A world in which Beltre trumps McGwire

Updated: January 17, 2010, 3:36 PM ET
By Buster Olney
In the middle of every winter, Dick Peller -- a longtime baseball and soccer coach at my former high school in Mount Hermon, Mass. -- hosts a baseball roundtable to keep baseball's hot stove burning in that area of New England. Anywhere from 50 to 60 folks show up to chat about the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, significant player moves or other larger issues.

In the first year I participated, sometime around 2005, I'd guess that 60 to 70 percent of the questions were related to performance-enhancing drugs, a topic that so dominated the conversation that I remember Peller eventually suggested it might be worthwhile to talk about other stuff.

This year's Northfield Mount Hermon Hot Stove Night was Friday night -- four days after Mark McGwire made front-page news with his admission that he'd used steroids. And yes, McGwire's deeds and words were brought up Friday night. But then a funny thing happened: After a brief discussion about his admission and what MLB commissioner Bud Selig said about the end of the steroids era, everybody moved on. The folks in the room wanted to talk about Adrian Beltre, about how a minor league pitcher such as fellow NMH alum Oliver Drake (reference this) is asked to develop his changeup, about Victor Martinez's defense, about Adrian Gonzalez.

Five years ago, there was great curiosity about the role that performance-enhancing drugs played in the sport, in the greatness of the era's best stars. Now, my sense is that many baseball fans have much of the information they want -- information they lacked five years ago -- to help them formulate opinions about the subject, the users' Hall of Fame candidacy, how the suspected users are evaluated and how the drugs might help. The evolution of baseball and its fans continues.