Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bouncing Back From the Steroid Era – Already?

If history is in fact written by the victors, it’s safe to assume baseball’s Steroid Era will endure a fair bit of revisionist history. Why? The guilty keep winning and the powers-that-be in Major League Baseball don’t seem to care to take any drastic action.

Then again, why would they? They’ve got a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Besides, they’re a business, not a platform for higher moral standards.

The next generation of baseball fans be damned.

With a new World Series champion to be crowned in a months’ time, four teams remain in contention. In listening to and reading the critics, there’s one match-up that many are hoping for: New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.

And why wouldn’t they? From a media standpoint, the story lines abound:

• Tradition – They’re two iconic clubs, among the oldest and most storied in the game, and also have two of the largest fan bases.

• History – The teams once shared city borders when the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn. The team relocated across the country in 1958.

• The Torre Factor – Estranged Yankees manager Joe Torre traded pinstripes for Dodger blue after not being resigned by the club he led for 12 seasons. Despite four World Series titles, six American League pennants and a playoff appearance each season, he was allowed to walk.

Then there’s that other issue that somehow seems to get swept aside when ratings and ad dollars are at stake: Performance Enhancing Drugs. Along with the host of story lines, the two teams also have two of the most recognizable known performance enhancement users on their rosters: the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez.

According to some, one of the validating factors of a Yankees-Dodgers series is that it will signal the beginning phase of closure to the Steroid Era.


The cloud of uncertainty surrounding the past 15 years of baseball is nowhere near dissipating as names continue to be leaked from the infamous 2003 survey testing list, and yet, there are already talks of closure? Both Rodriguez and Ramirez were outed in the past six months, and both continue to collect hefty salaries and play for postseason accolades. And yet, there are talks of progress?

The only certainly to date is that an entire generation of fans of this country’s national pastime has been exposed to a tainted slate of broken records, champions and high-profile stars. And it’s a period that is irrevocably lost to court proceedings and lies.

What does a dad say to a son who dreams of one day playing in the big leagues? To whom do they point as an example of what’s right with baseball? Most every big name that has had a period of success has been assigned the scarlet letter ‘C’, for cheater.

Stringent drug testing procedures are now in place, and seem to be having an effect, reflected in those players who’ve undergone a makeover in statistical matter. But what message does that send to the fans and their lingering feelings of being deceived?

Get over it.

The message sent to the future millionaires of MLB, on the other hand, is this: “Run and hide. Change your ways. We won’t ask, we won’t tell. Just don’t do it again or we’ll suspend you for a little while and you can go off and enjoy the millions of dollars that you’ve unethically earned to the dismay of millions of viewers.”

No doubt that the MLB playoffs bring a heightened sense of drama and enjoyment to sports fans across the country, but that shouldn’t be enough to hide what’s really going on. If enough people say steroids are a thing of the past, hopefully we’ll get over it, right?


A common happening in the ebb and flow of professional sports teams is rise and fall, success and failure, dominance and rebuilding. Following the height of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa duel of 1998 in breaking Rogis Maris’ revered home run record – which resulted in returning baseball to national sports prominence – the mighty have since fallen.

And so baseball enters a collective era of rebuilding. Rebuilding legitimacy. Rebuilding a fanbase. Rebuilding faith in its product. Baseball has long stood as sacred ground in the annals of American sports, but the luster is long gone. Now it’s on the MLB to right its wrongs and do so in a way that treats its paying customers in a way they deserve.

Written for my Personal & Professional Style class at JSchool at Columbia University.

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