The worst part about baseball's steroid story is that it lends itself so perfectly to bottomless pessimism, and I find that my cynicism extends to all the agents of the story, from the players to the executives, and especially to the reporters. I believe most baseball writers either missed or willfully ignored the steroid story in the Nineties and early Aughts, and now they're forced to play catch-up. This makes much of their sanctimoniousness retroactive, hence the focus on and romanticization of baseball's past.
I'll admit steroids sell. But if the public never again has to read about another of Alex Rodriguez's urine samples, I think they'll find a way to live. The general public is not too attached to the steroids story that it can't let it go. It's the writers who do the perpetuating.
Baseball writers forget the fundamental rule of baseball players: They are scoundrels. This has been common knowledge since the game was first formed. Baseball players will do anything and everything to get ahead, from sharpening their spikes to taunting Jackie Robinson with racial epithets to injecting Winstrol in a teammate's buttocks.
It's irresponsible for me to name names, but suffice it to say that if baseball players from Babe Ruth's era to Hank Aaron's era to Mike Schmidt's era had access to the types of supplements and performance enhancers that today's players use, they would have used them as well. If you ask a retired player today whether or not they would have used steroids of course they'll deny it. Today's baseball players haven't exactly been forthright about their steroid usage, have they? That's because baseball players are scoundrels.
So as I read articles with titles like A-Rod has destroyed game's history, I can't help but be annoyed. I have this image in my mind of writers like Jayson Stark firing off a priggish invective in one burst of creative energy, sitting back in their desk chairs and feeling like they're righting a wrong. It's so disingenuous. Where were you in 2002, Jayson? Here:
We keep hearing how players today can't play like they did in the olden days. Give it a rest. You can go to a game these days and see [...] a shortstop who has hit 50 homers two years in a row (A-Rod) [...] Or you can see a six-time Cy Young award-winner (Roger Clemens) [...] a 600-homer man (Barry Bonds) [...] In Babe Ruth's day, the game was played by a whole lot of slow white men. Players today are far better athletes [...] Let's broadcast that to the world, huh?
You ain't foolin' me, fellas. If you had done your jobs right the first time, this wouldn't be necessary.