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Asher's Running Steroid Table
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
Last Updated: May 23, 2009
We know who has been busted and who has admitted to using PEDs. What about all the guys who haven’t been busted? I am going to start to compile a list of players and my own personal views on whether they used performance enhancing drugs and/or steroids. Feel free to comment, and we’ll keep the list as a running, on-going project.
Sammy Sosa - updated June 20, 2009 - Easy to forget Sosa was never actually busted, but simply condemned based on his performance in front of Congress. Well, now it is revealed that Sosa was on the 2003 list along with Alex Rodriguez. Humorously, while the A-Rod revelation rocked the world, the Sosa revelation didn't even dominate the news cycle.
Ken Griffey, Jr. – with steroids as we used to know them, the conventional wisdom was that steroids would make you very strong, but make your body start to fall apart. Now, with HGH and the other what-nots, I think the opposite is true – your body heals faster than it once would have. But to me, KGJ greatness/injury pattern really seems to indicate that he was using steroids.
Frank Thomas – Only his injury pattern suggests steroids. Thomas was clearly born enormous, and was as talented a ball player as we’ve ever seen when he was healthy.
Nomar Garciaparra – Injury pattern suggests steroids.
Luis Gonzalez, Jay Bell, Matt Williams, Steve Finley – it is possible that Arizona’s home park is such a hitter’s paradise that it allowed these four guys to have renaissances or, in Bell’s case, do things he never did, late in their careers. I don’t buy it. I think all four of these guys were juicers.
Derek Jeter – you know, I love doggin’ Jeter, and to my dying day I’ll swear that he is overrated and that his defense is awful. But I just don’t see how you assume Jeter is on juice. I see no evidence of it. I would have expected him to become a 30 homerun threat after his amazing 1999 season, and instead he only hit 20 or more homeruns two more times.
Jim Thome – Thome, Thomas, and Griffey are the last unindicted 500 homerun club members. I don’t see any reason in the world to give Thome the benefit of the doubt. As far as I am concerned, elite homerun hitters who also happen to be one dimensional sluggers are suspect. But I don’t see anything else to hang on him. No injury pattern, no small-to-large development. I just suspect him, and I am probably being intentionally unfair because I just don’t like him.
Adam Dunn – the guy is a giant. And not a particularly great baseball player. No reason to suspect him – I think he is just one of these corn-fed white boys from Texas that grow up to be the size of tree-trunks.
Ryan Howard – the guy is a giant. And not a particularly great baseball player. No reason suspect him – I think he is just one of these corn-fed black guys from St. Louis that grow up to be the size of tree-trunks.
Chipper Jones – I have started to get into a mind-set where I am willing to accuse a guy of using PEDs based on some other evidence of cheating in his life (see Alex Rodriguez). Jones cheated on his wife, somewhat publicly, early in his career. Not hard to believe he’d cheat on baseball. Also, Jones had a Bonds-esque decline-with-age-suddenly-rebound-better-than-I-ever-was moment in his career, after which point he stopped playing full seasons. Very suspicious.
Omar Vizquel – almost hard to believe he hasn’t met HGH at this point in his career isn’t it? But I’ll leave him where he is. He isn’t hurting anyone.
Bret Boone – poster child.
Brady Anderson – see Bret Boone.
Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio – All kidding aside, the way Bagwell’s shoulder fell apart on him at the end of his career kind of reeked of steroids induced body-fall-apart. He certainly also swelled in all the right ways in the 1990s, and he fell off the table at 36. Of course, so did Eddie Matthews and Mike Schmidt. Plus, it is hard to imagine a first baseman doing steroids and going 30-30 twice (Sammy Sosa stopped stealing bases after he became the 60 homerun guy he became). As for Biggio, generally speaking I have let expansion explain how he hit 6 homeruns in 162 games in 1992 and 21 in 155 games in 1993. His power was never shocking, and he was never ever hurt. So, I guess I assume they were clean. Except Bagwell. I think.
Cal Ripken, Jr. – well, based on the previously enunciated conventional wisdom about steroids, it would be hard to believe a guy could play everyday for 20 years (or whatever it was) while using steroids. If his career had happened ten years later, I’d be saying its hard to believe a guy could play everyday for 20 years without using HGH.
Greg Vaughn – yes.
Juan Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Richie Sexson – I don’t guess, at this point, there is any way to suppose that these guys weren’t on some sort of performance enhancing substances. Each was an elite power hitter who, at the age of 32, suddenly couldn’t lift a baseball bat. It is okay to fall off a cliff at 35. Do it at 32, and I’m just not buying it.
Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton – These guys are as tied together in my mind as Foxx and Ott, Killebrew and McCovey, Frisch and Cronin, Murray and McGriff. While I think both of them need to be judged with respect to their leagues, and Helton takes a hit for Coors Field, I think that they were merely above average players and don’t really show signs of performance enhancement.
Ivan Rodriguez – I am absolutely convinced he was on steroids. I think he was enormous with the Rangers and Marlins, but absolutely shrunk after baseball instituted testing.
Rickey Henderson – a real say it ain’t so situation. He just kept getting older, and he just kept playing. Henderson was egomanical enough to do it, and he certainly had a Bondsian awareness of his place in baseball history. Wouldn’t put it past him.
Adrian Beltre – something happened in 2005. I don’t know what, but something. Would it be insane for a guy to juice for one year, land an enormous guaranteed long-term contract, and get back off the stuff? Not so insane, really.
Henry Rodriguez, Rondell White – The Expos-turned-Cubs-who-just-couldn’t-stay-healthy. Not hard to believe that these guys could have been imbroiled in some power-inflating activities.
Howard Johnson - Wanna explore the possibility of steroids in the 1980s? How about Howard Johnson? During the first five years of his career, his slugging percentage is in the .300s, and he hits a career high of 12 homeruns in 116 games in 1984. Then, suddenly in 1987, he hits 36 homeruns, and averages 30 homeruns a season for five years. In 1991, he peaks, leading the NL in homeruns and RBI with 38/117. Then, in 1992, at the age of 31, he suddenly can’t stay healthy and can’t hit the ball. He’s out of baseball by 1995, and in his last four seasons he hits a combined 31 homeruns. If his career had happened a decade later, he’d be Ken Caminiti.
Kelly Gruber - Hard to not look at this guy and think we didn’t juice for a time.
Nolan Ryan - It pains me to say it, but is it really that hard to believe? Roger Clemens pitched well into his forties. From 2002-2003, at the age of 39 and 40, he looked mediocre, washed up, and inconsequential. Then, all of sudden, from age 41 to 43, he pitches like he hasn’t pitched in years. Then, blam-o, he gets busted in the performance enhancement drug scandal.
So we have “Old Strikeout Pitchers Pitching Better in their Forties Than They Did in Their Late Thirties.”
The Texas Rangers have become renowned for their steroid culture, from bustees Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Rodriguez to suspects Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and (let’s face it) Ruben Sierra and Julio Franco. In 1989, Ryan’s first year with the Rangers, they had Palmeiro, Franco, Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Sosa, Gonzalez, Dean Palmer (yes, Dean Palmer), and Kevin Brown. Ryan was at the epicenter of one of the most suspect frnachises in all of baseball, and pitching his little heart out.
Why have we all been willing to assume Nolan Ryan did not use steroids to prolong his career? Ryan pitched better from age 42-45, cumulatively, than he had from age 38-41 in Houston. 1990 was the first time in Ryan’s career that he led the league in WHIP, and he did it again in 1991. From 1989 to 1991, Ryan finished with over 10 strikeouts per nine inning for three straight years for the first time since 1976-1978, and for only the second time in his career. In 1991, at the age of 44, Ryan tied his career low for hits per nine innings with 5.3, a career mark he set at the age of 25. And this was on a team that finished in the bottom half of the AL in hits allowed per game. After moving from the NL to the AL, which should have killed him.
Here’s the final suspicious factor: In 1991, his 139 ERA+ was the third best of his career. Think it was a product of the team on the field behind him? It wasn’t: He managed this feat despite pitching for a team that, even with his performance . . . wait for it . . . led the American League in runs allowed per game.
Maybe I’m too jaded. Too cynical. To willing to assume the worst.
But I think knowing what we know, suspecting what we suspect, and assuming what we assume, we need to consider Nolan Ryan’s time with the Texas Rangers very carefully.
Albert Belle - I am not a doctor, so I don't know the ins and outs of osteoarthritis. Simple online research reveals that it impacts the cartilage of the joints. Here's a telling quote: "In OA, a variety of potential forces - hereditary, developmental, metabolic, and mechanical — may initiate processes leading to loss of cartilage." Metabolic? As in, metabolic steroids? I am not a doctor, but I can connect the dots.
to be continued . . .
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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