Connelly: Biggest error of steroid era? That it ended
Baseball lost me as a regular viewer a couple of years ago when they started testing for and cracking down on performance enhancing drugs.
That’s right. I was a fan of the steroid era and I’m not afraid to admit it.
If you picture a baseball fan spectrum and the baseball purists — the people who still talk about Babe Ruth’s diet or Hank Aaron as the all-time home runs leader — are on one side, I’m about as far the other way as can be.
This is supposed to be Major League Baseball’s big week until October when the postseason begins, which by the way is way too late because most of the country is all-in on football at that point.
Last night was the Home Run Derby and tonight the National League’s best will play the American League’s best with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line. What better way to decide who will host Game 7 in the World Series than by playing an exhibition game in the middle of July?
Baseball would be a lot better off if it didn’t take itself so seriously. Why make a game with players who won’t even sniff the postseason have that big a factor in deciding home field?
If the Atlanta Braves make the World Series with the best record in baseball and have to travel to Oakland for a Game 7 because Cardinals and NL all-star team manager Mike Matheny decided to pitch the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning instead of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, how much sense does that make?
Go back to making it fun again. I want Larry Walker moving over to the right side of the plate with his batting helmet on backward after Randy Johnson grooved a fastball over his head at The Jake in 1997 again. I don’t want a 2-1 game where relief pitchers don’t get used because winning’s so important.
Who cares that the 2002 all-star game ended in a tie? What I remember most about that game was the sensational catch Torii Hunter made to rob Barry Bonds of a home run and then Bonds lifting him over his shoulder between innings.
That’s fun. I can see Clayton Kershaw make professional hitters look foolish 30 times a year in the regular season. Give me John Kruk standing outside the batters box vs. The Big Unit over that any day.
Above all, I want the home run derby to be fun again.
I will never forget watching Mark McGwire bombing home runs over the Green Monster at Fenway Park in 1999, while hundreds of fans packed the streets outside the stadium. (If you haven’t seen the show, it’s on YouTube)
The summer before that, baseball had the country’s attention more than any time in the last half-century. The home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa was so polarizing in 1998 that it managed to distract an entire nation during a presidential sex scandal.
Think Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton, who are two of the best young players in the game, could do that today? Not happening.
Yasil Puig, maybe. But he’s already being outcasted by the league for his antics, which let’s face it, are fun to watch.
Then there was Barry Bonds’ pursuit of the former home run king Hank Aaron and the live cut-aways ESPN would do to show his every at-bat.
They’re not doing that this year to show you Derek Jeter’s fundamental play at shortstop to throw a guy out at first base.
Baseball’s steroid era did two things: captured the attention of Americans and made watching a 162-game season fun.
Since then, television ratings have been decreasing and it’s no secret why.
Why do you think the NHL allows fighting? It’s not because it’s healthy for the players.
Why do you think the NBA caters to its superstars? Not because it’s always fair.
Why do you think the NFL allowed guys to play with concussions for so many years? Not because they didn’t know the consequences.
They’re all appealing to fans and let’s be honest, that’s how you generate a profit.
Wake up baseball. Quit being the moral police and make the sport fun again.
Kevin Connelly is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @Connelly_Vindy.