Sirius/XM radio has what seems to be part of some continuing employment plan for former GMs, and the latest enrollee is former Mets’ GM Steve Phillips. Yes, the man who was fired from the Mets for poor performance, fired from ESPN for shtupping the help and who sat on the deck of AOL FanHouse as it sank below the water line has landed in satellite radio. Good for him!
Anyway, last week Phillips was discussing the Barry Bonds trial on his show, and he had this to say:
“Thank God for steroids. It brought the game back from extinction.”
Look, I’m not going to deny that the home run explosion of the late 90s-early oughts helped the game a bit. I think it’s safe to say it did. But really, extinction? And does Phillips really think that the game wouldn’t have rebounded regardless?
In fact, I’ve seen multiple things cited for baseball’s post-strike comeback in the 1990s. The wild card, creating broader fan interest in pennant races. The return to prominence of the New York Yankees and the reinvigoration of their rivalry with Boston. Heck, some people even think that Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record was the turning point.
Or maybe there wasn’t a turning point. To the contrary, it seems that attendance trends show that the labor strife in the mid-90s was really an interruption of already-rising attendance numbers which began in the late 80s. The strike brought a trough, but after it was over, the trend in attendance continued upward at more or less the same rate as seen before the strike.
But even if you don’t buy that, it’s safe to say that just as steroids don’t fully explain the power increase of the period — thank smaller ballparks, weight training, equipment advances, smaller strike zones, thinning pitching talent and perhaps even a livelier ball for it too — they don’t explain baseball’s increasing appeal over the past 20 years either.
But hey: it makes for great talk radio to claim otherwise.
(link via BTF)