Roids, roids, roids (or: The Story that Wouldn’t Die)

Well, thank you, Mark McGwire. Just when it seemed this steroids nonsense had finally died down you come out of seclusion to give a teary eyed confession about your past use and once again foist this tired, boring and utterly impossible to evaluate issue upon us.

I’ve long since resigned myself to the gross double standard baseball is held to re: steroid use, wherein Congressional blowhards hold show trials every time someone scrawls on a bathroom wall that a superstar juiced up, meanwhile the entire fucking NFL sits there laughing as they shoot up in a giant circle jerk as everyone turns a blind eye. I chalk it up to baseball being regarded as a sacred American institution of sorts, and it’s a bullet in the chamber to use in the baseball vs. football argument (as much as I enjoy the latter, it’s just not a contest).

But anyway. One of the more trite, harumphing exhortations I often have to hear on television from old people who played baseball and nonetheless know nothing about it, or middle aged people who cover baseball and nonetheless know nothing about it, is that clearly roids are what made guys like McGwire and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa able to put up the extraordinary home run totals that they did. And that this is clearly the case because “guys in their mid 30’s just don’t put up those kind of numbers!”.

Oh really?

Hank Aaron hit 47 home runs at the age of 37. It was the most he’d ever hit in a single season. He also had as many 40 homer seasons in his 30’s as he did in his 20’s.

Ted Williams hit 38 home runs at the age of 38. It was the second most he’d ever hit in a season.

Babe Ruth hit his record 60 home runs at age 32, only two years younger than McGwire was when he broke that record. Ruth also had almost twice as many 40 homer seasons while in his 30’s (7) as he’d had in his 20’s (4).

You might say, “But those are outliers, the exception to the rule. Those are some of the greatest power hitters ever”. Which is exactly the point: so was McGwire.

Argue all you want about roids and legitimacy and the Hall of Fame. I personally don’t care what a player puts in his body, but whatever. Just don’t be so damn simple-minded about it. Look shit up before you subject me to your pronouncements that players “DON’T HIT LIKE THAT IN THEIR MID 30’s”. Because, sometimes, they do.

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