As we go into the traditional baseball Hall of Fame weekend this summer, there will be no inductions of players into Cooperstown. The fact that so many big names have been shunned-Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa to name a few-is no surprise, but rather other well-deserving players that have obviously been dragged into the web of the steriod-era period. And more infuriating is the “holier than thou” position of the baseball writers, who are now telling any press outlet that will listen how they have proven their point by punishing the guilty parties no matter how many records they have broken along the way.
Turn back the clock to the summer of 1998, when the entire country was fixated on the home run race between the two behemoths, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. You could not pick up a newspaper (remember them)? or turn on any news outlet without seeing their latest home run tally. ESPN led Sportscenter with their escapades every night of the week. Sports Illustrated’s “Men of The Year” in 1998? McGwire and Sosa, for conducting their home run race with “dignity, joy and openness”…In addition, sports outlets and toy stores were flooded with Mac and Sosa bobbleheads, posters, and DVDs. As McGwire celebrated his historic 62nd home run late in the season, who will forget Joe Buck gushing over the spectacle of McGwire embracing the family of the late Roger Maris, whose record Big Mac shattered by 9 homers by the end of that season.
It’s funny how the number of sports articles, commentary and general coverage in the late 90s was so devoid of the dangers of steroids, and the fact that they were corrupting the stability and sanctity of the game that most of us grew up falling in love with. Sosa and McGwire may have been the most glaring examples of that era, but there were countless other instances of home run clout that seemed completely out of whack with reality. Take Brady Anderson‘s mysterious 50-home run season, the 57 homer run season by Luis Gonzalez, 50 homer seasons by such players as Greg Vaughn, Andruw Jones, and the list goes on and on.
On a local level, the 1993 Phillies, anchored by “Macho Row”, were one of the most endearing and beloved teams that Philadelphia has ever seen. Anchored by Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra, with supporting cast members like Pete Incaviglia, that team was heralded as a lovable band of underachievers. In the meantime, we all knew, as most of the national press did to be sure, that much of their success and statistics that season were due to steroid use. Consider how long that team remained in baseball after that ’93 season, let alone continued to be effective. Dykstra’s numbers alone would never be approached going forward, as he completed one of the greatest statistical seasons in the history of leadoff hitters.
As fans, and media, we chose to look away. It had been 13 years since the Phillies had won it all, and we had endured some brutal seasons from the late 80s up until 1993, so we embraced that team with all of our passion and heart, and despite their crushing defeat at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, they remained a “Rocky” success story for years to follow.
The 1993 Phillies were a microcosm of what was happening on a national level. The strike that wiped out the 1994 post season had greatly damaged the game, and the increase in home runs, culminating with the 1998 home run race, allowed fans to once again embrace it, much as Macho Row allowed us to feel good about Phillies baseball again. The fact is, we all chose to look away from the PED angle, instead focusing on the game itself, and what had brough us back to falling in love with it in the first place. The national media went right along with us, transforming the homer run hitters of that era into larger-than-life goliaths as the local media helped to portray the ’93 Phillies as a beer-league softball team making good, kicking the mighty Atlanta Braves in the teeth with less talented, yet gritty players.
Now in 2013, we have a collection of national sportswriters who have chosen to shut out all players from this year’s Hall of Fame class, as if they played no part in the creation of monsters like Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire. And what is the result? A group of deserving players that are suffering non-inclusion based primarily on playing during that era. Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, and even arguably Curt Schilling, would have most likely been inducted already in another era of our national past time. The writers have wavered more dramatically than a Mark McGwire practice-field home run on this issue, and the pathetic part of it is that they helped to feed that era of crooked numbers as much as the public did. Most people have no issue with making it tough for players such as Bonds and Clemens to enter the Hall, but by acting in such a righteous manner, they are throwing the baby away with the bath water.
That era should be viewed nationally much as Philadelphians have come to view the 1993 season. It was a fun ride, it was nice to feel good about the game again, and yet we are also smart enough to know what made that team so statistically dominant. Perhaps if the national writers and commentators took as practical and sensible a viewpoint as the “average” Philly fan does, we could have been spared an embarrassingly quiet weekend in Cooperstown this summer.Tags: Andruw Jones, Barry Bonds, Brady Anderson, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Darren Daulton, Fred McGriff, Greg Vaughn, Hall of Fame, hypocrisy, Jack Morris, Lenny Dykstra, Luis Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, MLB, Pete Incaviglia, Philadelphia Phillies, Roger Clemens, Roger Maris, Roger Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, steroids