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The International Writers Magazine

Muscle Bound: Baseball in a fix
Matt Alison

As Barry bonds approaches to surpass Hank Aaron’s career home run record, a question arises of his legitimacy. With the steroid pandemic in Major League Baseball the press and fans put all the blame on the players themselves. Jason Giambi recently stated all of Major League Baseball, players and owners, should take the issue on. The government certainly has with subpoenas to players left and right over the past three years. But what about the owners themselves, they simply let the pumped up phenomenon go on for easy dollars.

Let’s go back a couple of years before the Mcguire, Sosa, and Bonds home run chase. Back in 1994 Major League Baseball had a players’ strike that lasted more than half a season, no world series that year. The issue at hand included salary caps and other complicated issues, but the general consensus among the public was that the players were being greedy. I remember on a senior year spring break trip to Cancun passing a baseball field on a bus where people played under the hot Yucatan sun. Everyone on that bus made fun of major league players with derogatory comments about their pay and character. At the time people seemed fed up with multi-million contracts and the loss of meaning to America’s pastime. On television around that time the legendary Wade Boggs who still played stated something equivalent to: Baseball will never come back from this.

This strike was the longest in sports history, and when they came back to play change seemed to be the order. Starting with the playoffs, before two American league teams and two National league teams would go to the playoffs: east and west with the winners going to the World Series. Under the new formation, the two leagues had three divisions: east, central, and west. So a total of four teams in each league goes to the playoffs because of a wild card. As a baseball fan today, in 2007, you have to agree this was a brilliant move because more teams scraping for a chance in September, but not as bloated as the NBA playoffs. Around this time, inter-league play started between the American and National league. Also Florida, Arizona, and Colorado got their prospective extension teams. Basically Major League Baseball made changes to engage the interest of the American public.

Every baseball fan today can remember the year when Sosa, Bonds, and Mcguire chased the home run record for a single season. Excitement, by September at every swing they did the whole stadium came a lit with thousands of camera flashes. Fights over home run balls, and the media along with the American public became in awe of these sluggers’ feat. Basically this publicity along with the Yankees starting their new dynasty brought baseball back to the forefront of American sports. Did the media, fans, and everyone in general assume these guys were using steroids? Of course, but everyone was more concerned with the fact that one of these three players would break an elusive record. Roger Marris held the home run record of 61 home runs from the season of 1961. No one really came close to this for nearly forty years. It’s easy to judge in 2007 when Bonds record of 73 home runs in 2001 stands, and the significance can be detached with the years gone by. Also the media and government attention to steroids was not present compared to today. Back then people got caught up in the hype and wanted to see the historic home run record broken.

Baseball made a decisive come back, and the home run chase was a major factor in the revival. Baseball had more publicity and fan base since before the strike. Another factor that helped their cause was the new era of stadium construction, but the major factor had to be the way the players played the game. Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to the steroid usage and reaped the benefits. Home run balls sold for unreal amounts of money at auctions, and so forth. On the usage of steroids here is a fictional scenario. Let’s say instead of the World Series being the major arena for baseball, the world wide Olympics every four years held more significance to the game. Because of the regulations in Olympic sport, anyone using steroids would be disqualified if caught. Every contestant is tested, and winners have had their medals removed in the past because of enhancement drugs.

Shouldn’t professionally sanctioned American sports have the same standards or regulations as the Olympics? Especially Major League Baseball should have regulations of this sort because of its pretensions of context to history including statistical records. So who’s to blame? Remember the ridiculous phrase from the nineties: ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game.’ I think that applies here, Major League Baseball should have been testing these players at regular, perhaps weekly, intervals. Steroids are an illegal substance in this county, and with the performance enhancing results from usage sports owners had to know some players would succumb to super stardom from a syringe. If some insurance agent in Denver loses his job over a failed drug test, shouldn’t professional sports players have the same accountability? Without enforcing steroid regulation in the late nineties and early 2000’s Major League Baseball did a huge disservice to the game and deceived the American public.

Hopefully, baseball can overcome this taint. Last season, 2006, was fantastic, and this year is shaping up too. I see more team effort rather than individual celebrities and stat chasers, even with Bond’s looming career home run record.
© Matt Alison June 1st 2007
matt allison <

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