MLB's Superman: Barry Bonds, PED's and the Top 20 Sluggers on Steroids
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Just as many kids growing up in the late-80's and 90's, I had a huge collection of baseball cards. This was a few years before it began to cost more for a pack of cards than it did for a gallon of milk. It was also when people collected ball-cards in hopes they would be lucky enough to pull out a card of their childhood hero.
We didn't seem to notice that some of our favorite players had gained 30 pounds, looking more like body builders instead of baseball players. Considering this was around the same time the rest of America began putting on pounds, maybe we all assumed it was natural?
Looking back now, in many ways, the evidence of performance enhancing drugs in baseball was right in front of our eyes. We just didn't want to see it, and if we did, we turned a blind-eye to it.
These guys were our heroes, and we enjoyed watching them play the game. Why would we want to think they were doing something wrong? More importantly, how can we even blame them?
I am glad that the game is once again clean(er), but it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy watching it when it wasn't. I am a baseball fan, plain and simple, and there is a certain excitement in watching a guy take a baseball thrown 94 mph and seeing him smack it 450 feet.
It's not my job to judge others, so I take it for what it was—a different era of baseball. An era where 50+ homer seasons were a given, and where many long-lasting records were shattered. To be honest, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Out of the combined 129 players that either showed up in the Mitchell Report, admitted to using PED's, were suspended by MLB for testing positive, or have been implicated as being users, you'd be surprised to know that a majority of them were not household names.
For the most part, it was a player trying to gain the "edge" that would take them from being a role player to being a star. That being said, there were also those "users" who were already considered to be good players, and they changed the future of baseball by wanting to be great.
For the sake of this list, I only used players who have had actual connections to PED's. Feel free to add your own names to the list, as it will undoubtedly grow over time.
Without further adieu, I give you the Top 20 Sluggers on Steroids.
No. 20: Lenny "Nails" Dykstra
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Longtime Philadelphia Phillies center-fielder Lenny Dykstra makes the list as a symbol of the beginning of the steroid-era. Dykstra, who was never known for his power, has been said to have used various PED's throughout his entire career, which began in 1985 with the New York Mets.
Dykstra never hit more than 10 home runs in a season until his ninth year in the league.
In 1993, he slugged 19 homers and led the league in runs, hits and walks. He earned his only Silver Slugger award that season, while finishing second in votes for MVP.
Over the next three years, while battling numerous injuries, he would manage to play in only 186 games.
No. 19: Magglio Ordonez
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Magglio Ordonez, the former White Sox outfielder who currently plays for the Detroit Tigers, was implicated for HGH and steroid use. He debuted in 1997, just as PED use was becoming widespread throughout baseball.
From 1997-03, the 6-time All-Star and 3-time Silver Slugger averaged more than 30 home runs and 110 RBI's. During his runner-up MVP campaign in 2007, Ordonez won the AL Batting Title with a .363 average while driving in 139 RBI's.
His .311 career batting average ranks 74th in MLB history.
No. 18: Troy Glaus
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The next player on the list, best known for slugging his way to a World Series MVP award as his Anaheim Angels took down Bonds' Giants in 2002, is the big-swinging Troy Glaus.
Glaus is a 4-time All-Star who, like many PED users, has had trouble staying on the field. In 2000, his 47 homers led the league, and he's hit 25+ homers seven different times.
His career home run total is sitting at 320.
No. 17: David Justice
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David Justice was a talented baseball player, and to this day he will deny ever using PED's. Yet, there isn't much you can do when your name shows up in the Mitchell Report for purchasing "two or three kits" of Human Growth Hormone.
Justice was another player who struggled with injuries throughout his career, but was still able to hit 20+ home runs nine different times. He was also able to beat the laws of aging by hitting 41 homers as a 33 year old, after socking only 21 the year before.
In 1993, Justice took third in voting for NL MVP, behind fellow juicers Barry Bonds and Lenny Dykstra.
No. 16: Ken Caminiti
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The late Ken Caminiti was never known for his power, which makes what was going on in baseball all these years all the more obvious.
From 1987-93, his season high for home runs sat at 13. Then from 1994-96, those totals ran from 18, to 26, and then all the way up to 40.
That 40 home run season in 1996 earned Caminiti the NL MVP, a season where he also had a career high 130 RBI's. His second highest RBI total ever was 94.
Really? No one knew what was going on in baseball?
No. 15: Mo "The Hit Dog" Vaughn
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Mo Vaughn was a big guy, and he could rake. When I looked back at some of his career stats, I was surprised at how long a period of time in which he was "good." For some reason, I only remembered him for a few seasons in the mid to late 90's.
Vaughn, who was notorious for crowding the strike zone, reached the 30+ homer plateau six years in a row, getting as many as 44 during the 1996 season.
He was able to amass 20 home runs nine times in his career, and narrowly beat out Albert Belle for the AL MVP in 1995.
No. 14: Miguel "La Gua Gua" Tejada
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The one-time scrawny shortstop, Miguel Tejada bulked up when he was in the Oakland A's organization, where Jose Canseco claims to have educated the slugger on how to properly use steroids.
Obviously, I'd take anything that Canseco says with a grain of salt, but at this point it appears his book "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big" was NOT all full of lies.
From 1999-07, Tejada was regarded as one of the best shortstops in the game. His 34 home run, 131 RBI campaign earned him the AL MVP in 2002. The kind of raw power shown by Tejada was not characteristic of most shortstops.
La Gua Gua, Spanish for "The Bus," received one year probation for lying to Congress about PED use in baseball.
He currently sits at 300 career home runs.
No. 13: Jason "Juice" Giambi
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As another PED product of the Oakland A's organization, Jason Giambi parlayed a 2000 AL MVP season and 2nd place finish in 2001 into a massive contract with the New York Yankees. A few seasons into his new contract, his PED use was discovered and his numbers took a drastic slide.
The superstitious Giambi, a five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger, is a member of the 400 Home Run club. Giambi, who socked 20 home runs in 1996 and 1997, saw those totals climb to 27, 33, and then to 43 during his MVP run in 2000.
I do have respect for him, as unlike many people caught up in the PED fiasco, Giambi has shown plenty of humility while apologizing.
No. 12: David "Big Papi" Ortiz
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David Ortiz became a household name as the slugging DH for the Boston Red Sox, helping them win two World Series in the last decade.
Ortiz spent the first six years of his career with the Minnesota Twins, where in his final year he hit a then-career high 20 home runs. After going to Boston in 2003, he spent the next five years in the top five in AL MVP votes.
From 2005-07, Ortiz averaged a ridiculous 47 homers and over 140 RBI's in becoming one of the most feared hitters of the decade.
In his six seasons in Minnesota, even though he missed a lot of time due to injury, Ortiz managed just 68 total home runs. In his first six seasons with Boston, that total jumped to 228.
No. 11: Mike "Batman" Piazza
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Mike Piazza burst onto the scene in 1993, winning Rookie of the Year by smashing 35 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is arguably the best offensive catcher of all-time, amassing 427 home runs over his 16 seasons in the league.
Piazza was a 10-time Silver Slugger award winner, and was elected to 12 All-Star games. In his first six years in the league, Piazza averaged more than 30 homers and 100 RBI's.
Piazza holds the career record for homers hit from the catcher position at 396, and has the second longest RBI streak in MLB history at 15 consecutive games.
No. 10: Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
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I didn't know whether to put Pudge or Piazza higher on this list, but seeing as Ivan Rodriguez was the better overall catcher, I decided to give him the nod.
Rodriguez currently sits at 309 home runs, well short of Piazza. But Pudge has an AL MVP to his name, along with an amazing 13 Gold Gloves. Piazza had zero.
Also on his mantle are 14 All-Star appearances and seven Silver Slugger awards. The long-time Texas Ranger passed Carlton Fisk by catching his 2,227th game back in 2009, and he currently sits at 20th all-time with 565 doubles.
No. 9: Gary "Sheff" Sheffield
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Gary Sheffield lasted 22 seasons in the league, allowing him to end his career with 509 home runs. The 9-time All-Star and 5-time Silver Slugger played with eight different teams throughout his career, his best years coming during a four year stint with the Dodgers that saw him smack 129 long-balls.
Sure, longevity played a role in his career numbers; but Sheff was very consistent when it came to hitting the deep-ball. He hit 20+ home runs fourteen different times, and from 1999-05, he hit 34+ on six occasions.
He may never make the Hall of Fame, but his 1,676 career RBI's puts him in the top 30 in the history of Major League Baseball.
No. 8: Rafael Palmeiro
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"I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period!"
Four months later, the Baltimore Orioles slugger was suspended 50 games for testing positive for steroids.
It's too bad that happened, because he may be the only person in both the 500 home run and 3,000 hit clubs that will be left out of the Hall of Fame. Eventually, the voters will let him in, I mean, the guy did put up some gaudy numbers.
His 1,835 RBI's are tied for 15th most in MLB history, and his 569 career home runs puts him at 12th on the list. From 1995-03, Palmeiro saw his lowest home run total in a season sit at 38, and he put up 30+ homers in 12 seasons overall.
No. 7: Manuel "Manny" Ramirez
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Arguably the most care-free player to ever play the game, Manny Ramirez sure puts on a show. Over his 19 seasons, Manny has 12 All-Star nods and nine Silver Sluggers.
He has 555 Home Runs and counting (although by the looks of it there won't be many more), which puts him at 14th all-time, only eight behind Reggie Jackson for 13th place.
Ramirez has never won an MVP, but from 1998-05 he finished in the top 10 in votes every year, a span that saw him average 40+ home runs and 130+ RBI's.
In 1998-99 with the Cleveland Indians, Manny hit 89 home runs and drove in 310 RBI's, including a remarkable 165 RBI's in 1999 alone.
No. 6: Jose "Bash Brother #1" Canseco
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Although I do believe Jose Canseco was highly overrated, his rare combination of strength and speed made him a one-of-a-kind player in the late-80s and early 90s. Not only is he a product of the steroid-era, in many ways, he created the steroid-era.
In 1988, Canseco became the first player in the history of MLB to hit 40+ homers and steal 40+ bases. Impressive, to say the least. He won the AL MVP that year, but only managed to hit 40+ home runs two other times in his career.
Although Canseco apparently still plays for the Laredo Broncos of the United Baseball League, he ended his MLB career with 462 home runs and 200 stolen bases. He was a six-time All-Star, and brought home the Rookie of the Year award in 1986.
No. 5: Sammy "Slammin' Sammy" Sosa
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Sammy Sosa was a part of the greatest home run chase in MLB history. He didn't show much power in his first five years in the league, but after an injury-shortened 1992 season he came back to hit 33 long-balls in 1993.
That was only the beginning.
After reaching the 40 home run mark in 1996, he came out firing in 1998, hitting 66 out of the park. Unfortunately for him, Mark McGwire hit 70 to break Roger Maris' single season record.
Sosa is the only player in MLB history to hit 60+ home runs three times, and he managed to hit 40+ seven different times.
After being booed out of Chicago following the 2004 season, he went on to play one season in Baltimore and one in Texas. He retired after the 2007 season as a prestigious member of the 600 home run club, a feat that only seven players in history have accomplished.
No. 4: Juan "Juan Gone" Gonzalez
On the list of my favorite players growing up, Juan Gonzalez was an exciting player to watch. The two-time AL MVP of the Texas Rangers was arguably the most feared hitter of the early-90s.
From 1992-98, "Juan Gone" surpassed 40 home runs five different times, and from 1996-98, he averaged more than an RBI per game. He drove in a staggering 157 RBI's in only 154 games during the 1998 season.
Injuries late in his career prevented him from reaching the 500 home run mark, but he will still go down as one of the greatest power hitters of his generation.
No. 3: Mark "Bash Brother #2" McGwire
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As a rookie with the Oakland A's in 1987, Mark McGwire began his career by hitting 49 home runs to earn Rookie of the Year honors.
From 1996-99, Big Mac averaged 60+ home runs and 130+ RBI's, breaking Roger Maris' long-standing record with 70 home runs during the 1998 season. He was able to hit 30+ deep-balls 12 times in 16 seasons, retiring with 583 total.
McGwire retired with the most home runs per at-bat in MLB history, hitting one out every 10.61 at-bats. Second on that list is Babe Ruth, who hit one out every 11.80 at-bats.
Once considered a lock for the Hall of Fame, McGwire will have a tough time getting sympathy from voters after lying about his PED use for years. After coming clean last year, he became the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.
No. 2: Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez
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I am not a Yankees fan, but I think Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players to play the game. Barring injury, he will probably retire as the career leader in runs, RBI's and home runs, as well as being a member of the 3,000 hit club.
His stats speak for themselves. The three-time AL MVP was the youngest player in history to hit 600 home runs, and currently sits at 615 home runs and 1,835 RBI's with a few good years still left in him.
He is a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glove winner. In his career, A-Rod has hit 40+ homers eight times, and 30+ homers 14 times.
No. 1: Barry Bonds
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Love him or hate him, there is no denying what Barry Lamar Bonds could do with a baseball. Even before he was accused of starting to take PED's, the guy was a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
The seven-time MVP holds numerous MLB records, including the single-season record he stole away from Mark McGwire in 2003 when he hit 73. He broke Hank Aaron's "unbreakable" record of 755 home runs in 2007 before he was basically banished from MLB.
The 14-time All-Star also holds the record for walks at 2,558 and intentional walks at 688. He won 12 Silver Sluggers and eight Gold Glove awards, while finishing with 1,996 RBI's and 514 stolen bags.
Bonds is currently on trial for perjury and obstruction of justice, and the case is expected to be settled within the next couple weeks.