There are a lot of former baseball fans out there. People who used to love America's (past) pastime when it was "clean," when players looked like normal people and played because of a love for the game, and when no one even considered the thought of 70 home runs in a season.
Of course, the sports lost thousands of fans after the brutal 1994 strike. And just when its popularity was soaring again around the turn of the millennium, the steroids scandal rocked the game. And rocked it. And rocked it some more.
Many fans who turned their focus to other sports and endeavors may never come back to the game. However, everyone must admit this regardless of their disgust for the sport — it's done a very good, thorough job of cleaning up the game the last few years.
The latest news? Last week, MLB implemented random drug testing in the minor leagues for Human Growth Hormone, or HGH as it's commonly referred to. HGH has been a go-to drug for cheaters of recent years because it can't be detected by a urine sample. Now, that elusive blood test will be arbitrarily administered to minor leaguers.
It will be a little more difficult to get the testing implemented at the highest level because of collective bargaining, but most experts believe that it's not far away — that it's going to happen. Of course, there are always new, undetectable drugs out there. So it'd be naive to say that an HGH test would mean a completely clean sport. That's never going to happen.
But watch an MLB game today, and you'll notice how different it is from a decade ago. Players are noticeably smaller. And the biggest storyline of this season has been the dominance of pitchers, who have posted better numbers across the board than they have since 1992 — when steroid use was minimal (check out a Barry Bonds picture from that season and compare it to the '01 Bonds portrait).
Criticize Bud Selig all you want, but he's done more as a sport's commissioner than anyone else to clean up a game that was dirtier than a kid after a mud football game. MLB has in place penalties for steroid use that include a 50-game suspension for a first offense, a 100-game suspension for a second offense and a lifetime ban from the game for a third. Other disciplinary actions are in place for lesser crimes against the game.
The list of steroids, abusive drugs and stimulants that result in a penalty is long — very long. It reads more than 60-deep, and it's never a surprise to me when a player is suspended for taking something he had no idea was banned. Of course, it's the player's fault for not doing his research. But it also speaks to the thoroughness of MLB's movement against PED use.
Maybe some fans were lost for life during the ugly Steroid Era and its aftermath. Well, too bad for them. Because baseball today is as clean as it's been in quite some time.
Just watch the product on the field and you'll know right away.