With all the talk in the recent years about players and performance enhancing drugs, I've decided that I am going to write an article on the best players at each position during the steroid era, that I feel did not use steroids. I'm sure there are players that I missed but generally I went for people that have never even been brought up in the steroid discussion and have been consistent players throughout their whole careers. Hope you enjoy.
Tony Gwynn Sr. was one of the best pure hitters of this generation, with an unreal career batting average of .338, he had 3,141 hits in his career, and he never struck out more than 40 times in a season! Considering there are some power hitters that strike out 40 times in a month, this is truly unbelievable. Gwynn might also be the closest we ever see to breaking Ted Williams' batting average for a season, when he batted.394 in 1994. Gwynn also won five gold gloves for his play in right field.
Players who missed out (this is for all outfielders): Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield
This one was an absolute no brainer in my opinion. Here is a guy that has never once been linked to steroid use, and just had one of the most beautiful swings you will ever see. 617 Homeruns is unbelievable considering the injuries he went through after leaving Seattle. This is not solely based on his hitting prowess, the man owns 10 gold gloves and every one of them was deserved. Watching in him in his prime was special and it shows, especially in Seattle, that even though he is nearing the end of a great career they are letting him play it out the way he should.
Vlad Guerrero is one of the biggest free swingers I have ever seen. Yet he is a career .322 hitter and is only seven homeruns away from 400 for his career. The guy has been so consistent in his whole career, the most homeruns he has ever hit in a season is 44, which is not that high of a number and shows his consistency throughout the years. The guy not only swings a great bat, but still has one of the strongest arms, even today, in right field, a big part of the position. Back problems have been a problem for him of late and likely will result in the end of what has been a great career.
Mike Piazza is arguably the greatest offensive catcher in the history of major league baseball. A career .308 hitter, with 427 homeruns, truly remarkable numbers for a catcher. The average stands out because of the wear and tear a baseball season takes on catchers. Not only was Piazza a great talent, he was also a fan favorite in New York all the years he was there. I'm a Yankees fan but I still remember the homerun he hit right after 9/11 that ended up winning the game and realizing just how special of a player he was. Although his defense became a liability at the end of his career, he was still truly a great player during the era.
Chipper Jones is one of the most complete hitters during this era. A career .310 hitter with 416 homeruns, while playing a good defensive third base, which is not an easy position to play. And let's face it Met's fans, if he played his whole career at Shea this guy would be breaking every hitting record known to man. He's done it his whole career while having little to no protection in the lineup.
People who missed out: Alex Rodriguez
Since his first full season in 1996, Derek Jeter has been the model for consistency. Since that year he has never had under 150 hits, including 2003 when he missed over a month with a shoulder injury. He is a career .316 hitter with a career .386 OBP. Not only are his numbers impressive, but he also has four World Series rings and has been able to deal with the tough New York media, and the even tougher boss of the Yankees. The way he plays is what is special about the guy too; every game he goes all out and plays like its his last. He never wants to take a day off and is someone every young player should try to play like.
I decided that although Craig Biggio played all over, he played second base extremely well and deserved a spot on this list. The man collected 3,060 hits in his career while posting a career .281 batting average. He is such a special player because he played so many different positions because his team needed him to, he played with the same team his whole career, and was loyal to them until to the very end. In the age of free agency this a rare thing to see, especially when the club is a smaller market team like the Astros. Biggio also won four gold gloves at second base in his career.
The Big Hurt makes it on the list at first base although he was a DH at times too. He had 521 homeruns and was a career .301 hitter. For a guy to hit over .300 while hitting over 500 homeruns is truly remarkable. He never hit more than 43 homers in a season, which shows how consistent he was during this time. For 19 seasons he struck fear into opposing teams, and for good reason, with 1704 RBI. He also played most of his games in Chicago, where sometimes the ball does not travel at all, which makes his power numbers even more impressive.
People who missed out: Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi
This was one of the harder decisions I had with this, it was between Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and last but certainly not least John Smoltz. In the end Maddux's convincing number won me over. 355 wins! Four Cy Youngs! And oh, you know, 18 gold gloves. The guy never was going to blow you away with a 97 mph fastball. He pitched fastballs and change ups, hitting his spots. Even at the end of his career he was able to win while only throwing in the mid 80s. No question a first ballot hall of famer, and the best starting pitcher in the steroid era for this list.
People who missed out: Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte
One pitch. The man has thrown one pitch for over a decade now. And still is getting the job done. Three saves away from 500 and one of the best postseason closers of all time. Throughout his career he has broken enough bats to replace the parts of the rain forest that have been cut down since the start of his career. A career 2.31 ERA is mind blowing. Rivera is also a stand up guy who never looks for excuses if he blows the game. After blowing game seven of the 2001 World Series he stood there and said it was his fault and never looked to blame someone else, this is a rare commodity found in people, and one that you need in a closer. And that is the reason why he is the best closer on this list.