It's Game Seven of the 2001 World Series.
The Arizona Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez hits a bloop single over Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, sending home Jay Bell—the winning run and series clincher.
How, you may ask, does this relate to steroids?
Well, that year Gonzalez hit 57 home runs. Fifty. Seven.
In 2000, Gonzo hit 31 home runs, and in 1999, put 26 into the seats.
When Gonzalez drove Bell in, he was in his 11th major league season.
The bloop single may not have been a red-flag-raising home run (which has become the perceived calling card of the Steroid Era), but his “performance” that year put Arizona in position to win or, shall I say, win it all.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape.
In 2001, Gonzalez finished third in the MVP balloting, behind Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds—ding ding—two players who have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
He obliterated his previous bests in almost every offensive category. He accumulated 419 total bases (second in the NL that year). In April, he launched 13 longballs—tying Ken Griffey, Jr.’s major league mark. He became the second-fastest player to hit 20 home runs in a season—one game faster than Mickey Mantle (1956). He hit .325, drove in 142 runs, and slugged .688—all at age 33.
One could say that he had a phenomenal year and that one phenomenal year does not mean he used PEDs, and that could very well be true.
However, Gonzales’ stats in 2001 were off the charts compared to any other year in his career, especially in home runs. It cannot help but beg the question: Was there venom (PEDs) in his veins?
Here is an overview of Gonzales’s stats from 1990–2008, looking only at plate appearances, home runs, and batting average.
In 1990, Gonzalez played in 12 games with the Houston Astros. In 21 at-bats, he hit .190 with no home runs.
Gonzalez remained with the Astros until 1994, where he had 392 at-bats, eight home runs, and a .273 batting average.
1995 ended with Gonzales playing for both the Astros and the Cubs. He amassed 471 at-bats, 13 home runs, and a .276 batting average.
Gonzales’ offense saw minimal gains from 1996-1998, with a career high of 23 home runs in ’98 with the Detroit Tigers.
He was traded to the expansion Diamondbacks in 1999, after which his offensive numbers started to increase. That year, Gonzo, had 614 at-bats, a career year in the power department with 26 home runs, and a batting average of .336.
In 2000, Gonzales had 618 plate appearances, 31 home runs (a new career high), and a .311 batting average.
Then came 2001, and along with it, a .325 average, 57 home runs, 142 RBI, and a .688 slugging percentage. Again, all at age 33.
I know some strange things happened in 2001; but, 57 home runs from a guy whose career best was 31?
Hmm. Come on.
Gonzalez would never again come close to those 57 home runs again.
From 2002-2006, his home run totals were 28, 26, 17, 24, and 15, respectively. His batting average ranged from .259 to .304.
Gonzalez would never again hit more than 20 over the fence in a season or bat above .280.
Was 2001 an errant blip on his solid career, or was it something else?
Will he be on the l03 man list?
For his sake I hope not.
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