The Major League Baseball "Steroids Era" could have began long ago but the actual era, where bashing the ball and posting ungodly numbers on the mound can be attributed to beginning in the year 1986.
1986 was the year where Barry Bonds broke through for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mark McGwire also entered the big league as a rookie with the Oakland Athletics. A year later he would be joined by fellow "Bash Brother" Jose Canseco.
Unquestionably, the three most infamous names associated with the induction of the "Steroids Era" in Major League Baseball are Bonds, McGwire, and Canseco. We could also attribute the same to Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and even later, Alex Rodriguez.
Regardless, we will mark 1986 the beginning of the Steroids Era since so many things had begun to unravel from that mark on. Records would be shattered and improbable players would become immortalized. From Dante Bichette to Wally Joyner, many players have admitted to using steroids, been implicated in the use of steroids, or have been rumored to be listed on the famed Mitchell Report.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best players to ever step onto the diamond from 1986 to when the Steroids Era collapsed in 2006, the year in which Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's long-standing career home runs record. The following year, Bonds would be indicted in a steroids case which began to scandalize every accomplishment in MLB dating back to 1986.
In this article, the only difference is that the likes of Roger Clemens and Bonds will be exempt. Instead, we will focus on those who succeeded without their reputation being tarnished by steroid admission or accusation.
Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-2010)
Debuting with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, Griffey proved to stand for everything that is good about baseball. Hustle, work ethic, and incredible talent made Griffey one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the Steroids Era.
The first overall pick of the 2007 MLB Draft, Griffey would end his career with 630 home runs, fifth officially in the history of Major League Baseball.
Derek Jeter (1995-present)
Despite the plethora of alleged and admitted steroid users to travel through the New York Yankees organization at one time or another, Derek Jeter is one that has never seen his name attributed to steroid use.
Jeter is soon to become a member of the exclusive 3,000-hits club. Over the length of his career, his ability to hit for average, run the bases with exquisite skill, and become a black hole defensively for hitters is what will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer as soon as he retires, without negative implications from the Steroids Era.
Jim Thome (1991-present)
Of all the big-time hitters with roots dating back to the Steroids Era, Jim Thome is often forgotten as a big-time slugger who has never had his name tarnished by a mere accusation of steroid use.
Thome currently sits at eighth in all-time home runs. The current Minnesota Twin just needs 17 more dingers to surpass alleged steroid-user Sammy Sosa. Thome always walked softly but carried a big stick, one reason why he is one of the greatest to ever play in the Steroids Era without juicing.
Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001)
The "Iron Man" of baseball never needed any steroids or HGH to stay healthy and break Lou Gherig's record for most consecutive games played, a streak that many had said was as close to unbreakable as any streak in any sport.
Ripken survived an era of speculation by playing for just one club over the entire span—the Baltimore Orioles. His prestige shows that great players did not need to juice up in order to hit the field and put up Hall of Fame numbers on a nightly basis.
Frank Thomas (1990-2008)
Another big-time slugger who has never been placed in the pool of alleged or admitted steroids users is the former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas. Thomas was one of the most gifted sluggers in all of baseball history. It just so happened that he thrived without suspicion in an era of steroids suspicion.
Thomas would retire in 2008. During his career, he shredded pitchers and smacked 521 home runs, tied for 18th-best all-time. When one subtracts alleged or admitted steroid users from this list, Thomas ranks tied for 12th all-time.
Chipper Jones (1993-present)
Chipper Jones is looking a lot like Cal Ripken nowadays. He hails from the Steroids Era, has played for only the Atlanta Braves throughout his career, and has not been indicted among steroid users in the Major League.
Jones is going to go down as one of the best players in Major League Baseball. Despite hailing from an era where many needed to juice up just to stay competitive, Jones has never needed any extra shots or cream to maintain an extremely high status quo.
Eddie Murray (1977-1997)
"Steady" Eddie Murray has 504 home runs under his belt. Despite playing his peak years within the Steroids Era, Murray's name has yet to succumb to the disastrous effects of being labeled a steroid user.
Murray is often forgotten among sluggers of yester-year. Still, he remains statistically relevant and remembered by fans of the pre-strike era.
Vladimir Guerrero (1996-present)
To date, Vladimir Guerrero has 441 home runs. He is one of the greatest players in not just one, but in two organizations (the now defunct Montreal Expos and Los Angeles Angels). He entered the Majors with a knack for slamming the long ball.
Despite his prowess at the plate, the man who is known simply as "Vlad" has never been accused of using steroids. He has a wild swing that is determined to crush the ball but he has never needed anything extra to achieve remarkable and Hall of Fame worthy numbers.
Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005)
One of the most accomplished hitters in Major League Baseball history, Bagwell has never seen his name mentioned in the same circles as Alex Rodriguez or Mark McGwire. Instead, the former 1991 National League Rookie of the Year is remembered for his productivity at the plate.
Bagwell never was a big-time masher. He could hit a home run or two but, after all, he did have eight consecutive seasons of 30 home runs or more with the Houston Astros.
Carlos Delgado (1993-2009)
Some consider Carlos Delgado to be the greatest Toronto Blue Jay ever. Others say he was close but since he never won a World Series in Toronto, he can't be considered such. Either way, Delgado made his mark in MLB history by slugging his way to 10 consecutive seasons of 30 dingers or more. That mark ties him for fourth best in baseball history.
Delgado would retire after seeing his power drop off significantly. Unfortunately, people like Dante Bichette and Jason Giambi are remembered more for their numbers than Delgado.
Ryne Sandberg (1981-1997)
This Chicago Cubs second baseman is one of the best to ever play the game. He is arguably the best ever at his position. Nevertheless, he has yet to see his name attributed to the steroids scandal that rocked Major League Baseball for the majority of his career.
Sandberg, like Griffey, Ripken, and the others, played the game right throughout his career. Now an up-and-coming manager, Sandberg's history proves that when you do things right, good things will happen.
Barry Larkin (1986-2004)
This guy played out his entire career within the Cincinnati Reds organization. A 12-time All-Star, Larkin never needed to be juiced up to prove that he could make it in the Major League.
Still, Larkin is among many who had thrived in the Steroids Era yet have not been likened to steroid use. He often goes unnoticed but at the end of the day, should be considered among the greatest from the Steroids Era.
Craig Biggio (1988-2007)
Despite playing catcher, as well as second base and in the outfield, Biggio never had to inject or rub anything on him to become one of the all-time greats. He is enshrined in the 3,000-hits club and accomplished such a feat while playing his entire career for one club—the Houston Astros.
Biggio will always be remembered for having more than 3,000 hits but the fact of the matter is that he should be remembered for not juicing up. He is the face of an era of people who did not need to juice up.
Ivan Rodriguez (1991-present)
The shelf life for a catcher in Major League Baseball is not very long. Still, "Pudge" Rodriguez is squatting behind the plate, signaling to pitchers, and hitting the ball effectively enough to garnish plenty of playing time.
Rodriguez is synonymous with dexterity. He passed Carlton Fisk as the all-time leader in games as a catcher. His 1997 American League MVP Award all but guarantees a place in Cooperstown whenever his days are done.
Jim Edmonds (1993-2010)
Had ESPN Baseball Tonight's Web Gems been around when Edmonds first stepped onto the baseball field as a Major Leaguer, he would have been a candidate to make the highlight reels on a nightly basis. Aside from his defensive ability, Edmonds was a slugger in his own right as well.
He excelled at the plate and in the outfield without steroid allegations. Edmonds is a proven ballplayer who like many on this list simply played the game the right way.
While I had intentions on maintaining this list for the hitters alone, pitchers have to be mentioned, albeit briefly. Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Kevin Brown, Kevin Appier, and Chuck Finley must all be remembered for what they did, without the speculation of being juicers.