The late 1980’s to the early 2000’s brought some of the greatest pitching us diehard baseball fans will ever see, in somewhat of a juxtaposition, it also brought some of the greatest hitting we’ll will ever see as well. Guys like Ken Griffey Jr. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire owned the 90’s. Yes, The Steroid Era brought a lot of controversy to the game of baseball; some would say it was tainted because of how many players were using steroids (except for the great Ken Griffey Jr.) to boost their performance/home run totals. Some would say the steroid era saved the game of baseball and brought a new popularity to it that we hadn’t seen in, well, ever.
During this outrageous time period of 500 foot home runs, baseball also saw some of the best pitching in its history. From the Braves rotation of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz, to the one, two punch of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, to Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens’ multiple Cy Young Award winning seasons, that era of baseball really was a battle of the two dominant groups, the power hitters and the masterful pitchers. Throw both groups into a commercial, and you get Nike’s hilarious 1998 ‘Chicks dig the long ball’ ad (seen here) featuring Glavine, Maddux, and Mark McGwire. They raised the question in 1998, so I’ll raise it again in 2014.
Do chicks still dig the long ball?
German supermodel, Heidi Klum had voiced her thoughts on the subject in the 90’s “Face it …. a low ERA just isn’t sexy.”
We’re sorry you felt that way, Heidi, but we may have to disagree with you.
Between pitchers and hitters, is one group more dominant than the other in today’s game? Let’s start with the year 1987. For starters, 1987 was the first time in MLB history that there were more than 4,000 total home runs hit in a single season, 4,458 home runs to be exact. Led by Andre Dawson (49) and a 23 year old Mark McGwire who also had 49 home runs, there were only five guys who hit 40+ home runs that year, although that’s not a big number it was the start of something that would eventually change the game. Nolan Ryan, who was 40 years old at the time, headlined the class of pitchers in 1987 that year boasting a 2.76 ERA, at 8-16, and a 24 year old Roger Clemens, who was boasting a very solid 2.97 ERA at 20-9, the MLB average ERA that year was 4.29, which is, alright. It’s definitely not sexy, by Heidi Klum’s standards.
Fast forward to 1998, the heart of the steroid era, it was the first time in history that the league total of home runs surpassed 5,000 in one season. Mark McGwire had 70 home runs, Sammy Sosa had 66 home runs, and Griffey had 56 home runs, attendance and popularity were at an all-time high. Guys were hitting moonshots left and right, and pitchers were getting the short end of the stick. Well, a lot of pitchers were getting the short end of the stick, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Kevin Brown, and Pedro Martinez weren’t. All of those pitchers had an ERA under 2.90, but for the most part, pitchers were getting teed off on, the league ERA had jumped to 4.43. Although, anything around 4.50 is considered an average ERA, take into consideration that there were only three years in between 1955 and 1987 that the league ERA was over 4.00.
Fast forward again to 2011, the first time in 19 years, that the league ERA was under 4.00, 3.94, to be exact and the league total of home runs was 4,552, there hadn’t hit that few of total home runs in 16 years. In 1998, 13 players hit 40+ home runs, in 2013; just two players hit 40+ home runs. For the first time since the steroid era ended, pitchers were beginning to noticeably dominate again, guys like Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, and Justin Verlander are getting equal amounts of the spotlight. Blame it on the fact that steroids aren’t around the game as much as they used to be, or that we’ll never see power like we used to, or it’s not as marketable anymore, if it weren’t for that time period the game us baseball fans love so much today, we might not be able to appreciate great pitching, and great hitting when we see it today and the game would be noticeably different, probably not as good.
So back to the initial question, do chicks dig the long ball?
Probably not as much as they used to, but there has been an increase in chicks finding an ERA sexy, just ask Kate Upton.