The most intriguing facet of the Alex Rodriguez steroids controversy has nothing to do with the man himself. While Rodriguez has been given a throne built of broken promises and moral compromise, the world has been left to wonder: Who else tested positive for steroids in 2003?
Alex Rodriguez is one of the largest names to be implicated in the current Major League Baseball steroid debacle.
However, Rodriguez is only one of several test samples which were being stored together at a facility in California. In all, there were 104 samples. After Rodriguez's name was leaked to the nation, the fans now want to know who the other 103 samples belong to.
Sure, there are easy answers. There are always Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Barry Bonds to fall back on if a steroid scapegoat is an immediate need. But these retreads of steroid controversy are not what the fans desire.
Instead, the fans want to know what new faces will be seen if and when the remaining 103 names are released to the public.
There are arguments for both sides of this debate.
On one side, the Major League Baseball Players' Association harshly opposes any further names being released to the public. Alex Rodriguez's name was unintentionally leaked to Sports Illustrated, and if the MLBPA had it's way, the rest of the names would be locked away forever.
After all, it is the responsibility of the Players' Association to protect its players.
On the other side are those in favor of releasing the remaining player names. This side includes the majority of baseball fans as well as the media who are dying to know which players used performance enhancing drugs.
Most notably, Curt Schilling (on his "38 Pitches" blog) called for Major League Baseball to release the remaining 103 names. his motive was not to appease the public, however, but to clear the names of the remaining players who he claims had nothing to do with performance enhancing drugs (a group in which he includes himself).
While the debate rages on, the world is left to wonder who else might join A-Rod in baseball infamy. Rodriguez was one name out of 104, so now it is time to speculate over who might be in the remaining 103.
Here is a list of ten current and former Major League Baseball hitters who might be in the remaining 103 names. Feel free to comment, criticize, critique, and curse over who you think should and shouldn't be included.
It seems ironic to start a list of potential steroid users with a catcher, but Javy Lopez earned this honor in a 2003 season-to-remember.
In the previous three seasons (2000-'02), Javy Lopez averaged the following: 124GP, .265AVG, 45R, 17HR, 69RBI
In 2003, Lopez compiled the following statistics: 129GP, .328AVG, 89R, 43HR, 109RBI.
For those keeping score at home, that is a 63-point increase in Batting Average alone! Not to mention Lopez set new career-highs in Runs, Hits, Doubles, Runs Batted In, and Batting Average.
Lopez used this offensive campaign to land a three-year contract with the Orioles worth $22.5 million. The honeymoon was short-lived, however, as Lopez's numbers took an immediate dip during his tenure with Baltimore.
Eventually Lopez was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where his career virtually ended.
Javy Lopez had the physical stature of a major league catcher, but that does little to explain a offensive career year at the age of 33. Lopez's irregular 2003 campaign led to speculation over potential outside influences on his game.
If one factors in that 2003 was a contract season, it seems probable that Lopez (successfully) used performance-enhancing drugs to play himself into a multi-million dollar contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
We continue our tour of position players who struck offensive gold with second-baseman Bret Boone.
When the Seattle Mariners acquired Bret Boone in 2001, they believed they had signed a Gold Glove caliber second baseman with average offensive potential.
Boone had bounced around between three different teams in the previous three years, and while his offensive production was serviceable, he was a far cry from an elite second baseman.
All that changed in 2001, as Bret Boone enjoyed a coming-out season in Seattle. With newly-signed Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners captured the American League West title winning a record 116 games. Boone played a key role in the Mariners' success, but his offensive production was an anomaly of sorts.
In six seasons before joining Seattle (1995-2000) Boone averaged the following: 143GP, .250AVG, 66R, 16HR, 69RBI.
His 2001 offensive line: 158GP, .331AVG, 118R, 37HR, 141RBI.
Needless to say, "something" sparked Bret Boone to a career-best offensive year. He started the 2001 All-Star Game, led the American League in Runs Batted In, and set new career-highs in Games Played, At-Bats, Runs, Home Runs, and Runs Batted In.
Boone enjoyed one more offensive joyride in 2003, but his stock gradually dropped after that. In his last full season (2004) Boone averaged only .251. He was eventually traded to the Minnesota Twins in 2005, who released him two weeks later.
It has yet to be determined whether or not Bret Boone used performance-enhancing drugs prior to the 2001 season, but karma, fate, the gods, destiny, voodoo magic, tarot cards, and most baseball fans outside of the Seattle Metropolitan Area generally accept it as fact.
The hot corner found a hot commodity in 2004, when Los Angeles Dodgers third-baseman Adrian Beltre decided that hitting home runs was moderately enjoyable.
Prior to 2004, Beltre had been an everyday third-baseman capable of average offensive production. Upon his big league debut in 1998, he was officially the youngest player in Major League Baseball at 19 years old.
His defensive skills were among the top of the National League, but through his first six years in the Dodgers organization he had not developed into a high-caliber offensive weapon. His 2004 season changed all of that.
In the previous three seasons (2001-03) Beltre averaged: 148GP, .253AVG, 60R, 19HR, 72RBI. In a mind-blowing 2004 season, Beltre produced the following: 156GP, .334AVG, 104R, 48HR, 121RBI.
Beltre's 48 home runs led the National League, and he finished second to Barry Bonds in National League MVP voting. His brilliant 2004 campaign was enough to earn him a five-year $64 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, but his offensive production immediately regressed to its old form.
In 2005, Beltre batted only .255 while producing 19 home runs and 87 runs batted in (sound like a familiar stat-line?)
Beltre's mediocrity continues in Seattle to this day. In four years there, his batting average has floated around his .271 career mark and he has yet drive in 100 runs in any season.
While Beltre's 2004 season could have been a fluke, the convenient timing (contract year) and abrupt explosion hint at a more devious nature.
Much like Javy Lopez, Adrian Beltre used a contract year to garner a multi-million dollar contract. Also much like Javy Lopez, Beltre probably had a little outside help in accomplishing this goal.
Question: How does a Gold Glove outfielder establish himself as a top-tier threat at the plate?
Answer: Maybe with a little help...
Playing for the California Angels, Jim Edmonds became one of the premiere young talents in the game. He was voted to his first All-Star game by his 25th birthday, and earned his first Gold Glove by the time he was 27.
His offensive production in California was stellar, but was not up to par with some of the league's best. In his final three full seasons with the Angels, Edmonds won two Gold Gloves while averaging the following: 134GP, .301AVG, 90R, 26HR, 79RBI. A solid offensive line by any measure.
However, upon arriving in St. Louis, Edmonds' offensive numbers took an immediate shot upwards. In his first five seasons in St. Louis, Edmonds averaged: 147GP, .298AVG, 102R, 36HR, 100RBI.
Keep two things in mind. First, Edmonds was traded at the age of 30. While 30 is not old in terms of outfielders, it is certainly supposed to be in the middle of a player's prime.
A modest increase could be explained by a change of venue, a better lineup, or even a more matured player, but jumping you statistics by ten home runs and twenty runs batted in at the age of 30 seems a little out of the ordinary.
Second, remember that Jim Edmonds was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm not sure how much baseball history you know, but there was a certain first baseman from St. Louis who (allegedly) used performance-enhancing drugs around this time.
I'm not sure about the details, but I know this first baseman tagged about 70 home runs in a single season...Not too shabby. If there was any question about Jim Edmonds' access to performance-enhancing drugs, it is now answered.
Was Edmonds an all-star caliber outfielder before he went to St. Louis? Yes (duh, he was voted to the game in 1995). His all-star credentials were mostly in the outfield, however. When he went to St. Louis his offensive production improved exponentially, and there is no clear explanation as to why.
Could he have produced those numbers without some outside help? Maybe. Did he borrow some "Energy Pills" from his buddy Mark McGwire to help along the way... You decide.
I know, I know. We aren't even out of the top five yet and we have already made two stops at second base. But then again, ask yourself: If a second-baseman produces cleanup-caliber offensive numbers, shouldn't we be suspicious?
Throughout his 17-year career, Kent established himself as one of the most prolific offensive second basemen in baseball history.
If it wasn't for his humorous off-field stories (e.g. injuring himself while washing a truck, flying a kite, crashing a bike, etc.) he would be remembered as a workmanlike ballplayer.
Instead, his spring training storytelling provided an entire season of joys in 2002 (link here: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/caple/020321.html)
Despite the consistency of his offensive production (Kent drove in 90 runs or more in nine straight seasons from 1997-2005), one has to question how late in his career this output started.
In his first five seasons Kent played for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, and Cleveland Indians. In those seasons he averaged only 120GP, .274AVG, 59R, 18HR, and 64RBI.
Prior to the 1997 season, Kent was traded from Cleveland to San Francisco, prompting an immediate offensive renaissance. He grew fond of the bay area, and in six seasons there he averaged 150GP, .297AVG, 95R, 29HR, and 115RBI.
While playing for San Francisco, Kent never drove in less than 100 runs in any season. Some attribute this success to hitting in front of seven-time MVP Barry Bonds. I disagree with this assertion. While I attribute Kent's success in the bay area to Barry Bonds, I do so for another reason.
Keep two things in mind. First, Jeff Kent played in San Francisco. San Francisco is heavily involved in the steroid era of baseball, primarily for BALCO and all of its history.
To say that Jeff Kent played in an area where steroids were prevalent is like saying that Michael Jordan played basketball. It's an obvious statement that is undoubtedly true. But living near it isn't as valuable as gaining access to it.
Second, and similar to Jim Edmonds in St. Louis, take note that Jeff Kent played around a prominent power hitter with alleged steroid connections. While Kent and Bonds rarely got along in the clubhouse, both had a vested interest in the other's success.
That being said, I do not find it far-fetched to assume that Barry Bonds would have helped out Jeff Kent had he asked. Something about BALCO, Greg Anderson, and a size 44 head make me believe that Bonds could have easily provided Kent with some form of performance-enhancing drugs.
Kent was arguably the greatest second-baseman in baseball history, but it's possible that his reputation will fall if these names are leaked.
I will give the man this much credit: if he was on steroids, he at least channeled his 'roid rage into an attack on Barry Bonds. For that, I will always respect him.
Andruw Jones might have the most wasted potential of anyone on this list.
By the time he was 19, Jones had earned himself an starting spot with the Atlanta Braves. Couple that with 10 consecutive Gold Gloves (1998-2007) and five All-Star appearances (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) and you have an early resume for a potential Hall of Fame player. Then the steroid boom hit...
Through his first half-decade in the league, Jones had established himself as a defensive monster who could provide 25-35 home runs and around 90 RBI every year.
This line was nothing phenomenal, but couple it with Gold Glove caliber defense and you have the makings of an All-Star.
Entering the 2005 season something clicked, however, and Andruw Jones began sending the ball to the fences at a prolific clip. Prior to 2005, Jones' season high in home runs had been 36. In that season, Jones knocked an astounding 51 home runs and drove in 128 RBI (both career highs).
These numbers earned him both an All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger Award. However, with this improved offense came a little more size than Jones would have liked.
After 2004, both Andruw Jones and his offensive numbers seemed to inflate. By the time he hit the free agent market in 2007, Jones was beginning to resemble the Michelin Man.
It was generally accepted in Atlanta that Jones would not be returning in 2008, mostly because his potential value was more than the Braves could afford. However, as Jones' play stumbled in the 2007 season the Braves announced that regardless of financial situations, Jones would not return to the Braves.
The Dodgers reeled in Jones for a two-year, $36.5 million contract. In his first and only season as a Dodger, Jones has looked out of shape, out of breath, and out of talent. He finished a disappointing 2008 campaign batting .158 with 3HR and 14RBI.
Why then, does Jones appear to have connections to steroids? Look at both his numbers and his body. Before 2005 Jones hit about 30 balls out a year. In his last two seasons as a brave he hit 92 combined.
Additionally, his body got progressively larger as his offensive production swelled. However, when the steroid boom ended and current and former players began to lose elite status due to steroid affiliations, Jones suddenly lost a lot of muscle and gained a lot of fat.
Instead of continuing muscle growth, Jones seemed to be the poster boy for a body that had been ravaged by steroids.
Andruw Jones is a career .259 hitter who had phenomenal defensive capabilities. Having taken a shot at being a big-time slugger, Jones seems worn out and out of shape.
If the steroid assertion is true, he is a potential testament to what steroids can do to someone who has cycled off of them. If it turns out to be untrue, then damned if Andruw Jones didn't just eat himself into oblivion...
Jim Thome is a pure, unabated, power hitter in every way possible. He possesses the look, the stance, the swing, and the numbers to be considered on of the greatest power hitters of all-time.
Unfortunately, Thome also possesses a set of incredibly high power numbers at a time when offense was king in baseball. Why was offense king? Something about pills and needles...
Thome had the unfortunate timing of putting up big numbers when everyone else did. In the grand scheme of things, this might work against Thome as he tries to build his Hall of Fame resume, because he was never a dominant player in the game—just a power hitter who produced when everyone else did.
So what makes a case for Thome's steroid use? Look at the numbers. Take a trip back to the 1980s and look at the power numbers that led all of baseball. What you find is exponentially less 30, 40, and 50 home run hitters than there are today (not to mention compared to the heyday of the steroid era).
Thome has the potential to put up these types of numbers, as made clear by his early career numbers. I get suspicious, however, when a 35-40 home run hitter turns into a 45-50 home run hitter in the late 1990s, a time when everyone seems to be hitting more.
In his first seven seasons with Cleveland, Jim Thome averaged 32 home runs a year. Respectable numbers at the dish, and certainly enough to make him a prominent hitter in the major leagues. In the 2001 season, however, Thome's production increased greatly (seemed to be a very popular time for hitters to start producing).
Despite averaging 32 home runs a year for his first six season, Thome, at the age of 31, clubbed 190 home runs over the next four seasons.
What makes the case more compelling is Thome's last two years of production following the previously mentioned offensive outbreak. When steroids hit the front page, several baseball players immediately cycled off in fear of testing positive.
Thome might not have been one of these players, but the statistics suggest it's possible. Over the last two years, Thome has hit no more than 35 home runs and driven in no more than 100 runs, culminating in a paltry .245 batting average last season.
Could he have simply improved his production via exercise, studying tape, weightlifting, etc.? Yes. But this was an awfully convenient time to increase production, as performance-enhancing drugs ran rampant throughout baseball.
More importantly, if he did improve his production naturally, then why have his statistics tailed off right when Major League Baseball instituted a new testing policy? His production loss is similar to players such as Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Miguel Tejada—all of which have been implicated in the steroid debacle.
This is not to say that Thome absolutely took steroids. Only to say that if his name is called in the near future, the writing was at least partially on the wall.
I'm entering dangerous territory here. I was told if I challenge anyone in the Cubs Nation, I might be hunted down and killed. But I'm a risk taker...
Derrek Lee seemed to be a poster-boy for consistency in his time with the Florida Marlins. In five full seasons with the Marlins, Lee averaged 155GP, .268AVG, 80R, 25HR, and 79RBI per season. It seemed as if you could count on 80-25-80 from him every year... until he was traded to Chicago.
Like many men on this list, Derrek Lee experienced an offensive revival of sorts in 2004. Coming from Florida, Lee apparently enjoyed the Chicago weather because his offensive numbers shot off the charts.
His first season with the Cubs saw him set career highs in home runs (32) and RBI (98) while batting .278, well above his career batting average. The real offensive outburst, however, was waiting for 2005.
In his second full season with the Cubs, Derrek Lee had an offensive year for the ages.
In the early part of the season, there were talks that he might contend for the National League Triple Crown (leading the league in Home Runs, RBI, and Batting Average in the same year), and his final numbers were All-Star worthy.
He finished 2005 with 158GP, .335AVG, 120R, 46HR, and 107RBI. By season's end, Lee had set new career marks for Runs, Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage.
While 2005 was a few years after the initial steroid boom, Lee's statistical output certainly raised eyebrows when compared to his career numbers.
In three seasons since this career year, Lee has yet to match his offensive numbers. A wrist injury sat him out much of 2006, and both 2007 and 2008 were comparable to his career numbers in Florida, before his offensive outbreak in the early Chicago years.
These peaks and valleys in statistical production suggest the possibility that Lee was using performance-enhancing drugs for at least one or two seasons during his career.
Over the last two years, Lee has averaged only 92R, 21HR, and 86RBI (very reminiscent of his Florida days).
They could also be reminiscent of his pre-steroid days...You decide.
When looking for players who potentially used steroids, statistical analysis is crucial. You look for statistical irregularities without logical conclusions and/or significant changes in a hitter's production.
David Ortiz possesses both of the characteristics listed here. He has both radical changes in his career statistics and a few statistical anomalies which are lacking explanations.
In the two full seasons he played in Minnesota, Ortiz averaged 128GP, .277AVG, 56R, 15HR, and 69RBI.
Fast forward one year and look at his average line in Boston from 2004-06: 153GP, .296AVG, 109R, 47HR, 141RBI.
David Ortiz transformed from a mediocre Designated Hitter into a top-tier power hitter in a matter of one year. Some attribute this change to the switch from Minnesota to Boston.
Yes, he received much more protection from Manny Ramirez batting next to him than any hitter Minnesota had to offer, but this protection does not help explain the enormous statistical discrepancy between his numbers in Minnesota and his numbers in Boston.
Even if his offensive acceleration can somehow be explained, I also find it interesting how his 2008 season played out. As previously mentioned, the talk of steroids has been thrown into the spotlight over the last few years.
As a result you are seeing a number of high-profile hitters lose their composure and lose their statistics (the previously mentioned examples were Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Miguel Tejada).
In 2008, David Ortiz looked like one of those hitters. Everything that made him a dominant hitter from 2003-07 seemed to vanish in 2008, leaving an exposed Big Papi to suffer in both health and performance.
To make matters worse, Ortiz's terrible season was compounded when the previously clutch Big Papi put up a line in the postseason that even Mendoza thought was terrible. Ortiz finished hitting .186 with only 1HR and 5RBI in eleven postseason games.
Is this the beginning of the end for David Ortiz? We'll see. Will this end be hastened by the possibility that he cycled off of steroids recently? Possibly.
This much is certain: his numbers in Minnesota were mediocre, his numbers in Boston (from 2003-07) were outstanding, but when steroids hit the newspaper headlines in 2008 Big Papi disappeared—leaving a shell of himself to bat only .264 when healthy enough to play.
When you are a 21 year old rookie knocking out 37 home runs and 137 RBI (while batting .329) you're doing something right. That being said, are Albert Pujols' numbers too good?
I've heard a lot of the same comments made about Albert Pujols that I have always heard about Alex Rodriguez (until A-Rod's steroids news broke). "He is a natural athlete," "He is so naturally gifted," and "No way he uses steroids, he has had it his entire career" are just examples of statements people use about Pujols.
These statements are valid, but after the fall of Alex Rodriguez can we really afford to discount gaudy statistics any longer?
Everyone said that A-Rod hit 57 home runs in Texas because he was just that good. A-Rod put up All-Star numbers every year he was in the league, and soon it was assumed that A-Rod didn't do steroids—he was just that good.
Similarly, everyone says that Pujols has been averaging 40 home runs a year since entering the Major Leagues because he is "just that good." Since Pujols has done it every year most people are hesitant to allege steroid use.
It's eerily similar, isn't it?
This is not to say that Albert Pujols definitely took steroids. This is to say that if his name shows up among those 103... don't be surprised.
There was a time in baseball when 30-35 home runs meant something. By the late 1990s and early 2000s so many players were hitting for 30+ home runs that no one even noticed. Don't believe me? Here is a list for you:
Greg Vaughn hit 45 home runs in 1999, Richard Hidalgo hit 44 in 2000, Luis Gonzalez hit 57 in 2001, Rich Aurilia (yes, THE Rich Aurilia) hit 37 in 2001, Javy Lopez hit 43 in 2003, etc.
Home runs have been so depreciated that no one really notices when significant numbers are achieved. The problem for Albert Pujols is that his consistent statistical assault is not normal, therefore people become suspicious.
Could he be that good of a natural athlete? Yes. Did they say the same things about Alex Rodriguez before he fell to steroids? They did.
Albert Pujols might not be on that list, but if he is... Don't be too surprised. These kind of numbers usually don't come naturally.