So now the question that is begging for an answer is that of what to do with the MLB record book. Baseball, more than any other sport, is a sport of numbers. It’s records are the most cherished of all professional sports. More people know baseball records by heart than any other sport. Now, in this time of uncertainty in regards to what should be done, I would like to offer up a case AGAINST the asterisk in all regards. I have two reasons in which I base my decision.
Reason 1 – MLB is a game of non-absolutes
There is a comedy routine by the legendary George Carlin that compares Baseball with Football to point out their many differences. Carlin could not have been more correct. Baseball is far different than any of the big 4 sports in this country (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey). Of the 4, baseball is the only one without a set time limit. It’s scheduled for 9 innings, but on any given day, a game could last 15-20 innings. Of those 9 regularly scheduled innings, none of them are on a time limit. At any given time, a team could send 30 batters to the plate before ending an inning.
Not only is their no time limit, but these is no absolute when it comes to stadiums either. Baseball is the only sport in which teams do not all play with the exact same dimensions. Basketball, football and hockey all have very specific rules as to how big their playing are is. Baseball does not. As a result, we have teams playing in ballparks that are tiny, and teams that have played in parks whose CF wall was over 440 feet away. How can this be? Sure you might argue that this is what makes baseball unique, but I would argue right back that this is what makes the record book inaccurate.
If Baseball is going to cherish the record book, then is should be a way of comparing players of all generations who have played the game in the same type of circumstances.
Reason 2 – MLB has changed it’s own rules over time
Whether it was adding more games to the regular season (i.e. – 154 to 162) or changing the way the game was played, MLB has always had no problem changing the rules. I laugh as I hear Fox announce when people have broken playoff records for things like hits, HR’s, RBI’s etc. Well, of course they have. Now that we have a 3 round playoff system, how could they not? If you’re going to keep these records, you can’t just go and change the rules. By doing so, you render the old records inferior.
MLB has lowered the mound, added the DH, and lengthened the season, just to name a few changes. By doing so, they have widened the gap between the players of old and the players of today. It’s almost impossible to ask the question “How would Babe Ruth do against Randy Johnson?” based on the records put up by both men. Baseball has simply made too many changes to the rules for the records to have any warrant in deciding the answer.
Summary – So where do steroids fit into this whole asterisk question. I believe they fit in just like any other change. They are just another strike against the record book. With that being said, it is impossible to assign asterisks or award MVP’s to players based on assumptions of the public. You cannot assume that Mark McGwire used steroids and thus place an asterisk by his records. MLB did not test and as a result cannot penalize the past. What’s done is done. Asterisks? Get rid of them all.