You will note that this season baseball players no longer have Popeye arms and thick necks. And now that steroids are no longer taken like candy, the number of homeruns has plummeted down to historically normal proportions. Thomas Boswell explains:
This spring, for the second straight year, home run totals, like the game’s conspicuous muscles, have shrunk dramatically. Last season’s 8 percent drop in home runs was welcomed, but with caution. Would the tater barrage simply resume? But now, in the wake of the Mitchell report, home runs have fallen this spring by another 10.4 percent.
Suddenly, a sport that produced 5,386 home runs in 2006 is on pace for 4,442 this year — a 17.5 percent drop, or a loss of almost 1,000 home runs in just two seasons.
If the current trend continues, baseball might return to the levels at which many students of the game think the sport has been healthiest and most pleasing: an average of a bit more than nine runs and slightly less than two home runs per game.
This season, major league teams have scored 8.98 runs per game. Since 1871, there have been 1,750,230 runs in the majors, an average of 9.11 per game. . . .
In the first 35 seasons after World War II, the average home run champ had 42.4 dingers. That’s “normal.” What constitutes off-the-charts for a great slugger? From 1939 until the steroid eruption, just three players had more than 52 homers in a season: Ralph Kiner (54) in ’49, and Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) in ’61. That’s the ceiling.
Then came designer steroids as well as human growth hormone for which baseball still has no test. Over the last dozen seasons, the average total for the home run champion in the American League and National League has been 53. So as cheating flourished, what once was the stuff of legend, a total higher than Mays ever achieved, became the norm for league leaders.
For a sport that established statistical norms over a century, this was a nuclear blast. After generations of patting itself on the back for an almost ideal game in which rules seldom needed more than tinkering to maintain an equilibrium, baseball suddenly bore little resemblance to itself. Brady Anderson hit 50 homers; Ted Williams never had 44.