10 'Clean' Players Whose Stats Don't Stack Up Having Played in Steroid Era
In the summer or 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were sent to us by the baseball gods to save a struggling sport, or so it seemed.
While the home run chase of 1998 seemed like a great thing at the time, the truth eventually came out—baseball was dirty. The two icons of baseball's rebirth were as guilty as any, as were several of the games biggest superstars.
Commissioner Bud Selig's apparent apathy toward the steroid issue only further marred the era, relegating stars like McGwire, Sosa and Barry Bonds to mere asterisks in the baseball lore.
While we'll never know exactly who wasn't dirty, there no doubt are a number of stars whose statistics could have definitely benefited by performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but seemingly chose to avoid the temptations.
Here's a list of ten such stars.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Never involved in the scandals, Ken Griffey Jr. simply produced for his career but was overshadowed by those on performance enhancing drugs.
While the Hall of Fame will neglect entrance to any questionable players who played during Griffey's tenure, they'll be waiting with open arms for the former Mariners, Reds and White Sox slugger.
A member of the 600 HR club, Griffey was just a mere 219 hits away from the coveted 3000 hit club as well.
While steroids could have likely shortened his longevity, it no doubt would have produced some eye-popping seasons.
When physically morphed behemoths like McGwire and Sosa were forearm bashing their way to 70 plus home runs in 1998, Griffey quietly hit a personal best 56 home runs.
In fact, between 1996 and 1999 Griffey had four consecutive seasons with 48 or more home runs and 134 or more RBI. All clean.
In another era it would have been an epic accomplishment, during the dope era Griffey's seasons were completely overlooked. Only recently, have we begun to appreciate what Griffey did during his tremendous career.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Like anyone who played during the era, Cal Ripken Jr. has been at least mildly linked to steroids. However, there has been no evidence of him using and there are numerous factors to believe he didn't.
Ripken's unquestioned longevity would be in direct conflict with the belief that continued usage causes player's bodies to quickly break down—abruptly ending their careers.
Additionally, Ripken's yearly numbers were rather pedestrian. With a modest career average of .276, only once did Ripken even hit as many as 30 home runs.
It appears if Ripken were using PEDs, his career numbers would be much more inflated, however his apparent "cleanliness" was enough to make him a no doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer.
Before Prince was bashing home runs for the Brewers, his equally beefy father broke through for the Detroit Tigers in 1991 becoming the first Major Leaguer to hit over 50 home runs since George Foster in 1977.
Amazingly the feat was accomplished 20 times from 1995 until the Mitchell Report started to come to life in 2006.
The elder Fielder has spoken out strongly against McGwire and other steroid users and has maintained to this day that he was always a clean player.
His MVP caliber numbers of the early 1990s became modest when compared to those of the late 1990's known PED users such as Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
Cecil Fielder will most likely forever be known as Prince Fielder's estranged father rather than one of the best "clean" power hitters of the steroid generation.
Ironically, the incredibly durable Al Leiter's best season of his 19 year career was smack dab in the middle of the steroid era.
In 1998, while several of his fellow players were clamouring for PEDs, Leiter went 17-6 with an excellent 2.47 ERA for the Mets.
In the early 2000s Leiter was a proponent of drug testing and has openly talked about the topic to this day.
While his numbers likely could have been drastically improved with PEDs, he'll go down in history as a mediocre, dependable starter, but not one that has been removed from the history books.
When it comes to Todd Zeile, there is no black and white on whether performance enhancing drugs were good for the game.
Zeile was quoted in the Mitchell Report as saying "I never hear anybody talking about the morality or the ethics or the integrity of the game. It's cheating in every sense."
Zeile is the perfect example of a guy who could have benefited immensely from steroids but never used them. Zeile hit more than 30 home runs only once, and never broke 100 RBIs in a single season.
While Sosa and McGwire apparently used PEDs to propel themselves to inflated statistics and super-stardom, Zeile represents the opposite end of the spectrum. An everyman who avoided the temptations of PEDs because of the ethical dilemma.
Being known as a mediocre journeyman beats being known as a cheater any day.
While the polarizing Curt Schilling definitely had a tremendous career—when compared against the "premier" pitcher (and known steroid user) of his generation his statistics pale.
Roger Clemens had 354 wins, a 3.12 ERA and 4672 strikeouts during his career. Side by side, Schilling's 216 wins, 3.46 ERA, 3116 strikeouts look meager, but there's little doubt if he were a user the gap would be much smaller.
As it stands, Schilling is one guy we can be pretty certain was clean.
He was called to Congress as a MLB opponent of steroid usage, even recommending that Jose Canseco be stripped of his MVP award and have his statistics wiped clean.
It didn't sit well with Canseco, but Schilling's actions can sit well with Hall of Fame voters in 2013, when he'll first be on the ballot.
A guy who will get Hall of Fame consideration, but might come up just short, Jeff Kent had a fine career in baseball.
377 career home runs, 5 time All-Star and NL MVP—all add up to a tremendous career, but not quite up there with some of the known users.
Had he been on performance enhancing drugs, Kent might have been a statistical rival to teammate Barry Bonds.
As it is, Kent is a strong proponent of strict testing for PEDs and definitely a guy we can put in the "clean" category.
Will "The Thrill" Clark was one of the bigger names in baseball during the steroid era, and is now one of the guys we can be most certain didn't use during his career.
Clark has spoken out harshly against former teammates who were known abusers, such as Rafael Palmeiro, and his modest power numbers back up his claims of being clean.
Despite being a six time All-Star, Clark was quickly removed from the Hall of Fame ballot. He's another guy who turned his back on PEDs, despite the fact they no doubt would have inflated his career statistics.
Ironically, Clark's last great success was replacing none other than Mark McGwire during the St. Louis Cardinals' stretch run of 2000.
The anti-Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas has turned out to be a bright light during baseball's darkest time.
A possible first ballot Hall of Famer with 521 home runs and a career .301 average, Thomas was an unassuming star for the Chicago White Sox who has always denounced steroid usage.
Like fellow slugger Ken Griffey Jr., Thomas doesn't have the gaudy career numbers that Bonds does or the 70 home run seasons that Sosa and McGwire do, but he stayed clean and will have a place in Cooperstown thanks to it.
The captain is a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer, but overall Derek Jeter's power numbers are meager when compared to the the great "dirty" hitters of the steroid era.
While he has maintained a .313 average during his tremendous career, his 240 home runs and 1196 RBI are dwarfed by those of teammate, and known PED user, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has 629 home runs and 1893 RBI in nearly 700 fewer career at-bats as Jeter.
Some of that difference is due to talent, but there's definitely a huge argument to be made that a lot of it is because of steroids.
While Jeter's overall numbers have suffered because of the tainted comparatives during his career, his legacy will remain completely intact forever.