Everybody’s favorite New York hating, crotch grabbing, homophobic anti-Semitic xenophobe, John Rocker came back into the headlines yesterday when he claimed that “steroids made baseball more entertaining”. Rocker, in an interview with Cleveland’s CBS affiliate, had this to say.
At the end of the day when people are paying their $80, $120 whatever it may be, to buy their ticket and come watch that game, it’s almost like the circus is in town. They are paid to be entertained. They wanna see some clown throw a fastball 101 mph and some other guy hit it 500 feet. That’s entertainment. You’re paying to be entertained….
Steroids have long been a hot button topic in baseball. They first came into the public eye back in 1998 when a reporter, while doing an interview with Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, noticed an odd assortment of drugs in his locker. Seven years later, with rampant reports about steroid usage, plus the death of former slugger Ken Caminiti, the infamous “steroid summit” on Capitol Hill happened, in which prominent ballplayers such as Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and McGwire all testified, and lied to Congress.
After the “steroid summit”, Bud Selig implemented a series of drug testing programs. What initially started as a series of small suspensions eventually gave way to the now Draconian punishment that we know today, in which a first positive test is 50 games, a second is 100 games, and a third is a lifetime ban from baseball. Compounded with the Biogenesis scandal, baseball has really cracked down on steroid usage. Nobody is safe, including former MVPs Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, who are both expected to net 100 game suspensions.
Going back to Rocker though, is his point correct? Is it true that baseball could be more entertaining if steroids came back and there is no consequence?
Knowing that I will catch a lot of flak for this, I’m going to agree. Having grown up during the tail end of the steroid era, when Bonds shattered both the season and career home run records, I’m going to have to say that baseball has gotten boring. Sure, there’s a lot to be said about in-the-park baseball, and 2012’s “Year of the no-hitter”, but really, you have to think…
Baseball was at an all-time low back in the mid-1990’s. The strike had altered the fan’s perception of baseball as a game full of greedy ballplayers and unscrupulous owners. Nobody really wanted to go to a game, and it obviously showed in attendance marks when the season had started. Even with what Cal Ripken did back in 1995, the fans were still hesitant to get back into the baseball mood.
1998 was when people started coming back to baseball, and it was mainly due to the fact that the home run chase was going on. Admit it, if you were watching baseball in 1998, particularly the home run chase, you were thinking to yourself, “Will Maris’ record fall?” not “Are they taking steroids?” Even three years later, when Bonds broke the record, you probably felt the same way.
Six years later, when Bonds was found to have used steroids and still was on pace to break Aaron’s record, I think more people were interested in the fact that he was going to break the record, not the fact that he used steroids. Sure, people were mad that Bonds used steroids, but that was because the media and Major League baseball forced the fan to puppet their sentiments on what they thought.
Even though Bonds has been called a cheat, there still is a plaque at AT&T park that points out that Bonds broke Aaron’s record. Even though it was known that he used steroids, Aaron still congratulated him. Even though it was known, fans still cheered when Bonds broke the record. It’s only the casual fan, influenced by what the sport itself has told them, that has forced people to recant.
Six years later, when the infamous 2013 election to the baseball hall of fame happened and nobody on the BBWAA ballot happened, admit it, you were angry. This was arguably one of the strongest classes in years, and yet the media again forced their opinion down your throat. And despite the fact that there were no users, you wanted someone, anyone, to make the hall. You were angrier with the media, not the steroid users that supposedly tainted the ballot.
So while you may think you are anti-steroids in baseball, think about it, without steroids, baseball may still be at it’s post 1994 level of excitement, which was next to none. You may say “He uses steroids,” and poo poo it, but admit it, you loved it when players used steroids. So while John Rocker may be a complete ass, his point makes sense. You may hate steroids now, but without them, baseball may not have recovered as quickly from its darkest age.