Saturday, February 21, 2009

The History of Baseball

Currently the biggest problem plaguing baseball is the use of steroids by the players and how that taints or ruins the game.  All of these old men claim that this is the worst thing ever and that baseball isn't sacred anymore.  To them I say was baseball ever sacred? 

To begin with baseball was founded on the principal of racism.  Only white men were allowed to play in the MLB and no African Americans, or any other race for that matter, were permitted to play.  It wasn't until 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier that African Americans were allowed to play big league ball.  Now I realise that at the time racism was commonplace in America but it does not overshadow the fact that the history of baseball begins with racsim.

Next we move to the very fact that in 1919 Shoeless Joe Jackson and some of his Chicago White Sox teammates rigged the World Series.  Not even one game but the whole series.  Imagine today if it was discovered that an entire team of players were being paid to throw the World Series.  It would be the biggest scandal is sports history.  However to baseball purists this is simply shrugged off as they claim it was merely the consequence of the times and the economic situation.  Is it not a greater crime to rig the World Series than to take performance enhancers?

As we move further along down the timeline of baseball history we come to the era of doctoring the baseball.  A time where almost every pitcher from the 1930's to the 1970s who would 'doctor' the ball to make their pitches harder to hit. Pitchers like Gaylord Perry, who slicked the ball up with whatever he could get his pitching fingers on to make him more dominant to Whitey Ford, who copped to nicking the ball with his wedding ring to give it more movement.  This was the age when pitchers would take sandpaper to the ball or spit on it to get more movement.  These men are in the Hall of Fame and yet no asterisk.  Is it not worse if pitchers cheat rather than individual players?  Pitchers control so much of the game where as a single player may only get 4 or 5 at bats per game.

We then come to the age of amphetamines and hard drugs.  These "uppers" were used by noted players such as Ralph Kiner and Willie Mayes who are both in the Hall of Fame.  These pills were used to give players more energy so they could compete at a higher level more frequently.  Since the 1980s there have been tones of players who have stepped forward and claimed they used.  What was their consequence?  Nothing.  Players like Keith Hernandez won the MVP award while being coked out of his mind 90% of the time.  Is that not more detrimental to the game than hitting more homeruns?  What's worse seeing your children's hero take cocaine or hit dingers?

Finally we come to the steroid era.  Using performance enhancing drugs wasn't against the rules of baseball it was simply frowned upon.  Instead of releasing lists of players who took steroids they should release a picture of guys who didn't.  I would be willing to bet that more than half of the players in the MLB during the 1990s was taking steroids.

To pretend that steroids are the scourge that ruined baseball is simply ridiculous. The only reason the hallowed greats of bygone eras will stay hallowed is that there are no urine tests around to de-mystify them. And it's just plain stupid to think that by keeping a handful of players out of Cooperstown, the game's integrity is re-established and the slate is somehow wiped clean.

You can't rewrite history. You can't unplay those games, or remove those tainted home runs and strikeouts from the record. If the now-infamous 2003 tests are to be believed, more than one out of every seven players was ingesting something illegal that year. Which means that at every single game, at least a couple of players on the field were cheating. What are baseball writers going to do, pretend that major league baseball didn't exist in the '90s and the first part of this decade?

The rules are now in place to help ensure the guys on the field are playing clean. So let's stop with the asterisk-laden statistics, the ostracism of first-rank ballplayers, and the holier-than-thou attitude in general. It's time to move on.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is your obsession with downplaying the steroids issue in baseball? You don't see it as a big deal to find out that some of the best players in baseball history have been caught taking steroids/performance enhancing drugs?