Yesterday Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. For the second straight year, the greatest player of the modern era and one of the 10 best pitchers of all time were not inducted into the Hall of Fame. Obviously I’m talking about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom are in my mind as deserving of Hall of Fame candidates as any player of all time. The only hang up is the steroids connection. Lots of the baseball writers and other sportswriters who have Hall of Fame votes have basically decided that they’re gonna be the steroids police and anyone who ever took steroids, was linked to steroids, played with guys who were on steroids, fuck anyone who even said the word “steroids” will not be voted in. This is pretty stupid stance to take considering that while steroids were always illegal federally, they were for years not even tested in MLB and in all reality made baseball popular again in the late-90s with McGwire and Sosa’s home run chases and all that other jazz. I don’t see how taking steroids is any different than getting LASIK eye surgery or any other use of science to better yourself. Anyways, I guess some old curmudgeon like Tom Verducci would call me a steroid apologist, and maybe I am, but I just don’t see how the steroid era is any different from the dead ball era or the era of baseball in the 20s and 30s when only white players were allowed. There are all kinds of racists, cheaters, and rotten people in the Hall, but God forbid someone who cheated in this one specific way get in. Well, my point is that steroids shouldn’t be as vilified as they are, but it is what it is. On a related note, here is my all-time steroid team, complete with lineup, pitchers, and bench.
This is a really weird lineup because it’s straight up an all-star team and guys are playing out of position. To be honest, I would love to see this team try to play defense out there lumbering their 250 pound jacked frames around the diamond trying to track down balls in the gap. Good thing they literally all mash the fuck out of the ball and get on base at video game like rates.
1. Alex Rodriguez (Shortstop)—It’s only fitting that a guy who is in the top 10 in career homers is leading off, but these guys were all juiced out of their minds, my hands are tied. I hated this guy’s fucking guts for years. Always thought he was kind of a pussy and that none of his teammates really liked him and what a tool he was. But then Bud Selig just decided to really stick it to him with the Biogenesis suspension and just suspend him for 211 games because he’s guilty and he’s an asshole. Now Bud I know you’re like 95 years old and don’t know what an email is, but you can’t just go around making up rules and punishments because you don’t like someone—some of his justifications for the suspension like saying that thinking about taking steroids, buying steroids, and taking steroids are three different offenses and trying to get him kicked out forever. Utter lunacy from the commissioner’s office.
2. Barry Bonds (Left Field)—Steroids or not, Bonds is probably the best player to ever set foot on a diamond. He essentially found a glitch in baseball from 2001 through 2004. In that time he slashed .349/.559/.809 good for a 256 OPS+, which is to say that he was 156% better than the average hitter in that time span(100 OPS+ is average)—basically he was as good at hitting as anyone has ever been at anything. Those are MVP 2004 set on easy playing against a blind kid type numbers. He walked 755 times and only struck out 239 times over that time period and hit 209 homers. Just for comparison’s sake, Miguel Cabrera the past three years has slashed ..340/.427/.609 with 118 homers—good for a 177 OPS+, or 79% worse than Barry Bonds over 2001-04. He drew more walks in his career than the Tampa Bay Rays franchise has in its history. Since 1980, there have been 9 seasons by any hitter of 10 WAR or more. Bonds accounts for 5 of them. It’s like there was a glitch. He fucking legitimately broke baseball.
3. Manny Ramirez(Designated Hitter)—I will fully admit, I love Manny Ramirez more than almost any baseball player that ever lived. He pimped the fuck out of damn near every bomb he ever hit and even pimped the hell out of some eventual singles which is just Manny being Manny. He cut off throws from center field as a left fielder. He pissed in the Green Monster. He only agreed to sign a $160M deal if the guy who put balls in the pitching machine for him in Cleveland could come with to Boston. You can’t make it up. If you don’t love Manny and take him for what he’s worth, you’re taking yourself way too seriously. He was one of the most fun baseball players of my life and one of the best right handed hitters to ever live. He made the hardest thing in sports look easy for his whole career.
4. Mark McGwire (First Base)—I have to admit that I’m partial as fuck to Big Mac because he is a ginger like me. The big difference being that he was a super badass ginger that murdered baseballs into oblivion for a living while I’m sitting here on my computer looking up baseball stats for fun. Other than that (and our physiques), we are really pretty similar. This is what I keep telling myself. Anyways, here is a video of Mark McGwire hitting a homer approximately 893 feet off a 104 MPH Randy Johnson (sorryDallas) fastball. This was baseball in the steroid era (not saying the Unit was using, he was a freak of nature) and it was fucking awesome.
5. Sammy Sosa(Center Field)—Even though he has tragically become a huge parody of himself ever since whatever the fuck happened to his skin since he retired (seriously what the FUCK is going on with his skin), he was a super fun player in his own right and hit 60+ homers 3 different times while never leading the league. I mean just think about that and tell me that’s not baseball juiced out of its fucking mind. No one gave a shit either at the time because it was so fun to see Sammy hit the ball like 900 feet to left center and do the hop out of the batters’ box. It’s hard to believe he is the same guy that looks like a cross between Michael Jackson and a koala bear while peddling his Pinterest page all over creation.
6. Jose Canseco—Love Canseco. Guy just flat out said he gives steroids the credit for 80% of his success as a player. That’s humble as fuck. That guy in the late 80s on those Oakland teams was basically the perfect player skill-wise, almost a Puig before Puig was Puig. He could run, hit, throw, play defense, everything. My favorite story was how he fucking murdered a grand slam in the World Series off the face of the center field camera and shattered the lens of the camera and autographed it after the game. Power move. You honestly cannot have a steroid all-star team without the godfather of steroid use as we know it.
7. Pudge Rodriguez (Catcher)—Real solid backstop here for the steroid all-stars. He was an awesome hitter, probably the best defensive catcher of all time, and one of those guys who towards the end of their career you say when you see him on Baseball Tonight, “Oh he’s still around, good for him,” when he’s the backup on the Nationals or something. I love those guys. 70.5 career WAR according to Fangraphs and one regrettable photo shoot with SI on his yacht.
8. Ken Caminiti (Third Base)—he won the NL MVP in 1996 after slashing .326/.408/.621 with 40 homers for the Padres at age 33, which was funny considering he slashed .266/.328/.403 for his career up until that point. So yeah, I’d say there were probably other factors at play in ’96.
9. Miguel Tejada (Second Base)—Even though he was a shortstop for most of his career, I needed a second baseman for this team and here’s our man. Guy was allergic to the walk and never was much of a prospect until he won the 2002 AL MVP. He was a fun players whose value was driven by his ability to always be on the field (longest streak of consecutive games since Cal Ripken) and his good power (relative to other shortstops) and his stellar defense. Interesting fact—despite being one of the best players on the team, you wouldn’t even know he existed if you watched the movie Moneyball.
Roger Clemens (Starting Pitcher)—Looking past the fact that he was one of the two best pitchers of his era and incredible to watch in big games seemingly every year when I was first getting into baseball those early 2000s Yankee teams, I have two distinct memories of Clemens that are my favorite. The first is in the Subway Series against the Mets when he threw Mike Piazza’s broken bat back at Piazza running down to first and then tried playing it off like he was just trying to get the broken part off the field of play…right at Piazza. That’s about as absurd as me when I hack Suihk at boot hockey and then just go “sorry dude, just going for the puck, my bad.” He knew what he did and still gave a super bullshit excuse and I absolutely respect the shit out of that. The other is when he agreed to take like $26M from the Yankees to pitch from June through the end of the season at age like 43 in 2008 and was greeted by Suzyn Waldman legitimately having an orgasm on air “OHHHH my goodness gracious, John!!!” Good times.
Andy Pettitte (Starting Pitcher)—This guy really wrote the book on how to handle being caught taking steroids. All he had to do was call a press conference and in a simple Texas southern drawl explain that he took them a few times trying to rehab an injury and apologize. No one threw syringes at him, no one said he should be banished from the game, and as a whole everyone just forgave him and moved on. He definitely has a second career in steroid PR if he wants it.
Eric Gagne (Closer)—Can’t ignore Eric Gagne, who went from being shitty, to the best closer in the history of baseball, to shitty again in a matter of like 4 years. I mean, he won a fucking Cy Young Award as a reliever during his streak of 84 straight saves without blowing one or whatever, and was putting up 6+ ERAs with a high 80s fastball four years later. But during that stretch when he was juiced out of his mind, no one could shut down a game like him.
David Ortiz—Big Papi. What can I say, I’m putting him in because I absolutely love the guy and yes he technically was linked to steroids once upon a time. Absolute postseason hero for a decade in Boston who is now completely immortal in New England that is by all accounts a delight off the field as well. Hit some of the biggest homers in playoff history and had some of the most entertaining celebrations this past World Series with resident crazy person Japanese reliever Koji Uehara where Papi would pick him up and Koji would basically straight up hump him. Strange stuff.
Brady Anderson—Not much to say here except to look at the stats and tell me how people weren’t freaking the fuck out in 1996 when he hit 50 dingers. He was 32, his previous career high was 21, and he never hit more than 24 after. To put that into today’s perspective, that’s like fucking Austin Kearns exploding for 50 randomly one year. Uh, yeah Austin, we’re going to have to see you pee in cup.
Jason Giambi—Had to include Giambi, another guy who came clean about his steroid use and has been basically unscathed in terms of public outrage and ridicule. His peak years from 1999-2003 (the height of the steroid era when records were being smashed and baseballs murdered) produced a line of .311/.444/.596 and 196 homers which is simply astonishing. Also, he took these pictures once upon a time and I’m really surprised a guy like this hasn’t been indicted on murder charges or assault at least. Intimidation City.
Gary Sheffield—Gary Sheffield was such a badass. Every time the Twins faced the Yankees in the regular season or in their annual ALDS spanking, I dreaded seeing his fucking vicious bat wag in the box because I knew at any time he could explode for a double past a diving Corey Koskie or line shot homer that left the field in about 2.4 seconds. He almost doesn’t seem real to me looking back. He seems a little like a fictional player like a T-Rex Pennebaker, with a super obnoxious stance and like a really mean looking mustache. He was just a great character to have in every October on the early 2000s Yankees teams.