Thursday, May 30, 2002

I read an interesting article in today's Chicago Tribune. The article mentions the controversy that started when Ken Caminiti admitted in a Sports Illustrated article that he used steroids during his MVP season. The Tribune article basically debates whether or not Major League Baseball should do random screenings for steroids. As of right now the NFL and NBA screen it's players for steroids, and the IOC tests Olympic athletes. It's part of Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement not to test players for steroids.. The players' union is against it. Both Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco said that steroid use is very common in baseball. Some of the players in the article mention that it would be good to screen for steroids. Undoubtedly these must be players who don't use steroids. The one player in the article who says that Major League Baseball shouldn't want to test for steroids is Mark Grace, who says that more steroid use leads to more home runs, which is exciting for fans and good for baseball. Fewer home runs would be detrimental to Major League Baseball.

So there it is. Should Major League Baseball start testing for steroids? My opinion is yes, they should, and let me tell you why. First, I would rather see fewer home runs hit and know that the athletes who hit them didn't use performance enhancing substances than to see a bunch of home runs and know that at least some of those people are juiced up. It's not an amazing feat if the people couldn't do it on their own. Second, it would level the playing field. It's not really fair to the players who don't want to risk their health that other players who are willing to take that risk become better and faster, and better players. It's not fair that someone who is trying to be a healthy athlete is perceived as inferior to an athlete who is full of steroids, especially if we as fans don't know who those enhanced athletes are. Third, and I could have heard this on the Jim Rome Show a couple of years ago but I totally agreed with it, that if there are too many home runs they won't be exciting anymore. So if what Mark Grace says is true and the people who watch baseball watch specifically for home runs, if home runs become common place Major League Baseball will need somehting else to keep those fans.

And that's another thing, and this may offend some non-true baseball watchers who read this. I believe that true baseball fans do not watch baseball specifically to see home runs, and that those people who only think baseball is exciting when a home run is hit isn't a true baseball fan and their input shouldn't matter. There are so many other exciting things about baseball. The diving catch in the outfield. A non-routine double play. A stolen base. A wild pitch that allows a runner to score. When the bases are loaded and there are 2 outs and it's the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, and the count is 3 and 2. The odd funny error. The race to first base: Who will get there sooner -- the runner or the ball? These are all things that make baseball exciting. Those who only watch for home runs don't know the game, don't appreciate the game. So I think it would be a shame if Major League Baseball doesn't start testing for steroids just because they might lose some of the pseudo-fans who think the only thing exciting about baseball is the home runs. I'm not saying that home runs aren't exciting, they are. But they aren't the only exciting aspect of the sport. Of course Major Leage Baseball doesn't want to lose those "fans", they would lose money. I understand that. I'm not stupid. I don't know when this collective bargaining agreement is up. It will be interesting to see what happens re: the steroid issue when negotiations become hot and heavy.


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