MLB steroid scandals continue to overshadow raw talent
On Sept. 28, New York Yankees hitter Aaron Judge made history by hitting his 61st home run of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, passing Babe Ruth and tying Roger Maris on the list of home runs per season in Major League Baseball (MLB). Judge is now ranking first in the American League for that record and fourth overall in MLB history.
The amazing achievement by the 2017 rookie of the year has been widely celebrated by MLB and fans of the game, and rightfully so, as 61-year-old records don’t get beaten every day. However, his new record brings back a dark past in baseball history that unfortunately eclipses Judge’s natural and exceptional athleticism.
Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds are the only three players to have hit more home runs in a single season than Judge (66, 70, and 73 respectively). What do they all have in common? According to MLB reports, all of them are intimately tied to the baseball steroid scandal era.
Steroids were laughably common in MLB before 2002, when the first instance of drug testing became mandatory for players over spring training. A thorough investigation of the usage of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) among MLB players, known as the Mitchell report concretized the issue when over a hundred players were exposed for their cheating, including Bonds. The sport took a massive blow and people who were once childhood heroes retreated into the darkness. As a sport, baseball was seen almost as fake as the WWE.
Fortunately, today it’s picking back up, but traces of the steroid era linger in the record books.
Even if it is certain that all three aforementioned players tested positive for steroids, their names still figure ahead of Judge’s and Maris’s in record lists, and no asterisks could compensate for the horrific act of cheating. It might be a strong word but it is justifiable and accurate, even if many athletes used steroids at the time.
Now, for clarification, the use of steroids by Sosa, McGwire and Bonds hasn’t given them the hand-eye coordination needed to hit a ball going over 90 mph, but it did give them more strength, a necessity if you ever want to hit over 60 home runs. Therefore, it did impact their performance.
Sports should be about raw and natural human prowess. Using PEDs should never be tolerated, and keeping the records of Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire justifies and downplays the gravity of using PEDs as professional athletes. At least they’re nowhere near the baseball Hall of Fame, so we can find some solace in that.
However, the issue remains that it takes away from the true heroes, the ones who don’t need the crutch of steroids to beat records. Standing at 6’7” and weighing 282 lbs, Judge’s body is made to hit consecutive home runs. He has also never been associated with any PEDs and it’s utterly sad that we have to give him credit for that.
It’s his name that should be at the top of the single-season home run record. The best sport to be represented by athletes like him and his name should stick around, and not in fourth place. I wish him a 62nd home run, and I wish him the Triple Crown. Now, excuse me while I go knock on wood.
Author’s note: Aaron Judge remarkably hit his 62nd home run on Oct. 4, officially passing Roger Maris and setting the new American League single-season home run record.