Not too pumped up about steroids

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It’s tough to find good news in the serious part of the newspaper nowadays, so it makes sense when sports fans take the time and money to be sports fans that much of the negative news— whether or not A-Rod, Manny or the Rocket took steroids, or when they took them, or exactly what it was they took, or if they knew about what they were taking — is not worth worrying about.

Sports are meant to be an escape, a diversion. Even with the economy leading the list of the usual bad news, attendance averages at MLB and minor league parks is holding fairly steady.

A few fans have reacted by staying away from the stadiums, the merchandise, and — at least at the pro level — ditching the game altogether. For most, though, the reaction to 24-7 steroid news doesn’t include turning off ESPN or foregoing expensive tickets.

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There seem to be two common reactions among those fans who stick with the game.

First: “What these guys did is horrible. It’s cheating. They should be punished for it, probably worse than what Major League Baseball is able to do to them now (basically a 50-game suspension without pay for a first offense). However, having said all that, let’s go out to the park, get a hot dog and a drink and enjoy the day.”

Second, and somewhat related: “If all these overpaid meatheads are taking drugs and cheating, then is it really cheating?”

I’m in line with the first reaction. Until the player’s union demands a no-tolerance policy on drug cheats, there’s not a lot more to do, beyond the improvements over the last few years.

In that vein, here are a few nuggets of non-steroid baseball news for fans to keep an eye on.

4Josh Hamilton, most notably of last summer’s Home Run Derby, was planning to return to action Tuesday night for the Texas Rangers after an injury.

4Ryan Zimmerman, of Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, has a hit in every game he’s played in since April 7. That’s 29 straight games and a .363 batting average overall for Zimmerman. That’s one game over halfway to DiMaggio’s legendary 56. Allowing for one or two days off for Zimmerman, he could break the 68-year-old record around June 11-12.

4Randy Johnson is nearing his 300th career win. The Big Unit, now at age 45, lost his 98-mph fastball more than a few years ago, but he’s remodeled the way he pitches and has continued to have success.

4Stephen Strasburg is already the best-known college baseball player in a long time. Strasburg is a 6’5”, right-handed pitcher at San Diego State. His fastball has been clocked regularly at 102 mph. He’s got an 11-0 record this season for the Aztecs while striking out 164 hitters in 87.1 innings (that’s 16.9 strikeouts per nine innings). He threw his second no-hitter of the season on Friday. I’m sure ESPN is dying for the idea of San Diego St. reaching the College World Series in June.

4And by the way, the Nationals have the No. 1 pick in MLB Draft on June 9.