The Legacy of steroids in baseball is an often debated topic and one that is typically viewed in a negative light. It is seen as black mark on the lauded history of America’s past time, people associate it with cheating and deceit. There is however another aspect of the steroid era that is often forgotten in the damnation of its ethics and that is it was one of the most exciting eras of sports that professional athletics has ever seen.
That is incredibly significant because Boom periods of sports create more boom periods and looking at the current makeup of the MLB’s young talent it becomes apparent that there is an influx of young american stars that was not their a generation prior. Whereas now young american athletes like Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and Noah Syndergaard are just a few of the new faces of the MLB that would have grown up in the heyday of the steroid era.
As much as we all like to think that if we had tried a little harder, hadn’t gotten that injury, or didn’t have a coach that played his kid instead of us we would have made it to the big time, there are a select few people who have the athletic talent and mental makeup to make it to the highest levels of the competition.
No matter how much effort I put into ripping slap shots in my driveway I’ll never have the power someone like Chara can put behind his shot. Only .06 percent of high school athletes make it to any level of professional sports, so with only a finite amount of athletes in the country which sport they accel in is largely based on which sport they fall in love with at a young age. Even for these high level athletes need years of training and playtime to hone their talents into elite levels capable at contending at a pro level.
Think of the top stars of yesteryear, from the 2000s. The league was dominated by Latin American talent David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and a host of other Latin American Superstars dominated the sport. Now Americans weren’t totally absent from the all-star scene Derek Jeter was still the face of baseball but the majority of the best players spoke Spanish.
Part of the reason for that is in Latin America there are only two major sports, Baseball and Soccer. Those sports have a widely different skill sent and are not really depriving each other of player, there are plenty of stars to go around. In the good old USofA however we have four major sports that all have to compete over the limited amount of great athletes and for a while baseball was losing that battle. That was due in large part to the waning of popularity of baseball prior to the balls to the wall action of the steroid era. For the generation of Americans that grew up prior to the steroid era football and basketball were in a golden age so young american athletes gravitated toward those sports.
If you want evidence of a sport starving for high level talent just look at the heavyweight boxing picture. Once dominated by American powerhouses, the rise of the NFL now means if you’re a large man with quick feet and fast hands you become a football player whereas forty years ago you probably would have tried your hand at boxing.
It’s hard to say for certain but think if the steroid era had never happened maybe the 6’6 Noah Syndergaard would have decided to focus on basketball, maybe Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper would have used their immense power and hand speed to play defensive line, and perhaps Mookie Betts is patrolling an NFL secondary instead of the outfield at fenway. So before you condemn the steroid era as a disgrace just think of where the game would be if it hadn’t captured America’s attention and rejuvenated the sport. We might be without some of the game’s greatest young players.
Written By: Jason MacKinnon (@oohkillemjason)