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Steroids are not a part of any game

June 09, 2002|by MARK KELLER

It wasn't really a news flash to most baseball fans that major and minor league players are using steroids.

Still fewer people were surprised when it was revealed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that Jose Canseco was one of the more prominent players using the drug.

In fact, I think Jose himself was the only one who believed he wasn't using.

What troubles me most is that a majority of people - including players, fans and some baseball officials - seems to think this is all OK, that shooting up has simply become a part of the game.

Remember way back in 1996, the year Brady Anderson came out of nowhere and hit 50 home runs for the Orioles? There was little discussion at that time that maybe players were using steroids. Most of the talk was that the ball was juiced or that the stadium boom was producing smaller and smaller fields.

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Now you have to wonder just how long we've been witnessing the "steroid era," and who has been using all along.

Forty home runs used to be a magic number for players. Fifty home runs was an incredible season, virtually assuring a player of a Most Valuable Player award.

The last time the major league home run champ hit fewer than 40 home runs was 20 years ago, when Mike Schmidt and Gorman Thomas shared the title with 39 dingers in 1982.

Matt Williams hit 43 in 1994, and he missed the last six weeks of the season because of a strike.

Willie Mays hit 52 homers in 1965. It was another 12 years until another player topped 50 (George Foster, 52 in 1977) and 13 more before it happened again (Cecil Fielder, 51 in 1991). Williams is the last home run champ not to hit 50.

With a little more than one-third of this season gone, 54 players are already in double digits in home runs. Six players are on pace to hit 55 or more.

In this age of extreme sports and 300-channel cable systems, baseball has adopted the mantra of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor: "More power." The more balls that fly out of the park the better.

The shame of that is some of the best pitchers of this era - Johnson, Martinez, Schilling, Mussina, Clemens, Maddux and Glavine - are being forgotten because, as Glavine and Maddux said in a commercial a few years back, "Chicks dig the long ball."

So teams will keep building for the long ball, putting less emphasis on pitching.

The numbers will keep going higher and higher.

The players will keep getting bigger and bigger.

And baseball will continue to pretend that there's no problem, until the problem jumps up and smacks them in the face. It took tragedies like the deaths of Korey Stringer, Lyle Alzado and Len Bias to open eyes to other problems in sports.

Unfortunately, given baseball's track record of confronting a situation before it escalates, it could take the death of a superstar before the powers that be really stand up and take notice.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears Sundays. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2332 or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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