Taking My Hacks

The Skinny

Joe Orlando

One of the hardest things to admit, for anyone, is when they are wrong.  A few years ago, I wrote an article defending the accomplishments of the modern-era home run heroes.  At the time, critics were blaming the "inflated "power numbers on a variety of factors.  They wanted to believe the ballparks were smaller, the pitching was diluted and the strike zone was tightened amongst other things.

While I still disagree with the vast majority of those arguments and others made by critics, in the end, I was wrong.  I was wrong to defend the modern power hitter as a group because it is apparent now that at least some of the games biggest names were cheating.

All of a sudden, have you noticed how skinny some of the current and former players have become?  Some of the most powerful hitters in the game during the 1990's and early 2000's have suddenly become "twigs."  In addition, it has dramatically affected some of their power numbers.  Their "guns" have suddenly become "squirt guns" and their power has magically disappeared along with the syringes and pills that made their arms bulge.

As a fan and collector, I was in denial.  I was a huge fan of the Bash Brothers.  I didn't want to believe that players I admired at one time had cheated in any way but, after one Bash Brother admitted guilt; I started to see the light.  I had experience playing baseball, lifting weights and I knew others who were taking, it was right in front of my face and the signs were really obvious.  I just didn't want to see them.

Now I still think that players had some advantages decades ago over players today.  Fences were shorter in the gaps and down the lines, where it counted, back in the day.  Global talent has replaced, at one time, "white-only" talent.  Pitching is more specialized.  Players are naturally more athletic resulting in improved defense at many positions.  Regardless of these advantages, at least these players didn't cheat.

Some people have made the argument that performance enhancing drugs are no big deal since many professional athletes take them in other sports but avoid getting caught.  I will tell you why it's a bigger deal in baseball than in other sports.  In baseball, it's man versus an object – bat versus ball versus fence.  In other sports like football, even if every athlete were taking performance enhancing drugs, it basically balances itself out.  If one player is faster and stronger, so is the guy on the other side.

In baseball, performance enhancing drugs cannot make a non-baseball player into one but what it can do is take someone who can already hit and dramatically improve their power.  During the course of a season, a player may hit 20 long outs to the warning track.  After taking the drugs and gaining strength, those 20 outs just landed 10 rows up into the bleachers.  If your strength increases, your bat speed will increase as will your power, resulting in more homers, etc.  It is very, very simple and I find it ridiculous when I hear people question the benefits that steroids offer, that somehow freakish increased strength and confidence would have no affect on a hitter.  Of course it does!

After reflecting on this issue, I appreciate the accomplishments of the players from prior generations even more.  It's hard to compare players from different eras but, for me, this is a clear cut issue.  I do not know what the future holds for players of the current generation and how history will treat them but all of this has only increased my admiration for the players of the past, not only based on the numbers, but on integrity as well.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief