With the recent revelation that Alex Rodriguez is an admitted "performance enhancer" user, it has got me thinking about how prevalent steroid usage was in the post-1990 era.
There are certain players that we all assume took steroids—guys like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmerio, Pudge Rodriguez, etc. Even though each individual player in that class may not have tested positive for steroids, the circumstantial evidence is pretty overwhelming.
Then there is a huge group of players that most everyone assumes didn't, or couldn't, have taken steroids. I'd put people like Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey, Jr. in this group of players.
But why do people immediately rule out the possibility that any of the aforementioned players took steroids? In light of all of the information that's come out over the past couple years, I think every player comes under a cloud of suspicion.
The central argument that people make against players such as Pedro, Maddux and Griffey, Jr. taking steroids is based on their physical appearance. Those three guys don't have huge muscles, and thus they couldn't have taken steroids—or so the argument goes.
But the idea that everyone that takes steroids becomes some big, bulky, hulking mountain of a man is false.
The steroid that Alex Rodriguez is alleged to have taken is Primobolan. Primobolan is an expensive steroid. One of the reasons that it's so expensive is that it is unusual within the subset of steroids in that it doesn't force the muscles to retain water. And without retaining the water, the users' muscles don't become engorged and swollen and gi-normous.
So, Primobolan is the kind of steroid that one could take, and get stronger, faster, recuperate quicker, etc. - without the outward appearance of looking like a musclehead.
Take Griffey for example. He's held up as a shinning beacon of all that is right and good about baseball. He has a beautiful swing; he was so graceful in his prime; he played defense, hit for power, and ran the bases; he's never been involved in any sort of off the field nonsense, etc.
That's all well and good. I hope that he is/was clean. But why do we assume that Griffey, Jr. didn't take a steroid such as Primobolan?
I hope that Griffey, Jr. didn't take steroids. I'm using him as an example to demonstrate just how big the cloud of suspicion is within baseball. Nobody can be ruled out. Everyone is suspect. Unfortunately it's guilty until proven innocent.
Based on circumstantial evidence one could make the case that Griffey, Jr. did take steroids, or some sort of "performance enhancer." Let me try and walk you through the scenario that is at least plausible.
First of all, it's well known that Griffey's dad was a longtime major league baseball player - Ken Griffey, Sr. So Griffey, Jr. grew up around the game. He's been exposed to major league clubhouses since he was an infant.
And there are numerous reports about how prevalent amphetamines were during the 1970's, 1980's—heck until the last couple years.
And Pete Rose has admitted taking amphetamines when he played for the Reds. So Griffey, Jr. grew up in a culture where it was seen as okay to take certain pills or do certain things to gain an edge. Being exposed to such widespread acceptance of drug use as a young person can warp a person's perception of what is okay and what isn't.
Griffey, Jr.'s teammates in Seattle included Alex Rodriguez, David Segui, Shane Monahan, Glenallen Hill, Ryan Franklin, and Todd Williams—all admitted steroid users. Former teammates such as Ron Villone, David Bell and Josias Manzanillo were named in the Mitchell report.
And then there's rumored steroid abusers such as Brett Boone and Jay Buhner—again former teammates. So it's abundantly clear that steroids were widely available in the Seattle clubhouse during the 1990's.
Contrary to the popular story line, Griffey, Jr. was actually a pretty durable player for the first eleven years of his career. Sure, he missed half of the 1995 season—but that was due to a broken wrist caused by crashing into the wall. Other than that, Griffey, Jr. really didn't miss many games during his 11 years in Seattle.
It wasn't until he joined the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 that he started physically breaking down.
Starting with the 2001 season (when Griffey, Jr. was only 31 years old), the next six seasons saw Griffey, Jr. miss considerable time with nagging injuries. The types of injuries that could be caused by long-term steroid abuse.
And starting with the 2001 season there was a definite drop off in his power production. Sure, he was battling injuries and missing games, but during the late 1990's he was the pre-eminent slugger in MLB.
Then...poof! The power went away. And his speed disappeared, as he started stealing less and less bases, and his defensive range became more and more limited.
Keep in mind this was a player in his early 30s—commonly accepted as the prime of a baseball player's career. Could steroids have finally broken down Griffey, Jr.'s body? Was Griffey taking performance enhancers during the incredible eleven year run in Seattle?
And once he returned home to Cincinnati, did he stop taking them for whatever reason?
I hope that Griffey, Jr. didn't take steroids. And that Maddux and Pedro didn't either. I just don't understand why there are certain players that are given a free pass on the steroid issue. Lots and lots of players took steroids.
Jose Canseco famously estimated that he thought that 70 percent of players were on performance enhancers. And as more and more information dribbles out, Canseco's story becomes more and more believable.
If the information comes out, odds are that there are going to be names on the list that are shocking. More shocking than Alex Rodriguez. Hopefully Ken Griffey, Jr. isn't one of them.