1998 was a banner year for baseball. Of course Yankees fans will remember the Yankees dominating the regular season on their way to the World Series. It was also an expansion year featuring new teams in Arizona and Tampa Bay. There were great individual performances as David Wells pitched a perfect game, Kerry Woods K's 20, Roger Clemens K's 18 and then, of course, there were the home runs.
We all remember Sosa and McGwire but 98 was also the first year in baseball history were 4 players hit more then 50 home runs as Greg Vaughn(!) and Ken Griffey jr. joined Sosa and Big Mac. So now that McGwire has admitted what we already knew how does 1998 hold up to hindsight? For starters the top players were clearly cheating as six of the top ten in the MVP voting were most likely on steroids in the NL(Sosa, Big Mac, Vaughn, Biggio, Galarraga,Bonds) and seven of the top ten in the AL(Juan Gonzalez, Nomar, Mo Vaughn, Manny, Albert Belle, Arod and Pudge).
For the Yankees, you also have to wonder how many players were doing steroids with Knoblauch and Pettitte already linked. As hard as it is to admit you have to wonder about some of the Yankees other top players. What about Bernie, Paulie, and even Tino? Any name linked to steroids (outside of Jeter but maybe that is even being naive) would not surprise me.
So now we have the top players and the top team linked to steroids.
So this is where the difficult part of the steroid era really comes into play. If the players and teams who succeeded during this period were clearly cheating what do we do with the records and the accomplishments of this time? Do we discount it all or do we simply take the stance that everyone cheated and call it even?
For the Yankees, I have come to the conclusion that the Yankees were the best team of the era with some of the best players. There is no way that most of the other top players were cheating but the Yankees core was not. However, the shear number of players who are being outed make it hard to discount or even taint the accomplishment of a team when they were clearly competing against other steroid using teams. Using that same logic you have to say the same for McGwire as well. He was facing opponents that were doing the same things he was. So basically the best then we still need to consider the best now. Sure those who were clean faced a competitive disadvantage and it isn’t fair to those players but I am not willing to complete throw those years out.
Knowing what we know now we either accept the timeframe for what it was or wipe it out completely. I am not willing to erase those year so Bonds, Big Mac, Sosa and 125 wins should stand forever in the record books and the Hall of Fame.
It is time to accept the period for what it was and move on.