Do you want to know the terrifying truth? Or do you want to see me sock a few dingers!

Mark McGwire on the Simpsons

Dingers!! Dingers!! Dingers!! Of course that’s what people will choose. When the sun rises and tomorrow starts, the Mitchell Report will still be all ESPN wants to talk about, and the same will be true on Saturday, and a week from Saturday. But in the end, people will still come to see baseball, people will still tune in to television and radio broadcasts, people will still buy merchandise and sport their teams gear. And why? Because not too many people actually care. They don’t care becasue it’s cognitively dissonant to condemn players for taking performance enhancers (don’t worry I’ll explain). Allow me to take you on a magical journey back to the year 1993…..

The Pre-Strike Years…

Kirby Puckett was the 1993 All-Star Game MVP, and the Blue Jays won the World Series. Paul Moliter finally got a ring, and John Olerud won the batting title. It was a good year, attendance was up to 70 million. Almost 15 million more fans took in a game at the park in 1993 then did in 1992. Baseball was on the rise. But then…..

Labor problems, etc…

The walkout happened. It was August 12th, 1994. The strike would last 234 days, and the World Series would be canceled. It would derail the Montreal Expos post-season hopes, and ruin Tony Gwynn’s chance to hit .400. Despite the fact that the season was shortened by a strike, 50 million people came to see their teams, which matched the figures from ’92. This signifies to me that the fans were still there. They wanted to be in love with the game. But the strike….my god, the strike. Fans were upset beyond words, at both the owners and the players. Many vowed to never set foot in a major league ballpark again. And so…

The Aftermath…

1995 began with fan animosity bubbling just below the surface. Attendance was down about 6,000 people a game. Edgar Martinez won the batting championship, Albert Belle hit 50 homers, and the Braves won the series. All in all, from the fan interest, to the years heroes, it was a dull season. But that wouldn’t last….

1996-1998 – When Steroids Saved Baseball…

So what happened over the next three years that would raise attendance by 10 million to 60+ mil in 1996 and ’97? And what pushed attendance over 70 million in 1998? Why, simply put, the longball. 96 saw McGwire hit 52 home runs to lead the league, and in ’97
Ken Griffey Jr. would hit 56. In the 28 years between 1966 and 1994 there had only been on league leader over 50 HR, but now, from 1995 on, only twice has the league leader had less than 50. The Home Run Era was dawning, and the rising stars of McGwire and Sosa would crest the horizon for a season every baseball fan over 21 can still remember plain as day….

Chasing Maris’ 61…

sosa/mcgwire

I know that you, dear reader, remember the 1998 season.  At the very least, you can pretend to remember.  It was a very fun time to be a fan of baseball.  Two players on two teams in one division were racing to pass Roger Maris’ single season record of 61 home runs.  Millions of flashbulbs popped as Sosa would hit 66 and win the league MVP as he led his team into the playoffs.  McGwire would set a new home run mark at 70, and almost everyone went home happy.  Over 70 million fans came to the ballparks, and when the TV contracts worth about $1 billion (between NBC and ESPN over 5 years) expired in 2000, The new deal with FOX was worth $2.5 billion over 6 years, and that doesn’t even include the cable deals.  So I guess it’s fair to say…

 Everybody won…

The players were rewarded with large contracts, the league was rewarded with large TV deals, the teams were rewarded with huge gate reciepts, and the fans were rewarded with the promise that every game could be changed dramatically with every swing of the bat.  And all was well and good for a while.  And then people started calling McGwire a cheater for taking andro, and soon there were steroid accusation flying thicker than home run balls that kept clearing fences league wide. Which brought us to….

The Mitchell Report…Duhn Duhn Duhn!!

So now I’m back to that whole cognitive dissonance thing.    Finally we get back to the Mitchell Report, and Bud Selig, and Skip Bayless, and all the rest pitching a hissy fit over some athletes trying to win back fans.  They completely ignore the fact that in the ’90’s there were numerous supplements (such as andro) that were legal, and un-prohibited and that was partially responsible for the power boom.  The Mitchell Report seems to me to be a gigantic waste of 2 years.  You’re right George, people were and are taking performance enhancers.  But if it means so much to you that you didn’t (or even can no longer) enjoy that 1998 season (or its memory), then you aren’t really a baseball fan.  I won’t throw around steroid nonsense, but that ’98 season saved baseball, and we owe it to performance enhancing substances.  Pundits hated on and are hating on,  players that until yesterday, they merely suspected of being juiced and will continue to spit venom at those that were NOT named, using the justification that The Report doesn’t contain all the names.  So to the moralizing @$$holes, I have one thing to say…

Were you not entertained?

Gladiator

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