Ryan Braun’s fall from grace leads a list of alleged PED users who could potentially, and hopefully, be the final chapter in baseball’s Steroid Era. This black mark in baseball’s history has disgraced the game and has put a damper on the Hall of Fame.
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This season, one of baseball’s most beloved records is slowly becoming, once again, the talk of the baseball world.
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has turned heads at the possibility of breaking the single-season home run record. A few games past the All-Star break, he stands at 37 home runs. But his eyes aren’t on 74. 62 is the magic number to him:
“He was the last guy to do it clean,” Davis said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike morning show, referring to Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1961. “There’s a lot of things that have been said about the guys who have come after him and have achieved the record, but I think as far as the fans are concerned, they still view Maris as being the all-time home run record (holder) and I think you have to. There’s no doubt that Barry and Mark and any of those guys had ridiculous seasons and had some great years, but I think when you get to the root of the record, I still think it’s Roger Maris’.”
In the 1961 season, Yankees outfielders Mickey Mantle and Maris battled to beat the record of 60, a feat accomplished by Babe Ruth. By the last game of the season, Maris would belt his 61st off Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard in the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium to take single-season home run crown.
Since then, Mark McGwire first beat the record in the 1998 season and then again the following year. Barry Bonds followed up by beating it in the 2001 season with 73, to top McGwire in the record books.
So, here we sit in 2013, confused as to what’s right and what’s wrong in baseball. We understand that cheating is wrong in any sport. But the league has yet to strip any PED user of a record.
Why? Well, it’s not that simple.
If they start talking about stripping records, they will have to look into stripping games and then that would presumably lead to championship titles. Twenty-something years of baseball would be in question. The league would be more of a mess than it is now.
What if Chris Davis breaks the “record” of 61 and does it clean? Do we consider him the true record holder? Do we put his bat in Cooperstown and hold it in the highest regard? Would it make sense to insert the asterisk now in the record books against the steroid era players?
These are questions that make baseball’s future as murky as a Florida swamp in July. As glorified as the game’s past is, it’s going to take a breaking a prestigious record cleanly to bring baseball’s legacy back to legitimacy. This would also raise as many questions as it would doing it dirty. But these questions would be a stride toward purifying the league back to it’s highest standards.
Before the PED scandals devastated Major League Baseball, some considered McGwire’s ’98 season a sort of savior in bringing baseball back to greatness after the league’s strike in 1994. Would a record like this do the same thing for the sport now that its problems are out in the open and geared towards re-establishing its image? Or would it take a different famed-record, that isn’t tainted, to bring it back from the depths of uncertainty? Say, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak? Many contested it but none have come close. July 16 marked 72 years of the record’s existence.
For now, the home run “record” is within reach, and Chris Davis could make it right again. He, like Maris, could be the unlikely hero to do so. A five-year veteran, Chris Davis has once hit over 30 home runs in a season. He’s never hit over .300 and he has never broken a record or even led the league in a single stat. If he does come close, or even break the single season home run record, some could speculate whether he was clean or not doing it.
Before the doubters set in, let’s take into account the similarities between Roger Maris and Chris Davis.
Both bat left and throw right. In their first five seasons, both have hit over 20 home runs only once before their breakout home run seasons the following year; only difference is Maris’ 1960 season, where he knocked 39 home runs and won the AL MVP.
Commissioner Bud Selig and the MLB Players Association have established the best and most efficient drug testing system in all of sports. If Davis was or is using, there’s a good chance he would have been caught already.
The 27-year-old has placed himself in a strong position against the use of PEDs and is tested the same as every player in the league. There is a big but here, however. We’ve been lied to over and over — by Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire, Bonds, Braun and many more players who were considered greats. Will Chris Davis be excluded from this company? Or will he be guilty by association for breaking the record during the latter days of the Steroid Era?
I believe Roger Maris’ record should still stand as the single-season home run record, and if Chris Davis does in fact tie or break it while clean, then he deserves to be honored as Maris was. This achievement would spit in the face of the Steroid Era and all of the players who cheated, bringing with it a new era of “pureness” to the game of baseball.