never a pull hitter, that's baseball. And Hank did it legitimately. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro & company used PED's to inflate their numbers. Don't get me wrong! I think Bonds would probably have wound up with 600 HR's regardless and was a sure Hall of Famer before he decided to cheat and then face perjury charges that may put him behind bars.
So in effect, while the outcome today in games is not pre-determined the records in my view are more like exhibition records, everything is suspect... it's like the WWE. McGwire was like Hulk Hogan. Bruno Sammartino, arguably the most popular wrestler of the 60's and 70's went on a campaign against steroid use and was blacklisted by the powers that be. We need some more people like that in baseball - willing to take risks to restore integrity to the game - if in fact that's possible.
The Pro Barry steroid era point of view is "What's the big deal"? Today's fans aren't as concerned with all-time records and the legitimacy of those records as they are with seeing 550 foot HR's (wish there were more videos of The Mick so they could've seen it done naturally). They argue that everyone was juicing during the steroid era (yet to be proven- and to what ratio pitchers vs. hitters?)) and "let's just move on". They mention amphetamines and corked bats being used in past eras but that doesn't hold weight in my book as one will keep you awake but not increase distance and corked bats have been proven to actually lessen the distance a ball will travel. They argue that cheating is cheating no matter what but I say there are different levels of cheating. If cheating is cheating no matter what than is stealing signs on the same level as steroids?
This brings me to A-Rod. I was a big supporter of his for the longest time but this latest revelation, while an admission - tarnishes what he cherished most - his stats - particularly in HR's, and his image. I just hope the book by Selena Roberts (who despite what you may think of her is well respected in her field) doesn't include alleged Yankee PED use or years prior to Texas but I am bracing for the worst.
I still don't understand why those who either admitted to PED use or have proven to be users can't have an asterisk next to any records they set should they eventually enter the Hall of Fame stating that these feats were accomplished using PED's and let the fans decide. I am also open to not letting any steroid users in the Hall as it violates Rule 5 of the Hall of Fame voting: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." There are valid arguments to be made for both options.
The true bottom line in my view is if you're an average baseball fan or a product of the Bonds, McGwire, Sosa era you don't really care. I'm afraid that's where most people stand. Nothing I or anyone else will say - whether we say it eloquently, back it up with facts or not will change your minds.
If you are a baseball purist then I'm preaching to the choir who find the state of baseball today to be scandalous. I, as well as my peers will continue watching games and rooting for our teams but keeping in mind that HR records set are like exhibition game stats. To the purists, like myself, the all time HR leaders are:
- 1) Hank Aaron
- 2) Babe Ruth
- 3) Willie Mays
- 4) Ken Griffey (unless something comes out - who knows?)
- 5) Frank Robinson
- 6) Harmon Killebrew
- 7) Reggie Jackson
- 8) Mike Schmidt
- 9) Jim Thome (I always thought he was old school legit but who knows?)
- 10) Mickey Mantle