In the brave new world of the steroids era, nobody is above suspicion in organized baseball.
Not when five of the top 12 all-time fence busters (Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero, and Alex Rodriguez) are suspected of amassing their home-run totals under questionable circumstances.
Not when the pitcher who's ranked ninth in career wins, Roger Clemens, may forever have to pay the admission price to Cooperstown when he wants in.
Not when one of the top sluggers/hitters in contemporary MLB, Manny Ramirez, was recently caught with his pants down, pardon the pun, and suspended 50 games for violating terms of the game’s substance abuse policy.
Heck, even the language of baseball has been distorted by the spectre of performance-enhancing drugs.
Remember when "the cycle" meant that a hitter stroked a single, a double, a triple, and a homer in one game?
Thanks to Manny, we know that it also refers to HCG-human chorionic gonadotrop and its use by steroid users to restart their body's testosterone production after they come off a steroid cycle.
Unfortunately, the burden of guilt extends to the likes of Joe Mauer, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and a rapidly dwindling list of other recent and current superstars who are considered to be the least likely candidates to run afoul of MLB's substance abuse policy.
From here on out, whenever we see a player do something marvelous that he hasn't done before, we must regard their accomplishments under a cloud of suspicion.
There's Joe Mauer, for instance.
Mauer has been on fire since the Minnesota Twins reinstated him off the 15-day disabled list earlier this month.
"On fire" really doesn't do justice to the offensive tear he's been on. In nine games, he's 16-for-33 for a .485 batting average and nine RBI. He's amassed an on-base percentage of .553 and his slugging percentage is .848. Add them together and that's a stratospheric OPS of 1.401.
This isn't particularly unusual, given the fact that Mauer is a two-time American League batting champion and one of the finest hitters in either league. He's prone to go off on a hot streak at the drop of a cap.
The "red flag" is that Mauer has already stroked three home runs, or a ratio of one home run per 11 at bats.
This is really really surprising since Mauer is known for spraying line drives all over the place, hitting the ball where it's pitched in true old-school fashion, rather than upper-cutting a pitch at every available opportunity in an attempt to jerk the ball over the right-field baggie at the Metrodome.
After all, in 2092 career major league at-bats prior to 2009, Mauer has only belted 47 homers. This works out to one home run per 44.5 at bats.
Just where is this power surge coming from, anyway?
Has Mauer's body finally "matured" so that he's able to pack more wallop in his stroke?
Or has Mauer developed into such an uncanny hitter that he has developed an advanced eye for cripples that he can drive farther and more frequently than before.
How about Zack Greinke?
He's always been blessed with filthy stuff, but can we know for sure that his streak of scoreless innings this spring was on the up and up?
After six mediocre seasons in the bigs, Pena hit 46 dingers for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007. He followed that with 31 homers a year ago and he already has 13 homers in 32 games thus far in 2009.
How about Albert Pujols, and well, the list goes on and on.
There’s not a single player in baseball who could fail a drug test that would completely shock us.
I can remember how stunned I was when I learned that Mickey Mantle cheated on his wife and drank alcohol to such excess that he ruined his liver.
It just goes to show that baseball, just like most other things, has come full cycle, er, circle.
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