- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

Sammy Sosa hit his 600th and 601st home runs last week.

Barry Bonds is seven home runs away from breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time record.

But Sosa and Bonds also are involved in a home run race against each other — most home runs in the Steroids Era (1994-present).

Sosa has hit 531 home runs in this era, four more than Bonds. Alex Rodriguez, who has hit 491, is likely to catch both — maybe next season.

“The Steroids Era” isn’t meant as an indictment of Bonds, Sosa, Rodriguez or any other player. It is meant as an indictment of Bud Selig.

The Steroids Era is unlike any other era in baseball history, just like the Dead Ball Era (1901-19), the Post-War Era (1946-68) or any other era.

Sosa has passed Frank Robinson on the home run list. Bonds will pass Aaron. And Rodriguez probably will pass Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Eddie Murray, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks by the end of the season.

All of those accomplishments mean little — or at least a lot less than the baseball purists believe.

That’s because Bonds, Sosa and Rodriguez are playing in a different era than those other players. They are playing in the most extreme hitters’ era of all time in terms of both batting averages and power numbers.

They are not doing anything egregious to Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. They are playing the best they can in an era that is more than tailored to their skills.

The increased offense of the Steroids Era isn’t just about steroids.

It’s about the addition of three extreme hitters’ parks — Coors Field in Denver, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, and Minute Maid Park in Houston.

It’s about the acceptance of strength training. Steroids may provide an assist, but as recently as the 1980s, it was believed that lifting weights was not good for baseball players.

According to “The New Bill James Historical Abstract,” the use of aluminum bats increased players’ willingness to drive the outside pitch, even if they were late on it.

The number of opposite-field home runs nearly tripled between 1987 and 1999. The number of hit batsmen more than doubled because hitters now stand on top of the plate and swing for the fences.

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