Post-steroid baseball

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.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Well, good! Now the youth of America can return to their dreams of becoming the next Babe Ruth or Roger Maris. Find your local youth ballpark or Legion field and get to know those players. There, a home run is the highlight of the season.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Well, good! Now the youth of America can return to their dreams of becoming the next Babe Ruth or Roger Maris. Find your local youth ballpark or Legion field and get to know those players. There, a home run is the highlight of the season.

  • S. Bauer

    Maybe homeruns correlate to the housing market.

  • S. Bauer

    Maybe homeruns correlate to the housing market.

  • Bruce

    I welcome the return to “normal baseball” if there ever was a thing. The famous cheaters of the past were pitchers: doctoring baseballs to gain an advantage. Even the noncheaters knew about it. Rollie Fingers: “I never scuffed a baseball, but I knew what to do with one if it was given to me.”
    It is strangely refreshing to see Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa out of the game: wanting to play but with no offers. Let’s get beyond this and back to good old baseball: spitballs and corked bats!

  • Bruce

    I welcome the return to “normal baseball” if there ever was a thing. The famous cheaters of the past were pitchers: doctoring baseballs to gain an advantage. Even the noncheaters knew about it. Rollie Fingers: “I never scuffed a baseball, but I knew what to do with one if it was given to me.”
    It is strangely refreshing to see Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa out of the game: wanting to play but with no offers. Let’s get beyond this and back to good old baseball: spitballs and corked bats!

  • Joe

    To me players cheating has always been part of the game. But what is different is the decade long institutionalization of it by the league and the players’ union with regard to steroids. I remember when Albert Belle was caught with a corked bat in the early 90’s– he was suspended for a few games. Same with Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All used corked bats and all were suspended. If you got caught there was some form of punishment.

    Steroids are different. They were not even against the rules of the game. The players’ union fought back when the league first demanded testing. The league also delayed its creation of a testing plan until Congress threatened to review baseball’s anti-trust exemption. But steroids were illegal during this entire period of time. Don’t the nations laws trump the rules of the game? People have (and are) actually trying to argue that we can’t alter the record books to restore Hank Aaron to his rightful place as all time home run hitter because it wasn’t against the rule for Bonds to use steroids.

    Any way I am off to see some steroid free baseball this evening at Miller Park.

  • Joe

    To me players cheating has always been part of the game. But what is different is the decade long institutionalization of it by the league and the players’ union with regard to steroids. I remember when Albert Belle was caught with a corked bat in the early 90’s– he was suspended for a few games. Same with Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All used corked bats and all were suspended. If you got caught there was some form of punishment.

    Steroids are different. They were not even against the rules of the game. The players’ union fought back when the league first demanded testing. The league also delayed its creation of a testing plan until Congress threatened to review baseball’s anti-trust exemption. But steroids were illegal during this entire period of time. Don’t the nations laws trump the rules of the game? People have (and are) actually trying to argue that we can’t alter the record books to restore Hank Aaron to his rightful place as all time home run hitter because it wasn’t against the rule for Bonds to use steroids.

    Any way I am off to see some steroid free baseball this evening at Miller Park.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good start–now let’s see about ending stadium subsidies to eliminate some of the incentives to become a freak of nature. A-Rod doesn’t earn 250 times as much as Ted Williams or Babe Ruth ever did because he’s 250 times better at baseball (or 25x after inflation is accounted for). He earns that much because the taxpayer is paying for the ballpark.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good start–now let’s see about ending stadium subsidies to eliminate some of the incentives to become a freak of nature. A-Rod doesn’t earn 250 times as much as Ted Williams or Babe Ruth ever did because he’s 250 times better at baseball (or 25x after inflation is accounted for). He earns that much because the taxpayer is paying for the ballpark.


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