Jacob Luft of Sports Illustrated makes an important observation regarding Sammy Sosa’s resurgence in an era of steroid testing.
The bigger question has more to do with how Sosa’s return to form jibes with our lingering disillusionment of the 1998 Home Run Race and The Steroid Era in general. I mean, it was a fraud, right? It was in the papers and everything. We’re supposed to feel guilty for having cheered Sammy and Big Mac all summer long while they pursued Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs, right?
But with every blast Sosa launches, he disturbs the widespread perception of The Steroid Era (capital letters). We’ve painted a lot of players from the same time frame with the same broad brush as cheaters. And maybe they were cheating. But maybe there were other factors, too (i.e. expansion, smaller stadiums, lively baseballs, bad pitching, etc.) that had a lot to do with it. At what point do we stop revising history and start giving Sosa and Barry Bonds credit for what they are doing right now under a different set of conditions?
The truth of the matter is that blaming steroids for the power surge among the media is like wearing an alligator on your shirt in high school: it’s what the in-crowd does. Never mind that other possible explanations exist, and few have pointed out that testing hasn’t lessened power in the two-plus years of testing—home runs are down a bit this year, but this is probably due to low temperatures (also, see here)—or that pitchers are being busted just as frequently has hitters.
I’m glad that somebody noticed.