If you ask most men what they think about gossip, the vast majority of them will tell you that they hate it and never participate. The only logical follow-up question to that should be to ask them who they think is on steroids. There will be no shortage of opinion on who did and who didn’t and when they started and then stopped.
Positive tests?! Who needs them? Clinical research studies to judge actual effectiveness of said product? Are you gay? This is the court of public opinion, baby. Facts and proof take a back seat to gossip and slander and a chance to cut multi-millionaires down to size.
Bud Selig claims Alex Rodriguez “shamed the game.” Yes, how shameful that Rodriguez used a product that he thought would make him better that was not (at the time) against the collectively bargained rules of the game. And it is a good thing that Mr. Selig has no shame or else he might realize how he helped created the culture that allowed the “Steroid Era” to go on unchallenged for so long.
So, here I hold my nose and present the Top 10 Fantasy Seasons on Steroids.
Year, Player, Average, HR, RBI, Runs, Stolen Bases
10. 1988 Jose Canseco .307-42-124-120-40
Here is the fellow who is the patron saint of steroids. I always liked Canseco, even if he did seem more like a cartoon character than an actual baseball player. He just came across as a lovable goofball. I mean, could any other player in the history of the game both knock a hit ball over the wall with his head and hurt himself while pitching mop-up duty? What are the odds of both of those things happening to the same guy? Whatever number you come up with, I would counter that it would be too small. And now he is the most credible man in baseball on the sport’s most controversial subject. It is absolutely perfect.
9. 1993 Lenny Dykstra .305-19-66-143-37
Never considered the smartest guy in the room while a member of the Mets (the above stat line came with the Phillies), Dykstra has had confirmed problems with alcohol and gambling. In the Mitchell Report, senior vice president for security Kevin M. Hallinan said that Dykstra admitted to using steroids, saying that he used them to “keep his weight up” during the season. I highly recommend to all my enemies that they go out and apply Dykstra’s financial advice to their retirement portfolios.
8. 1996 Ken Caminiti .326-40-130-109-11
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Caminiti admitted that he used steroids the final six years of his career. The year highlighted above would have been the first one of those six. I am 99.9% opposed to retro-actively going back and removing known steroids users from the record book. The record book stands as a history of the game and whatever else you may feel about the subject, steroids are part of the game’s history. But if you catch me on the right day, I might make an exception for this guy. If Canseco is a lovable goofball, Caminiti is, in my opinion, a despicable degenerate.
7. 1996 Todd Hundley .259-41-112-85-1
In the Mitchell Report, Kirk Radomski implicated Todd Hundley. Allegedly, Radomski told Hundley that if he started taking steroids he would hit 40 home runs. Meanwhile, Hundley had never hit more than 16 in a season prior to 1996. Also in the report, Radomski alleges that Hundley was so grateful that he took him out to dinner following the 1996 season. I guess when it comes to gift giving, Hundley is no Oprah. I mean, a dinner? Unless there were hookers at the end of the meal, that is a pretty lame thank you for a guy who should have a few dollars at his disposal.
6. 1999 Rafael Palmeiro .324-47-148-96-11
Palmeiro failed a drug test in 2005 but he did not really play well in 2005 so I put this season up instead, his first in Texas where a lot of steroids activity seemingly took place. Palmeiro, of course, is famous for wagging his finger in front of Congress and claiming that he never took steroids. After he failed this drug test, Palmeiro altered his statement to claim that he never knowingly took steroids. I know it is extremely unlikely, but what if he is telling the truth? What if the 3,000 hits and the 500 HR were all “legitimate”? Combined with his defense, he was so good he won a Gold Glove one year while being a DH, would that not make him an inner circle Hall of Famer?
5. 2001 Barry Bonds .328-73-137-129-13
I am utterly convinced that the world will be a better place once the government finishes prosecuting Barry Bonds. Talk about money well spent! Exact figures are hard to come by but most guesses are in the eight-digit range. That’s right, the government is spending 10s of millions of dollars on this case. You know, it costs money to raid the home of a star athlete’s trainer’s mother-in-law. That’s what this has come down to, as hard as that may be to stomach. And it is not only the dollars spent, it is also the time and energy that could go into prosecuting more important cases.
4. 2001 Paul Lo Duca .320-25-90-71-2
There was a time when I was a Paul Lo Duca fan. This is a hard thing for me to admit. The only thing that comforts me is that this took place when he was in the minors. In the mid-90s, Lo Duca was a guy who consistently hit .300 and also had good CS numbers throwing out opposing baserunners. But he never got any respect. Not once in his career did he make Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list. This was because he was always old for his league, but it is still kind of remarkable for a guy who ended up making four All-Star teams. I know this is not the greatest season ever for a steroids guy. But I put Lo Duca on the list for two reasons. One, I hate how the media portrayed him as this great clubhouse guy when it is public knowledge that he was a steroids user, a problem gambler, a guy who cheated on his wife and one who threw his Latin teammates under the bus. But mostly he is on the list because I wanted to put this picture from the Mitchell Report up. I mean, the guy used team letterhead to thank his drug dealer.
3. 2002 Jason Giambi .314-41-122-120-2
Yeah, Giambi won the MVP in 2000, but in the Mitchell Report he admitted to injecting himself with Deca-Durabolin throughout the 2002 season. And it’s not like this year was chopped liver, either. Giambi to me is fascinating. He admitted his guilt, took a lot of heat and now seems pretty much in the clear (I wrote it and then realized the pun). Anyway, this is a guy who might have a borderline Hall of Fame case by the time he finishes his career. If he has a couple of more seasons like 2008 and then hangs on for a few more years after that, we are looking at 475+ HR and 1,500 RBIs. It might be fun to have a guy who admitted to using steroids in the Hall of Fame while having guys who are suspected but not convicted, like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, outside. Well, fun might not be the right word.
2. 2003 Gary Sheffield .330-39-132-126-18
In his book Inside Power, Sheffield acknowledges using BALCO’s cream following the 2002 season but claimed it was vitamins and that he did not know it was steroids. If forced at gun point to say which one was more believable, would you go with the athlete who says he didn’t know or Bill Clinton saying he smoked marijuana but never inhaled?
1. 2003 Alex Rodriguez .298-48-117-124-17
I hate the whole steroids saga but I do take a sort of perverse joy in seeing how people react. Mike Lupica wrote a fawning book about the great HR chase of 1998 and now is one of the main people wringing his hands about steroids. My opinion is that these guys are not so upset about these players “shaming the game” as they are that they felt duped by it all. Inherent in all of this is the unspoken whine, “How could you do this to ME?”
McGwire in ’98 was a great story. He went from reticent star to embracing it all, even bringing his child along for the ride. It was great how his ex-wife allowed McGwire to share the moment
with his son and it gave hope to people scarred by divorce that yes, we really could all get along. And then when he hit the HR and then missed first base in his excitement and had to circle back to touch the bag – man that was fantastic. It was a moment that all of the guys in the bleachers could relate to the great McGwire. “Hey, I would probably do that, too!”
So, I understand the McGwire backlash. But I am a little caught off guard by the A-Rod uproar. This is a guy who was never really loved, despite his massive talent. Most people could recite his $252 million contract before they could tell you what he hit in any given year.
So, why all the fuss?
I know the stated reason – he was supposed to be the pure one – but it just does not add up to me. Were you really duped again? How many times does Ike have to hit you, Tina? Through it all, I keep coming back to one thought:
Thank God it wasn’t Derek Jeter. If it ever comes out that Jeter did steroids the reaction might cause the entire earth to implode.