I begin a column on steroids by saying I am tired of steroids. I'm sure you are too. But hear me out because maybe together we can put to bed our angst over the whole thing.
We should be past all this stuff with all the testing that goes on, but clearly that hasn't happened. Like in almost every other sport, the idea of completely eradicating cheating is as impossible as it is noble.
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I don't think most fans necessarily care what players take to preserve and maintain their health and strength. Baseball players had taken greenies (i.e., amphetamines) for years, which clearly were performance-enhancers, but nobody blinked an eye.
But the "Steroid Era" changed everything for three reasons: 1) Cherished home run records were obliterated; 2) Hall of Fame-caliber careers came into question because of suspected juicing; and 3) fans got sick and tired of repeated denials by players who they believe cheated.
Over the years, I haven't heard many complaints of competitive imbalance in terms of team records that should are marred by steroids.
Mainly, I hear that the single-season and career home run marks set by Roger Maris and Hank Aaron have been completely ruined by cheaters, that we should keep all suspected steroids guys out of the Hall of Fame, and that all the perceived lying in the aftermath has created a ton of distrust.
On the first complaint, I generally agree. Although, because we now have statistical tools to contextualize all the numbers based on run-scoring environments across decades/eras, smart fans can sort out where all these players fit into the game's history if they dig a little bit.
The second question deserves its own column and there don't seem to be any easy answers as tons of Hall of Fame-worthy candidates now clog the ballot each season.
On the third point, it's just the way we are wired as human beings to react to people who, in our mind, aren't telling the truth. How many scandals are caused and exacerbated by the vehement denials of the original crime/offense?
In most cases, fans ultimately have forgiven (or simply stopped caring about) players who have admitted what many already had suspected to be true. But those who repeatedly refuse to come clean don't get the benefit of the doubt and end up creating unending media firestorms.
Part of me is so sick of the topic that I wouldn't care if MLB threw up its arms and said, "It's a fight we can't win so do whatever you want." And I think some fans might agree.
But then I realize that no matter where the sport draws the line, it will never stop super-competitive people from gaining whatever advantage they can find, even at the risk of their own health, forcing everybody else to make extremely difficult choices.
As others have said, who wants the 21-year-old kid in Double-A ball to take steroids simply because he knows that if he doesn't he has no shot to make it the big leagues?
In a perfect world, rules-breakers wouldn't exist. But this is the real world.
So let's at least acknowledge one thing so our righteous anger moving forward is at least tempered a bit -- many baseball players took questionable substances before the Steroid Era, have continued to use them since testing began, and will continue to do so in the future in order to enhance performance.
You don't have to like it, but you'd be best served acknowledging it.
And if you can't see that, I know of an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., in which you may want to invest.
•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]