Positional Importance: 9
Leadership Potential: 6
Age Favorability: 8
Throughout the steroid era, there were four main classes of juicers.
1.) Fringe juicers -- These were your quintessential backups, journeymen and expendables, guys who probably wouldn't make or last on rosters without the help of modern pharmaceuticals. While they're not the highest profile, use among "fringe players" vastly outnumbered that of guys whose names you'd recognize or suspensions you've heard of. (Assuming MLB knew who they were, and cared enough to test.)
2.) Bounce-back juciers -- The rejuvenative abilities of human growth hormone are pretty well-documented, if not coveted among the pro athlete ranks. Players with anything from tightness in a hammy to a shoulder reconstruction knew they'd benefit from use of the drug, and did. Needless to say, if you had Tommy John surgery, or were named Andy Pettite, you probably stuck yourself a few times in the butt with a needle.
3.) Old fogie juicers -- Basically the same impetus as that of our "bounce-back juicers," but I can't remember old age ever landing anyone on the 15-day DL. Figure it's worth distinguishing.
4.) Egomaniac juciers -- The Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens archetype. Dudes would've been Hall of Famers if they kept it organic, but favored a 12 hat size over a pristine public image. Two high-profile wastes of money may not have found evidence that they perjured, but we didn't need to know whether they used and why.
BONUS CATEGORY: I'm throwing the Manny Ramirez "so curious I doped" class in here. I'm not defending the man's honor. I just genuinely think some blend of boredom and curiosity led Ramirez to the needle more than our conventional factors.
The goals varied from fame to wealth to unforgettability, but some quest for approval was central to all these players' decisions. All except one.
It's a pretty popular story, how Alex Rodriguez started using around the time he inked his 10-year/$252 million deal with Texas in 2000. But it's important to note how the pressure to perpetuate success can mess with athletes' heads.
By then, Rodriguez had already arrived. That he was the best player in baseball was the consensus. That he was destined to break the home run record was a foregone conclusion.
Rodriguez knew it. But, more than anything, he was afraid of it. He feared that he wouldn't live up to the then-biggest deal in sports history, and take his place among American sports' biggest bums with Todd Marinovich and (though we didn't know it yet) JaMarcus Russell.
So he turned to the juice. He figured, "If I'm this good clean, there's no way I'm not at least as good on steroids."
Simple as that.
Now, Ryan Madson hasn't been implicated in the Mitchell Report or any retroactive random drug screenings leaked to the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle.
But the same pressure that smothered Rodriguez looms over Madson in 2011.
He started the year 15-for-16 in save opportunities, before landing on the DL June 28 (retroactive to June 19) with that quirky hand injury. Since his July 15 return, he's been slowly eased into the closer's role over six games, only allowing three hits and one run in 5.2 innings.
Conventional wisdom tells you that if Madson maintains his early-season caliber, the Phillies have options. Depending on who's hot, they can trot out Madson or Antonio Bastardo -- hell, even Juan Perez glimmered before that two-run outing July 17 -- to get the last three.
But then there's the contract situation
On the one hand, the obvious incentive for him to elevate his game -- and our experience with Rollins and Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes and others who've found something extra, coincidentally, just in time for contract years -- figures to bode well down the stretch. If he does well, he'll make money.
But here's where the stakes raise: Not only are years and millions on the line, but the potential to vie with a contender. If he bombs late in the season, not only won't he land in Fenway Park or Yankees Stadium, he might not even be retained by the Phillies.
Needless to say, then, that there's going to be a lot on his mind when he takes the mound come October.
What if the pressure crumbles Madson? What if chasing the Almighty Dollar and national relevance prove too much to handle?
You can't have that from your closer. Everything we said of Michael Stutes and the importance of preserving your $40 million men's contribution is magnified with Madson. On any given night, Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt -- even Worley -- could watch 8.2 scoreless innings (if not the entire season) go straight to hell if Madson implodes.
For someone who could potentially throw the last pitch of the MLB calendar, that's a lot of responsibility.
With the way he's pitched all year, and how he's bounced back after injury, there's no reason to believe he can't handle it.
But it's something to keep an eye on, especially how it's affected bigger names than Madson in recent history.