Miguel Cabrera and 15 Phenoms Who Risked Their Careers with Drugs, Alcohol
Everyone talks about the issue of steroids and performance enhancing drugs in baseball today. Yet people tend to forget about another problem that has been cast aside within baseball community: alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol consumption has been a staple within the MLB for decades and beer still plays an important part in baseball today.
The St. Louis Cardinals used to be owned by Anheuser-Busch, the Brewers are NAMED after beer, and you can’t walk into a stadium without seeing some sponsorship or marketing campaign of some alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol for years has been a part of the game, inside and outside of the clubhouse, and we have seen countless players and prospects fall to the wayside because of the extended use of alcohol.
The following slideshow represents some of the top phenoms who have risked their careers due to alcohol abuse and drugs.
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Mickey Mantle is one of the most recognizable names in baseball history. By most, he is seen as the face of the Yankee franchise and an icon baseball’s past.
Behind his three MVP awards, 500+ home runs, and countless All-Star appearances, it is easy to forget about another aspect of his life: alcohol.
Mantle was an alcoholic for 42 years of his life; he would drink after games, on the road and refused to go to parties not under the influence.
Although you may not see it in his statistics, alcohol played an important role in his life and as a player—he retired at the young age of 37 because of it.
When Mickey Mantle was entering the league as a teenager, people said he was going to be one of the best. Better than Babe Ruth, better than Joe DiMaggio, better than all of the past baseball greats. Too bad we didn’t get to see.
Some still stay that Mantle is the best to have ever played the game. Who knows, if he didn’t have an alcohol problem, he probably would have been.
Whitey is one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game and was Mickey Mantle’s right hand man and drinking partner on the New York Yankees way back in the day.
Although Ford’s alcoholism may not be as widely documented as Mantle’s, alcohol played a major role in Fords life, as a professional baseball player and as a person.
Ford put up amazing numbers over the course of his career. A 236-106 W-L record with a 2.75 ERA are some of the best numbers you will ever see. Keep in mind, these numbers are with Ford drinking heavily every night no matter the circumstance—home or away.
Although his numbers certainly didn’t falter though his career because of alcohol, it would be interesting to see what his numbers could have been if he stayed dedicated and focused as a member of the New York Yankees.
By unanimous consensus, Babe Ruth is one of the best players to ever take the field.
It is amazing to think that he accomplished all that he did while being out of shape and overweight as a result of his heavy drinking and smoking habits.
Despite all of these problems that surrounded Babe Ruth, he still was able to put up numbers that only a few players have been able to replicate. We can only imagine what his numbers could have been had he stayed healthy.
If he was one of the best players overweight and out of shape, how good could he have been if he actually tried to be good?
I guess we will never know.
Dwight Gooden’s career is a perfect example of what could have been.
After breaking into the league in 1984 with the New York Mets, Gooden put up numbers that could have made him the best pitcher ever to play the game. His 24-4 record, paired with a 1.53 ERA in 1985, is still one of the best seasons in the history of baseball.
However, it was all downhill from there. Gooden battled drug and alcohol addiction and slowly entered a downward spiral that derailed his career and life.
From his first recorded drug encounter in 1986, you can see a significant drop in production, and he never seemed to find the spark that at one point won him the Cy Young award.
Too bad his legacy is going to be his ongoing struggle with alcohol and drugs, not his phenomenal play on the mound.
It seems like the Mets have had bad luck drafting players who have fallen victim to substance abuse. As the first overall pick in the 1980 amateur draft, Strawberry was considered to be a top prospect with a rare combination of power and speed.
Strawberry started his career on the right foot winning the Rookie of the Year in his first season, but his addictions to alcohol and amphetamines kicked in during his second year with the Mets.
He was still able to put up very impressive numbers for the Mets during his tenure, but who knows what his numbers could have been like if he had been clean throughout his career.
As a member of the Dodgers, Strawberry severely hurt his back which, in turn, made him rely on drugs once again. This set off a chain of events which got him released by the Dodgers, and eventually the San Francisco Giants a few years later.
The once-promising prospect derailed his career and personal life due to alcohol and drugs. There is no telling how good he could have been if he had taken his talents seriously.
You have to feel for the New York Mets, as Keith Hernandez is another Met who fell victim to drug use within professional baseball. Hernandez might not be a familiar name when it comes to drugs and baseball, but he certainly left his impact on the game.
Hernandez was one of the center pieces in the Pittsburgh drug trials, a cocaine scandal that ended up being one of the most influential trials since the ‘Black Sox’ scandal back in the early 20th century.
Hernandez admitted that he had used cocaine for a three-year stint while also adding that approximately 40 percent of the current baseball community used cocaine as well.
Although this statement was eventually corrected, he played an important part in the attempt to remove drugs and substance abuse from the game of baseball.
Fortunately, after this scandal, Hernandez was able to resurrect his career. He extended his Gold Glove streak through 1988 and ended his career on a positive note.
Another player who was a part of the Pittsburgh drug trials is Tim Raines, who is considered to be one of the best leadoff men and base stealers in history. He first started to use cocaine during the 1982 season, when he eventually sought treatment for substance abuse.
A few years later in 1985, he participated in the Pittsburgh drug trials. He stated that he kept his cocaine on him at all times, even during the games. He claimed he would slide headfirst to avoid bursting the drugs that he carried in his hip pocket.
He mentioned that he did cocaine at all times of the day—in his car, dugout and even locker room. Fortunately, he was able to kick his bad habits and was able to sustain his already incredible career.
He has yet to make it into the Hall of Fame and is far short of the 75 percent of the vote required of an inductee.
Another player who was tangled within the Pittsburgh drug trials was Dale Berra, son of Major League legend Yogi Berra. Like most of the players on the list, drugs severely hampered the professional career of Dale Berra.
Berra was highly sought after straight out of high school and was eventually drafted 20th overall by the Pirates in the 1975 amateur draft.
His entire career was filled with drug abuse and cocaine, and Berra never lived up to the potential and hype placed upon him. His career average was .236 and was a full-time starter for only three seasons out of his professional career.
He was able to stretch out his career for 11 years but unfortunately, the drug abuse took its toll and he was never able to build a solid foundation in the majors.
After getting suspended at the conclusion of the Pittsburgh drug trials, Dale Berra never was able to find a starting job and eventually retired in 1988.
I guess we will never know what his career would have been like if he had just stayed away from the drugs.
Howe is another first-round draft pick whose career has been tarnished due to drug and alcohol abuse.
After winning the Rookie of the Year award for the Dodgers in 1980, Howe seemed to have a bright future ahead of him as a dominant closer in the league.
Unfortunately in 1983, he checked into his first substance abuse clinic and was eventually suspended for the entire 1984 season.
This was not the only instance where Howe was suspended by the MLB. He actually was suspended seven times in his 17-year stint and was the second player ever to receive a lifetime ban from the Major Leagues.
The good news is that Howe ended his professional career on a good note. He finished his career with the New York Yankees and put up great numbers to end his career on his own terms.
Like the other players, one can only wonder where his career could have been if he had only stayed clean.
Ferguson Jenkins is worth mentioning because he was the first player ever to receive a lifelong ban from Major League Baseball. Jenkins is one of the best pitchers of our era and had a very successful career.
Towards the end of his career, in 1980, Jenkins was caught at customs with a substantial amount of cocaine, hashish and marijuana.
This prompted the commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn, to suspend him from baseball permanently, preventing him from entering the prestigious hall of fame.
Fortunately for Jenkins, he was reinstated by the league and was inducted into the Hall in 1991. He is still viewed as one of the best pitchers of our time and his legacy is not tainted by his mishap in judgment.
Because we are on the topic of drugs in baseball, we have to talk about Doc Ellis, who claimed that he pitched his no-hitter in 1970 on LSD.
He later admitted that he was unaware that he was scheduled to pitch that day and was informed by his girlfriend that he was penciled in to start the first game of a double header.
Too bad he was already under the influence of LSD.
During his tenure as a Pirate, he also consumed large amounts of alcohol. Although it is unknown how much this affected his performance, he felt inclined at the end of his career to become a drug and alcohol counselor to make up for his mishaps.
Unfortunately, the alcohol eventually caught up to him and he passed away with a liver ailment in 2008.
After discussing pitching and LSD, it only makes sense to make the transition to pitching and marijuana.
Fresh off his first Cy Young award, Lincecum got busted for possessing marijuana while driving during the offseason.
Although he did not receive a suspension by Major League Baseball, you have to wonder why he would risk throw away his reputation and promising career.
Although there are worse things that players could be doing during their offseason, Giants fans could only hope that it wouldn’t be a repeat occurrence in the future.
Delino DeShields Jr.
DeShields Jr. had a clear path to the major leagues. His father was a former major league player and DeShields Jr. was selected eighth overall by Houston in last year’s amateur draft.
However, DeShields Jr. almost threw it all away by getting a DUI this past offseason.
Although DeShields Jr. only had half of a minor league season under his belt, he seemed primed for the majors as one of the fastest players in the Astros organization. Too bad he almost lost it all with one bad decision.
DeShields still has an opportunity to redeem himself, as he has said all of the right things since the DUI and appears to have learned from his mistake.
However, that is not a great way to start your professional career as a baseball player. Keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t make that same mistake again.
The story of Josh Hamilton is still fresh in all of our minds. Compared to Mickey Mantle (ironic, huh?) straight out of high school, he was drafted first overall by Tampa Bay, only to be run out of the league due to drug and alcohol problems.
Fortunately for Hamilton, his story is one of redemption. After cleaning up his act, he was eventually moved to Cincinnati during the Rule 5 Draft and was traded to the Rangers during the 2007 offseason.
It was in Texas where he revitalized his career as a fan favorite, potential role model, and Home Run Derby Champion, well technically…
This is a feel good story, but you can’t help but think where he would be if he didn’t initially derail his career due to drug and alcohol abuse.
How many home runs would he have now? What would an outfield with Hamilton, Crawford, and Upton be like? Would the Rays have won the World Series?
Unfortunately, all we can do now is look back and say “What if?”
Cabrera has been one of the top producers in baseball since he entered the league eight seasons ago. He has hit under 30 HRs only once in his career and is viewed to be one of the top pure hitters in Major League Baseball. It would be a shame if it were to all go to waste because of alcohol problems.
Just last week, Cabrera was charged and arrested due to a DUI. This was not the first instance where law enforcement had to take action due to an alcohol-related incident and it appears that Cabrera is drinking himself out of the league.
The good news is that he is attempting to find a solution to his problem. He is apologetic and is surrounding himself with the right personnel to make sure a mishap like this will never happen again.
Unlike the other players mentioned in this article, this is a story that has yet to unfold. Fortunately, Cabrera seems to be taking all of the necessary steps to put the right foot forward.