Once again, I dip my wings to ESPN.com's Tim Keown, who is right on with the steroids-in-baseball story.
Of course, still a story, although not a surprise. I'm old enough to remember when even catchers weren't as big as Sammy Sosa. And after Lyle Alzado died, hearing about Ken Caminiti was sad, not shocking. In essence, what they were doing were trading the last 10-30 years of their lives for a shot at extending their athletic primes for three-to-five more seasons. Would you do that if it didn't work?
It's not just All-Stars either. Even everyday players face pressure to keep up. Could any shortstop today hit .230 and keep his job with flawless defense? How many players are suddenly hitting 20 homers a year? (Answer for 2004: 93.) How many did it 15 years ago? 36.
Here's some raw data, courtesy of The Baseball Archive, for 1987-1990. (They aren't sortable tables, so I went through and did the counting, with the year-by-year totals, per league, as follows:
Year AL NL
1987 51 27 [Only the ball was juiced this year.]
1988 27 16 [Neither the Padres nor Phillies got ONE guy over 20.]
1989 20 16
1990 21 22
In 1990, the entire St. Louis Cardinals finished with 73 homers. See what I mean? And anyone in a rec league of any kind has heard the jokes about that one guy who suddenly seems a hell of a lot stronger in the paint/along the boards/at the plate.