Baseball has always been a sport defined by the eras. It began with the dead ball era, which was most of the early 1900s, when the scores of games were low and homeruns were few and far between. This period ended soon after the emergence of the great slugger Babe Ruth. It was followed later by the integration era, a post-war time when baseball finally witnessed the racial integration of African-American players, as epitomized by the legendary Jackie Robinson. Baseball of the 1960s and 70s was dubbed the expansion era as it saw the emergence of an expanded 24 teams and a division of the American and National Leagues into east and west divisions. The free agent era was a seventeen-year period spanning across the early 80s and mid 90s; it produced the innovative new idea of free agency that led to the skyrocketing of player salaries and greatly increased movement of players between teams. The most recent baseball of the past twenty years has left us baseball fans with perhaps the most infamous and despised era in the history of our beloved sport, the steroid era.
The steroid era is a continuing time throughout baseball, beginning in perhaps the late 1980s (no one can be absolutely sure), in which players have taken performance-enhancing drugs to add more power to their game. Thus we have seen a game with exponentially more power hitting and overall offensive output. Homerun totals over the past twenty years have been unprecedented in their magnitude, alluding again to some kind of performance enhancing drug taken by the great homerun hitters of today.
The most recent case to consider is that of Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for an entire season after the MLB convicted him of taking steroids during his illustrious time on the New York Yankees; a time where he reached the milestone of hitting over 600 homeruns in his career, a feat that only seven others have reached in baseball history. A once certain hall of famer, he is now more likely to only hold these records with a marring asterisk beside them.
Perhaps some of John Stuart Mill’s philosophies can help us with this moral and ethical dilemma plaguing the sport. Surprisingly, I think Mill would support the use of steroids in the MLB. First of all, Mill’s philosophy on customs states that he is not against the changing of traditions if there is consensus that they have no logical beginning. Steroid use has customarily not been a part of baseball history, but only because these drugs have just recently been put into production. Mill would argue that we haven’t given steroids a chance, and as a result it is a custom that can be changed in an effort to try something new. He often makes the point that we have to try living a certain way before we can decide if it’s detrimental to society or not.
Another point that Mill makes is his famous harm principle. It states that, “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people”. In other words, as long as you are harming only yourself, the government (or in this case the MLB executives) cannot interfere to say otherwise. Since doping is more of a self-harm, Mill would say that it is an acceptable part of our society. Although many can make the argument that these players on steroids are “harming the game” it would not fit into Mill’s conventional definition of harm.
Maybe, if we believed Mill and his theories, then we would also believe that baseball is ready for a new era, for an era of accepted and promoted steroid use.