The affliction of the asterisk: a recollection of baseball’s tragic heroes

Posted: April 15, 2011 in MLB
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We can all, or at least most of us, recount the late 90’s-early 2000’s, and no not for the Tomagatchi and Furbee fads, not for the reality television trend, and certaintly not Cisqo’s infamous “Thong Song”. I’m talking about some of Major League Baseball’s finest moments.

The Subway Series square off between the New York Yankees and New York Mets in 2000. Cal Ripkin Jr and Tony Gwyn’s last stands. And of course, the mass quantity of  home runs.

The excitement orbiting around Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa’s chase for Roger Maris’ 61 home run mark. Raphael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez slamming them out of the ballpark one out of every four or so at bats. And Barry Bonds’ ultimate reign of superiority of “king” by breaking the single season and career home record with 73 and 772, respectively.

It seemed as if baseball solidified itself as “America’s sport” with the hype and fandom surmounted around these sluggers and what they offered to the game. You didn’t even have to be a Cubs or Cardinals fan to appreciate what was known as “The Great Chase”. You were a fan of the game. It was second nature to watch such a historic record be broken in that fashion.

This heightened sense of euphoria around baseball’s passionate fans died down dramatically in 2007 when Senator turned “vigilante” George Mitchell released his 20 months of research on the correlation between baseball players and performance enhancing drugs called the “Mitchell Report”. It had seemed the devil had a long lost twin from Maine.

The list not only had the likes of Bonds, McGuire, Palmeiro, and Sosa, but some highly touted pitchers such as Roger Clemens, who arguably dominated the 1990’s with his fastball that has 7 Cy Youngs to back it up, and some suprise names as well, such as fellow Yankee, at the time, Andy Pettite, who resembles more of a small town farmer than a big time juicer.

I wasnt lying, was I?

For baseball fans across the world, it was like receiving a lump of coal under the Christmas tree. A favorite band selling out. A role model not living up to certain expectations. A feeling of disapointment and disheartenment. Blinded by the facade of artificial talent.

This, of course, led to federal investigations and court trials in the blink of an eye. Seeing Jason Giambi in a three piece suit rather than in pinstripes was as out of place as seeing the cast of the Jersey Shore at the Grammys this year. Accusations of perjury and lying in front of grand jury were charges I had never heard of my entire life but how quickly did they become a part of my daily vocabulary discussing with friends about what was to happen to next to our fallen heroes.

The shift in emotions of audacity to resentment from the baseball community was just the norm- why praise someone who cheated on their path to national glory? Where is there a spot in the Hall of Fame for these perpetraitors against the glorified and respectful careers of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays?

In comes the concept of the asterisk- letting the public know on the record books that the feat was not acheived naturally. It parallels the process of a sex offender alerting their neighbors of who they are and shameful thing they did to deserve the title. The comparison may be brash but the point is evident.

In any argument there are two sides, and in this case, it was the fans who believed those players lost their right of recognition because of steroid use and that even an asterisk next to their name would be more of a privledge than punishment. On the flip side, there are fans who stand by not only the players, but in the grounds of baseball in which even while taking PEDs, it takes athleticism to hit X amount of homeruns or strike out Y number of players.

A few years have passed, as we are in the year 2011 and ESPN headlines still read with these players and the lawsuit baggage they carry. In the most reason MLB news, prosecutors are deciding on whether or not to try Bonds AGAIN after he was found guilty of the one charge left against him: obstruction of justice. And the kicker is, it has absolutely nothing related to his steroid use.

Has the Steroid Era officially run it’s course or is it coming back with vengeance? A Mitchell Report part deux? Any good-natured fan would be crossing fingers and knocking on wood for this storm that has tornadoed itself into the national spotlight for the past four years to end.

But the question at hand is what do we do now with these so-called “culprits”? Do we let them bask in their own guilt by banning them from any sort of record book or hall or will the asterisk serve it’s purpose in alarming our younger generation fans of what happens to those who don’t play the game fairly. This whole ordeal runs full circle: just like the Steroid Era itself, time will be the ultimate keeper.

Will the shameful circus ever end?

For more sports information, opinion, and shameless banter, follow me on Twitter: @sportsbyjersey

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