As Alex Rodriguez became the youngest baseball player to reach home run number 600 in the history of the game, it is important to note the different transformations the game has gone (for good or for worse). Throughout all that however, medical advancements have been made, players have started training much more intensively and took better care of their bodies along with the addition of performance enhancement.
Should baseball strike out all pitching records if the pitcher involved had gotten Tommy John’s surgery? Certainly that wasn’t available back in the early- and mid-1900’s so that’s got to be a competitive advantage. With all the video accessories available to help teams scout and prepare for their opponent was never available in the early days of baseball, why isn’t that a competitive advantage that wasn’t available to other players/teams of the early years?
To me the record books are very clear, Hank Aaron held the all-time home run record for 30+ years but records are only kept because someone someday will come along and break it. Barry Bonds did that and he is without a doubt, the all time leader. A-Rod hitting his 600th today became the youngest all time to reach that mark and even though Babe Ruth did it in far less at bats (something around 2,000 less ABs) it does not mean he is the fastest, just the one with least at bats. It doesn’t entitle him to some record because he simply just did not hit enough home runs and that is all that needs to count for an all-time king.
One day A-Rod will go on to beat Bonds’ record and will eventually become the all-time leader but there is no legitimate reason to deny him the record. He tested positive in an era where testing wasn’t mandatory and there was no punishment for using it when he did. You can claim that he may have used it afterward (and he might have) but he never tested positive again so that’s what you go on. For all the allegations Bonds faced, he never tested positive on a test and he certainly never got any benefit of the doubt from the media who loved to hate him.
There is no reason for an asterisk because this is the era we are in and there is no way to distinguish who did and didn’t take enhancements. If you want to get completely ridiculous, Baseball can decide to remove every single statistic of everyone who played in this era but then where do you decide when the era started? What about players who were already playing before the ‘era’ started? When does the ‘era’ end and will we even know it ended? There is no realistic way of determining who to remove and who to keep and who’s to say there weren’t ‘cheaters’ well before this era?
You can start debating who achieved what record in how many games and that argument will never end but as the game evolves, the only thing that remains the same is how the game is played – 9 innings, 2 teams, 1 winner. So in whatever manner the record is achieved, using whatever form of medicine or technology, the record should stand because there is no uniform way to judge one era against another. The ones who come afterward will always have the advantage due to scientific and natural advancements made in everyday life and that is something all baseball purists or traditionalists will one day have to accept that.