Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998.An article in The New York Times magazine over the weekend provides an up-close look at the stories of two men impacted by the burgeoning problem of steroid use in baseball. In “Absolutely, Power Corrupts,” Michael Lewis writes,
Unable to parse the statistics and separate natural power from steroid power, the people who evaluate baseball players for a living have no choice but to ignore the distinction. They’ve come to view the increase in the number of young players without power who become older players with power as a new eternal truth about the game. ”Good hitters become power hitters, power hitters don’t become good hitters” has become a kind of cliche for baseball’s more statistically minded general managers. Power is now understood as less an innate gift than a gettable skill — more like speaking French than being 6-foot-3. Which is to say that steroids may have changed not only the way the game is played but also the way the game is understood. They have given birth to a big, beefy idea from whose side-effects no player is immune.
Now there’s no doubt that steroid abuse has had a deleterious effect on the game of baseball, whether or not the owners and players can see it. Lewis refers to “the public outrage over steroid use during the off-season,” and it is just such outrage that will be the ultimate arbiter of whether baseball becomes (relatively) steroid-free, or whether it becomes increasingly freakish.
And this is despite the attempts of the federal government to inject itself into the discussion. Today, the NFL commissioner testified before the Government Reform Committee about steroids in football, and this follows testimony from baseball players and officials last month.
Current reports are that the committee will be “working with Sen. John McCain to draw up law establishing standard steroid policies for U.S. professional sports.”
Does it strike anyone as incredible that it is the House Government Reform Committee that is worried so much about steroids in sports when the federal budget is the largest it has ever been?