Pitcher’s duels are great. Walk-off hits are great. Heck, even baseball dust-ups are great. However, nothing is more electrifying than a home run in baseball. From the crack of the bat to the roar of the crowd upon impact, the home run is what excites baseball fans.
Is it coincidence one of the most popular periods of baseball was the steroid era where players were bombing dingers every day? Definitely not. While it did not help with the league's image, it is undeniable steroids made baseball more fun for fans.
A record 4,458 home runs from both leagues were recorded in 1987. By 2000, the number ballooned to 5,693 home runs. It seemed any player could show off a little power. From 1997-2002, 11 players would surpass the 55 home-run mark—a feat only accomplished five times before that time. Fans would go to ballparks to see their favorite players hit towering home runs.
The increase in power hitters also created some of the most exciting rivalries. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s home run chase in 1998 was easily one of the most unforgettable years in baseball history. Fans could not turn away from the television as McGwire and Sosa would trade home runs on their way to pass Roger Maris for most home runs in a season.
McGwire would finish the year with the record, hitting 70 home runs when the dust finally settled. Sosa ended the year with 66. Weighing 165 pounds his rookie year, Sosa would not be part of that battle without steroids fueling the flames of power.
Let’s not forget about the man who would eventually pass McGwire and the rest of MLB with his one-of-a-kind power—Barry Bonds. Bonds was hitting home runs since his rookie year, but not at the rate he did later in his career after the juice was flowing. Bonds would eventually hit 73 home runs in 2001, and finish his career in 2007 with the most home runs in MLB history.
Not only did hitting improve during the Steroid Era, but so did pitching. Tasked with stopping these intimidating hitters, pitchers adjusted to the era and became monsters on the mound. Roger Clemens, who was linked to performance enhancing drugs, became one of the most feared pitchers in the baseball. Other pitchers, like Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling would use precision pitching to navigate the steroid lineups and produce marquee matchups.
Yeah, baseball had some of their best years during the Steroid Era, but at what cost? Performance enhancing drugs did as much damage to the bodies of the players as it did to the baseballs they were hitting.
Ken Caminiti admitted his body had stopped producing testosterone due to his steroid use. This coincided with the size of testicles becoming much smaller. If you know these players are literally killing their bodies to hit a couple of home runs, how is that fun?
Even if they weren’t killing themselves, would their achievements really mean anything? It’s like playing a video game with cheat codes. Sure, you’ll play, but any numbers you reached would be a result of cheating. Part of the beauty of sports is watching athletes accomplish super human things with their natural abilities. With steroids, anyone can become a home run hitter. And if everyone can slam homers, the home run itself is devalued.
Not only are steroids harmful to current players, it also hurts future MLB prospects. Professionals are role models whether they like it or not. If they are shameless when comes to using steroids, children will think they must use it to achieve their dreams of playing in the Majors. They will be exposed to the same health risks, but at a younger age when it may be more damaging to their long-term health.
Baseball doesn’t need steroids to have entertaining players. In the post-steroid era, MLB has a young core of superstars generating interest—and they’re clean. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout lead the way with their natural hitting ability. Rising stars like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are also making waves without the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs. All this talk about needing steroids to make baseball fun again is ridiculous. The league is in good hands with talented, clean players. MLB is on pace to break the previous total home run record by more than 500 home runs. Baseball doesn't need steroids.