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Steroid flap shows people know little about baseball


December 08, 2004 - Anyone who believes that taking steroids is going to make him a better hitter knows nothing about the hard work it takes to develop a good swing and the years it takes to learn to play baseball.

It certainly is easier to decry steroid use and say nasty things about San Francisco Giant slugger Barry Bonds than it is to master the simplest concept of hitting: Distinguishing a ball from a strike. In fact, I would bet that anyone who would allow themselves to get worked up about steroid use by baseball players could be enticed to swing at a fast ball over their heads.

If being bigger than everyone else was the secret to Bonds' home-run ability, then why aren't some of the hulks playing in the NBA or NFL wearing baseball uniforms? The answer is simple, they can't hit.

Many of the same people who are apoplectic over steroid use in baseball believed Michael Jordan was the best athlete ever, but he couldn't make it in baseball.

Baseball is the most democratic sport ever devised by mankind. The players who work the hardest are the ones who succeed. Who thinks Pete Rose was a natural-born baseball player? No one I know. Even a natural like Mickey Mantle was sent back to the minors to work on his skills.

Still, you'll be hearing from sports prognosticators about placing an asterisk beside Bonds' name in the record books because he may have used steroids.

Why aren't these same sports wags flapping their gums about making the Russian women's Olympic contestants give back their gold medals? Communist bloc countries were giving their athletes steroids and human growth hormones before the Berlin Wall was built.

That case was proved decades ago, but I don't hear the wags on a soapbox about tainted Olympic records.

Like I said earlier, sports wags like easy. If it can't be thought up on a bar stool, sports wags won't touch it.

That's not to say I favor steroid use. Former Oakland Raider defensive end Lyle Alzado's death seemed like a tragic waste.

The truth is power comes from bat speed, not bulk. Hitters who can visualize their bat striking down and through the ball in the hitting zone are the ones who hit with power, whether they weigh 138 or 210 pounds.

You may believe that decrying steroid use makes you sound like a baseball expert, but I think it makes you sound foolish.

Maybe you're a baseball purist and you want the game to remain the same as it was when Cap Anson played. If that's true, you probably don't like Ozzie Smith very much. After all, Ozzie broke Wee Willy Keeler's record for errorless games in a season. But Keeler never used a baseball glove.

And all you baseball purists, I expect you to be out in force next year when little leaguers start showing up to play with aluminum bats. After all, the aluminum bats give little leaguers the same edge that steroids give major leaguers — they allow you to hit the ball 20 feet further.

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