We now know that cheating was a part of baseball for the last two decades. There are legitimate reasons to believe between 50 percent and 80 percent of players were using some form of performance enhancing drugs. For many, the improvements flew under the radar, preventing suspicion.
But in a few belligerent examples of perceived immunity, players exploded for other-worldly numbers. These are a few of the most glaring examples of such seasons.
Going into 1998, Sosa had a career high of 40 HR in a season. He had batted over .275 once in eight full seasons. He was an extremely talented power/speed combo with one 30/30 season under his belt.
In 1998, Sosa went off to bat .308, with 66 HR and a league-leading 158 RBI. He also led the league by scoring 134 runs. He led the league with 416 total bases and he stole 18 bases.
Funny thing is, this was one of the most tainted years by any player, but it wasn't even the most tainted of that season.
Mark McGwire came into 1998 already an accepted power source. He hit 49 HR in his 1987 rookie season. But after seasons of 39, 52 and 58...1998 dawned.
Mark McGwire erupted for .299, a MLB record 70 HR, with 147 RBI, 130 runs and he led the league in slugging, on base percentage and OPS.
We watched McGwire and Sosa battle all season for the home run record and rarely did we stop and wonder where the thunder was coming from, but now we know it was in the training room instead of the weight room.
Why wasn't Barry Bonds happy to be 35/35 every year and be one of the most talented overall players in the game? Between 1990 and 1997, he AVERAGED 36 HR and 37 SB.
Going into 2001, Bonds had never hit more than 50 HR. But in 2001, Bonds exploded with a new MLB record 73 HR. He added to that 137 RBI, 129 runs scored and an OPS of 1.397...at 36 years old.
Didn't he think it would be suspicious if he hit 24 more home runs at 36 years old than he ever had before?
This goes out to all prospective MLB pitchers. Don't have a Hall of Fame career and then suddenly have your lowest ERA yet at 42 years old. That might be suspicious.
I could list Clemens' 2004 year, when he won the Cy Young at 41, but his 2005 numbers were above and beyond. He recorded a career low 1.87 ERA, with a 1.008 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 211.1 innings. The 13-8 record was a result of poor support, but 32 starts doesn't get much more dominant
To pitch 24 seasons in the majors and have your 21st be one of the most impressive...
If only it were true, it would be one of the greatest stories in baseball history. I feel robbed.
Going into 2004, Beltre had career highs of .290, 23 HR, 85 RBI, 84 runs and .835 OPS.
Through his 13-year career now, without 2004, he has only been over .290 once, never over 30 HR, over 100 RBI once, never scored 100 runs and over .900 OPS once.
In 2004, Beltre exploded for .334, 48 HR, 121 RBI, 104 runs and 1.017 WHIP.
What else needs to be said? Can we just sit and enjoy the laughable facade that was Adrian Beltre in 2004?
Alex Rodriguez is a beast. His numbers are beastly. But how many are true? This particular season represents his career high in OPS, runs, RBI, SLG percentage and OBP.
The reason this season jumps out is the comparison to the year before it. In 2006, with 572 at bats, A-Rod produced a .290, 35 HR, 121 RBI, 113 R, 15 SB and a .914 OPS.
In 2007, he jumped to .314. 54, 156, 143, 24 and 1.067.
Depending on when you think he started using, you could point out 1996, when he hit .358, or 2002, when he hit 57 HR with 142 RBI, or his 1998 with 42 HR and 46 SB. But this one jumps out to me.
Before you scream bloody murder, look at the numbers.
Going into 2010, in six seasons, he had career highs of .254, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 75 runs, six SB and .420 SLG percentage.
Between 2006-2009, Bautista had 1,638 at-bats. 59 HR, 208 RBI, 13 SB.
In 2010 he had 569 at bats. He batted 54 HR, 124 RBI and nine SB.
Look at it this way:
Bautista more than tripled his career high in HR. Doubled his career high in RBI. His SLG percentage was 197 points higher than career high. He scored 34 more runs than his career high. And his batting average was six points higher.
Sorry, I'm not remotely believing. Looks a lot like Adrian Beltre's 2004, but even more exaggerated.