Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I Miss The Steroid Era - Everything Great About 1998

There is a lot of vitriol aimed towards the late 90s and early 00s baseball years. It is referred to as the Steroid Era, and sports writers (the most honest and honorable people in the world, if you didn't know) just can't believe that players would use drugs that enhance their performance. There was no testing for things like that, so it wasn't really against the rules, but they like, shouldn't have done it, because it's bad. Anyway, I could go into an hour long diatribe about steroids, but instead, I just want to state that I love the Steroid Era. That baseball was awesome. No year better exemplifies the awesomeness of the era than 1998. I will always remember that year fondly, but it truly is amazing all of the awesome things that happened in 98.

The Sosa-McGwire home run chase was undoubtedly the most exciting thing that has happened in baseball during my lifetime. Everybody loved baseball at the time due to those two players. Sure there was steroid use, but the baseballs in play likely had way more to do with the home runs than any PEDs. The whole nation was following two guys playing in the Midwest, because it was that totally awesome.And it's not like we didn't know about steroids. I remember making fun of Cardinals fans for McGwire using androstenedione. It was right there in his locker, but nobody gave a shit and life was grand. 

But that's not all that was great about 1998. There were all of these awesome things as well.

It wasn't just McGwire and Sosa. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 56 home runs. 1998 takes us to a time before Griffey was hurt every year, and that is a wonderful thing to remember. 

Kerry Wood struck out 20 dudes in a game and nearly had a no-hitter. This was the greatest pitching performance ever. Nobody will ever touch it in my mind. Wood made baseballs do things that physics should not allow. And he did all of this while not even being old enough to drink. God, I hate injuries so much, but in 1998, I barely even knew they existed.

Rod Beck was the Cubs Closer. This was not only fun for Cubs fans; it was fun for all fans. Rod Beck made sure to make every game close no matter what the lead. The Cubs could be up by 3 runs, and Beck would give up two runs, have the bases loaded with no out, and then get a strike out and a double play and act like it was his plan the whole time. Rod Beck was stupid fun.

Greg, not Mo, but Greg Vaughn hit 50 home runs. He only had 18 the year before. Good for him at becoming 2.5 times better at offense at age 32.

Oh, speaking of a surprising late career power spike, there is no way I can make it through this without mentioning Toronto Blue Jays legend, Jose Canseco, who hit 46 bombs about ten years past his prime. Anytime you bring up a baseball season and have a reason to bring up Jose Canseco, you know it's a good year.

Albert Belle hit 49 home runs, which I actually feel is totally legitimate. What is more impressive is that he played in 163 games. He isn't Mr. 24/7, he's Mr. 25/8. 

Glenallen Hill. Just that he existed is amazing. I love Glenallen Hill WAY too much.

Rickey Henderson was still leading the league in stolen bases, with 66. If Rickey were somehow still playing in his 50s today, he'd probably finish in the top 10 in stolen bases and have an above average on base percentage. Never underestimate Rickey.

Derek Jeter edged Tony Womack for most singles, 151 to 149. I loved Tony Womack. Scrappy, fast dudes were my jam in the late 90s. OBP didn't mean shit, and it was awesome.

Larry Walker led the league in batting average. You know who came in 2nd? John Olerud, and if you don't smile thinking of John Olerud wearing a batting helmet in the field, something is wrong with you. John Olerud was totally tubular.

Barry Bonds was in what should have been his prime, finished fourth in WAR but not in the top-10 in home runs. Let me just say that Barry Bonds was amazing, even before anyone ever questioned whether he was all natural. Do you need proof? I think I might be able to provide that.

Mark McGwire hit 33 more home runs than Barry Bonds, but Bonds still drew more intentional walks that year, because Barry Bonds is a goddamned national treasure.

It was Pedro Martinez's first year in Boston, and he put up the 7th best ERA in baseball, just behind Omar Daal. You could say that Omar Daal was dealing that year, but really, he was more Daaling than anything else.

Ben Grieve was the AL Rookie of the Year. I was a HUGE Ben Grieve believer (A BeGriever?). That obviously didn't turn out to great, but I had no doubt he'd hit 500 homers in his career after 1998. 

El Duque made his debut, which helped me learn that all Cubans are great at baseball, a lesson that actual baseball teams just learned, like, in the last 18 months.

Mike Caruso came 3rd in AL Rookie of the Year voting. I do not remember this guy AT ALL. He played another full year in 99, and then only got 21 more plate appearances in 2002. I bet Mike Caruso fucking loves talking about 1998.

Honestly, that 1998 Cubs team was my favorite team of all time. I should write about it every year, because it made me feel feelings. Reliving that year brings me incredible joy and also takes me back to when I had tears in my eyes after the evil, big money, Atlanta Braves, swept the lovable, scrappy, Chicago Cubs in three games. Everybody remembers the big names, but I would like to point out that Brant Brown slugged over .500 that year, and Gary Gaetti had a line of .320/.397/.594. Yep, Gary Gaetti hit over .300 and slugged nearly .600 at age 39 after being traded to the Cubs at the deadline. God, 1998 was awesome.

Still, some people try to shit on that year, because "Durrr, steroids," but those people are idiots. I will always love that 1998 season, and my larger point is that you shouldn't worry when people shit on something you love. It's not something to be embarrassed about, because you shouldn't let people take away great times and fond memories. On a related note, my first concert (which was probably a couple years earlier than 1998) was Weird Al Yankovic. I used to be embarrassed by this, but fuck that. Weird Al is awesome, and he put on a hell of a show that I guarantee I would still enjoy today. 

So love what you love, don't worry about what others think, because nostalgia is the one thing that never gets old.

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