Like seemingly everybody else, I watched "Long Gone Summer" on Sunday night, the documentary detailing the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I liked the actual documentary a little more than most people seemed to, but the prevailing thought I saw many come out of the documentary touting is that baseball was better when certain players were cheating.
Jared and Jeff are two of my favorite people I have the privilege of working with and they are certainly not the only people who feel the way they do, so the incoming castigation of their opinion is completely separate of how much I like them as people. With that said, this is so intellectually dishonest it makes my head spin.
The actual preference of the game of baseball being played by comically sized behemoths hitting 490-foot homers is fair for anyone to have. It's not what I envision when I think of the baseball I want to see all the time, but if that's what someone wants to watch, it's just a difference of opinion at that point.
But if you say baseball was better when some players were gaining an unfair advantage and others weren't, then you have no ground on which to stand in any criticism of the Houston Astros and now the New York Yankees in their efforts to gain an unfair advantage.
Not everybody was doing steroids, just like not every team was stealing signs and banging trash cans en route to a World Series ring. You're either in favor of cheating or you're not. You don't get to decide which cheating is ok because it was more fun for you to watch.
And I'm totally fine with the argument that the steroid era brought baseball back after the 1994 strike and was great for the popularity of the game — it certainly was. But it was also due to the fact that nobody knew what was happening in the moment. I'm curious how many people who still love steroid users like McGwire and Barry Bonds after the fact look upon the Astros' 2017 World Series fondly.
I agree wholeheartedly with what Bob Costas said in the documentary. We can't ignore an entire era of baseball and at the end of the day, there isn't a whole lot of proof beyond those who have come clean and admitted they used performance-enhancing drugs — or in Bonds's case, the transformation of his body from one capable of stealing 40 bases into one which resembled a Transformer. But any records set by the players we know were cheating are wholly illegitimate.
If we want to create a wing of the Hall of Fame where we allow the inclusion of the people who we know cheated to get there, I'm fine with that. The story of baseball can't be told without guys like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds — or Pete Rose, for that matter. But the story also has to include everything about what those guys did. If we're going to tell the full story, let's tell the full story.
I find it one of the great injustices in the history of sports that Hank Aaron will die seeing Bonds's name atop the all-time home run list. It makes me incredibly sad for a man who is one of the greatest pioneers in sports to break the record of baseball's all-time icon only to be cheated out of it. Binds is not in Cooperstown because of what he did, and yet there is a plaque somewhere in the very building Bonds isn't allowed induction into which has his name atop Aaron's.
But again, if having everybody cheat is what you want to watch, that's ok. You just have to be honest about it and accept the other forms of cheating which may come along the way.