I think I’ve read two dozen decade-in-baseball retrospectives in the past week, but they all seem to come back to this nugget, articulated today in the Star-Ledger’s version:
The 2000s were dominated by steroids and everything we learned about
them: how widespread they were, who juiced, who was responsible and how
it impacted the game. Year after year, what happened on the field was
overshadowed by the latest steroid-related development . . .
. . . Yet while we became more cynical about the game, we were no less
captivated by it. The 2000s were marked by record attendance and
all-time high revenues. It was the first decade since the 1960s in
which there was no work stoppage.
And you can’t just dismiss that as a business thing or a function of new ballparks. The revenue and attendance was driven, undoubtedly, by fan interest and demand. People are buying tickets to those ballparks and watching those regional cable network broadcasts.
The fact that the game has seen such an uptick in interest and revenue despite the PED stuff just strengthens my belief that steroids, while a problem that absolutely had to be addressed, are/were nowhere near as large a problem for the game as they are typically made out to be and that perspective about it all is starting to ooze back into people’s thinking.
We’ll start to see tangible evidence of this going forward. Maybe with things like Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame vote totals, which I think will see a modest increase this year that will continue over time, as he wears a batting coach’s uniform every day and writers realize that he’s not a Martian. Maybe with a bit less shock and outrage as another name or three from the famous steroid list is released this spring, as it inevitably will.
Maybe the turn of a decade is an arbitrary point in time, but it does feel like we’ve reached a turning point of some kind, doesn’t it?