Seriously, this joke has gone on long enough. In 1998, when the obviously ripped Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were booming their way into the history books, baseball didn’t say a peep. The race to beat Maris brought the league some well-needed goodwill a few years after the strike almost crippled the game for good, and boosted ratings and attendance. Selig and the owners didn’t say boo. Nobody in the press voiced a single objection. Now, pressed by the dude whose baseball acumen led him to trade Sosa for a bag of popping corn and a rusty door hinge, everyone is in a ‘roids frenzy. But guess what: The fans don’t care. We like dingers. The long ball makes what’s often a moribund enterprise a hell of a lot more fun. (Boston fans, do not deny this: How much of a charge did you get from the Manny & Papi show last season? Thought so.)
For my money, baseball’s biggest problem ain’t steroids, it’s the lack of a salary cap. Have you taken a peek at the Royals’ roster lately? It looks like something from an unlicensed Super Nintendo game. If your drunk uncle bought you a bootleg copy of something called “Fun Time Happy Happy Baseball,” you’d pick the Royals as your default opponent whenever you wanted to pound a little humility into a few microchips in some kind of misguided allegiance to Gary Kasparov. The ghost of Dan Quisenberry would emerge from your sock drawer and ask you to show a little mercy toward his old team and you’d just say, “No can do, submariner.” Later, your mom will throw a cocktail party but the hors d’oeuvres will have all fallen to bits because U.L. Washington has stolen all the toothpicks.