” There’s no doubt that Barry and Mark and any of those guys had ridiculous seasons and had some great years, but I think when you get to the root of the record, I still think it’s Roger Maris.”
This quote comes courtesy of Oriole first baseman Chris Davis, whose sweet swing and slugging prowess have made him the latest contestant in rewriting baseball’s record books. Last week, Davis voiced an opinion(on ESPN’s Mike & Mike) that is shared by many fans who hold the game’s most cherished records close to their heart.
We are still in (and hopefully exiting) a time in baseball history notoriously known as the “steroid era.” It took off in the late 1990’s, as owners and league officials, with a players strike not far in their rear view mirrors, smiled with glee at the public excitement(and revenue) created over “homerun chases”. Sluggers such as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were renewing many peoples’ love of the game, while at the same time creating countless new fans.
However, they deliberately turned their backs to whispers of steroid use, and the subsequent assault on the record books. 50 homerun seasons suddenly became somewhat expected, and many stars, such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, seemed to be getting better with age.
Seemingly every player was using steroids; no team was immune to its rampant takeover of the sport. There is no telling how many young men, with the lucrative temptation of just one big(guaranteed) contract, put aside ethical and health guidelines for a taste of the “the juice.”
We Baltimoreans can remember a side-burned center fielder, who rountinely averaged between 12 and 20 homeruns a year, smash 50 out of the park in 1996. Almost a decade later, a handsome, clean-cut, awesomely talented second baseman shocked Charm City with revelations of steroid use.
The steroid epidemic consumed the game, once again alienating a fan base that longs to believe in its “diamond heroes”.
The bottom line is: true baseball fans love numbers. 714 means Babe Ruth. 4191 was Ty Cobb(which Pete Rose surpassed). 61 homers in 1961 is Roger Maris. If the game is not on a level playing field, the validity of statistics is thrown under a microscope, where, according to mathematical law, it should never be.
Chris Davis doubts Bonds 73 home run season just as many people in our hometown are doubting his current total of 33. Personally, I believe that Chris’ power surge is completely his own, without the assistance of any foreign substances.
Likewise, I agree with him that Roger Maris is the single season homerun king with 61, just as I believe Henry Aaron the all time leader with 755.
The record books are sacred to baseball fans because they provide a link to the game’s great and storied past. Undoubtedly, this past is stained with many unfair and unethical practices; black players were not even allowed to play until 1947. Yet, there has never been so great a storm cloud hanging over the game as the one steroid use has created, for it calls into question every single action of every single player.