Despite their hallowed title, the owners do not “own” the game of Major League Baseball (MLB). The players do not “own” the game. Nor do the agents. The game of baseball, in particular the MLB version, belongs to the people.
If the people, some of whom are actually fans, do not pay taxes to fund stadiums, the games are not played. And, if fans did not attend the games, listen on radio or internet, watch on TV or internet, and purchase billions of dollars worth of merchandise from replica jerseys to hats to key chains – the games do not exist, period. Baseball would still be an amateur sandlot, and/or scholastic level game.
The greatest honor for any Major League Baseball player is induction to its Hall of Fame (HOF) in Cooperstown – which, incidentally, is not the birthplace of baseball. Debates over who should be in (Where is Marvin Miller? Jim Katt? Dale Murphy? Fred McGriff? Edgar Martinez?) or who should not be in are as entertaining and timeless as the action on the diamond.
Now the mighty winds of controversy swirl over the eligibility for induction of the major league leader in home runs, Barry Bonds: heir to the great Babe Ruth and heroic Henry Aaron who achieved his record under the torrent of racism. Though he has never been convicted, nor confessed to steroid use, Bonds is the “poster boy” for the Steroid Era of Baseball. MLB and its fawning press had all but erased Bonds from history – but now Barry is back, and will be every year until he is enshrined.
Participate in just about any sports website survey to cast your informal, un-official citizen fan vote and you’ll discover that the percentages of “no to Barry” far exceeds “yes to Barry” despite the fact that Barry never failed a test. All the evidence against Bonds remains anecdotal.
The steroid era - usually gauged as 1990 to the time of the Congressional Hearings of 2008 – was not only on the baseball fields. It was at your local gym, in your office, and on your suburban and city streets from New York to San Francisco, from Dallas to Detroit. The correct answer on your SAT test should read: what marijuana use was to the Woodstock Generation, steroids were to the 1990s.
Yes, we were a nation of “juicers.” So how did baseball fans not know that their heroes were juiced? Scores of players in their late 30s – the age frame when a major league player’s skills naturally decline - belting 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 home runs? Baseballs routinely flying out of stadiums! Baseball players twice the size of an average American human being! The anecdotal evidence was everywhere.
If you do not remember the 1990s - check archival video and compare the size of players in the Steroid Era to players in the 1980s. No amount of legitimate nutrition and exercise could achieve such super-human results.
Forget the corporate media and teams which profited from the astronomical ratings (“Chicks Dig the Long Ball”) and box-office, but where were the fans who love the game more than life itself? The fans that refer to their teams as “we?” The fans that mark the most important days of their lives in correlation with World Series victories? The fans which inspire their kids to follow the righteous path of their baseball stars? The fans who dress up as their favorite players even when it’s not Halloween? The fans that spit vitriol at opposing players? The fans who know more about the minutia of the game more than they know about their own government?
(Incidentally, performance enhancing drugs in baseball are not new. Players of previous generations routinely took amphetamines in a myriad of formats to get through the long grueling season. Read Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” or Jim Brosnan’s “The Long Season” for further education on the subject. Do we need to remove the Hall of Fame inductees who took them? And where is the competitive advantage when you have juiced pitchers, juiced batters, and juiced fielders?)
The Steroids Era happened because the fans let it happen. The fans took no action, despite the fact that they are the most powerful players in the game of Major League Baseball. Since the fans – the true owners of the game – let it happen, the Steroid Era is legitimate!
Enter Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmerio, and Jose Canseco into the Hall of Fame.