The 2017 World Series is not yet over. We can already say that this World Series will not soon be forgotten.
Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann struck a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 5 that was historic beyond just what it meant in a truly classic game. McCann became the 14th different player from either team to homer in the series. That’s a record. He also became the fifth different Houston player to homer in Game 5. That, too, is a record. Additionally, it was the 21st home run of the series. That tied a record. One half inning later, Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig hit a home run to break it.
It’s worth noting that most of the records previously belonged to the 2002 World Series between the then Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants. That was a seven-game series. We’re only five deep into this one. For those who don’t remember, the 2002 World Series came right in the middle of baseball’s “Steroid Era” between two indulgent teams.
So, the explosion in the 2017 World Series has ignited a debate that’s been going all year. If we’re drug testing now and reasonably sure that players aren’t juiced to the extent that they were in 2002, what gives? The balls must be juiced, right?
The World Series balls have to be juiced. This is insanity.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) October 30, 2017
And to J.J. Watt and anyone else, the answer is simple. Yes, the balls are juiced. We also have a question in response. Do you care? Because we sure don’t.
Let’s ask anyone who watched Game 5 a question. Would you be happy if Game 6 (and if necessary, Game 7) went the same way? Now, let’s eliminate all of the no votes from Dodgers’ fans. We get that. Let’s also eliminate all of the no votes from Astros’ fans. The result may be okay for those folks, but sitting through a game like that is stressful.
But as for all of as neutral fans, how many wouldn’t take that again? And if you’re in that group, why?
We’re watching games that are truly unpredictable. A lead of three or four runs seems far from insurmountable. So, when the Dodgers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game 5, we certainly noted Houston’s poor start. But at the same time, we knew that the game wasn’t close to over.
Similarly, we know that while Los Angeles has to be crushed after losing such an emotional game, this series is far from over. The constant momentum swings have taught us that nothing in the 2017 World Series is certain.
Isn’t that what we should all want? Unpredictability is part of what makes sports wonderful. It’s certainly part of what makes sports wonderful at the championship level. The last thing that anyone would want would be a game where it feels over at 3-0 in the first, or 4-0 in the fourth. It’s a level of unpredictability that we had in the Steroid Era, only this is so much better.
If you’ve scrolled through discussions of baseball on social media, you’ve no doubt encountered someone saying something like “I loved baseball in the steroid era. The games were exciting. If these guys want to do that. Why should we care?”
As harsh as it sounds, it’s not actually that bad of an argument. The problem is that not all players took PEDs because they wanted to. Some took them because, basically, they had to. If you wanted to compete at that time, it was awfully hard to do it clean. Heck, guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens allegedly indulged, and they had already built Hall of Fame careers.
The damages that steroids and other PEDs can do are well known. If we really don’t care about being entertained by watching a sport these players potentially literally killing themselves to play at a high level, what does that say about us?
But if they’re juicing the balls? Who cares. We’re not worried about the safety of the balls. Not the baseballs, anyway. With juiced balls, everyone is playing on the same playing field and nobody is putting potentially harmful substances in themselves as a way to succeed.
So, absolutely. Juice the balls. We’ve got at least one game to go and we’ve already been treated to one of the most exciting World Series’ in recent memory.