SI.com's esteemed John Donovan posted an article naming what he believes the be the all-clean team (of the Steroids Era, however you define it). All-clean? Just one man's hunch, I guess. After all, how would he know? Shouldn't our cynical side take over and suggest a renaming to "All Not Yet Accused Team" rather than the All-Clean Team.
Maybe these guys are truly beyond reproach and have kept clean their entire careers. Believe me, I would LOVE for every one of these guys to be spotless. It's better for the game if they really have been.
I've picked a few of his selections of his along with his rationale on each that I find the most, um, interesting.
Alex Rodriguez-- I don't think Jose Canseco, despite the upcoming book, has anything on A-Rod. You can throw darts at his scary-perfect public persona and his sometimes goofy actions on the field, but come on, already. A-Rod is doing things that no one has ever done before.So, for all the crap Canseco's been alleging about ARod is false, but nearly everything else he has claimed in the first book has been true? Call me a bitter baseball fan, but I would not rush to put ARod on my "clean" list just yet. I hope against hope that he's as sparkling clean as the driven snow, but if he's not...(thoughts drift)
Albert Pujols -- He's taken some shots. About his age (he's supposedly older than what he lets on). About steroids (his name is often bandied about). But the allegations never stick. He's also had at least 32 HRs and 100 RBIs a year every year since his debut in '01. A solid citizen, too.Again, another with repeated mentions as a user. I'm a BIG Pujols fan, even as a Yankee fan. I bought my son a Pujols jersey back in '03, long before he was big enough to wear it. His first 7 seasons have been historic in terms of productivity. Calling him a solid citizen, though, doesn't make the whispers go away. You can be a solid citizen and still take PEDs. I think most everyone would agree that Pettitte is viewed as a solid citizen, a God-fearing man of faith...who also took HGH. I think the two are separate and divisible.
Manny Ramirez -- Make fun of Manny all you want. Rip him for being me-first. Ridicule the way he plays left field. But put him up against the best hitters of this generation, or a lot of others -- averaging 41 homers and 133 RBIs every 162 games -- and you'd want him on your team.What in the above "defense" of Manny would lead you to know he's clean? Just because he's goofy or aloof, or whatever? The one thing Manny is not is dumb. He's a super smart hitter. Who's also to say he's not smart enough to take something that wouldn't get him caught? Again, I have become overly cynical and I want to agree with Donovan here, but how can one say with any degree of certainty that any of these guys are lillywhite pure?
Frank Thomas -- The Big Hurt may look the part of a juiced-up slugger, but he has a steroid-free reputation, and he's the only active player to voluntarily talk to George Mitchell for his steroids report. The two-time MVP is headed to the Hall as one of the game's most dangerous DHs.Agreed. Period. Good for Big Frank to step up and take a stand. Call me a big fan now.
Vladimir Guerrero -- The Hall of Fame debate about "feared" hitters will be raised again when Guerrero's name comes up. Yet, at 31, that's still a long ways off. Vlad has a lot of chances to add to a career that, barring further injury, should carry him well past 500 homers and into the Hall.
I love Vlad. I love how he can hit anything from his shoetops to his forehead. I love how he doesn't wear batting gloves. I love how he keeps quiet and plays. I love his arm. I hate how he walks like an old man and his back scares the bejesus outta me but that's another issue. But given the disproportional rate of the accused and proven guilty come from South/Central America and the Caribbean, how can we be sure The Impaler hasn't used anything to battle his injuries to get back on the field? After all, the D.R. is #2 in players who have tested positive. That has to speak to something, doesn't it?
Check out this table from ESPN.com:
Where they're from
Since the start of the 2005 season, 157 professional players have been suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Of that number, 104 players, or 66 percent, are still affiliated with their Major League franchise. Here is a breakdown by birthplace of the suspended players:
United States: 72 [46 percent]
Dominican Republic: 37 [24 percent]
Venezuela: 35 [22 percent]
Cuba: 3 [2 percent]
Japan: 3 [2 percent]
Mexico: 2 [1 percent]
Australia: 1 [.64 percent]
Canada: 1 [.64 percent]
Colombia: 1 [.64 percent]
Panama: 1 [.64 percent]
Puerto Rico: 1 [.64 percent]
Back to Donovan's list...
Greg Maddux -- For all the talk of Clemens, Maddux enters this season only eight wins shy of passing Clemens on the all-time win list (Maddux currently has 347), thus becoming the most successful pitcher of the past 40 years. One look at him and his stuff removes all doubt about using anything unnatural.
So, if you look professorial, you must be clean? So if you're pitching into your 40's and aren't throwing 95+ mph, you have gotten by on smarts and guile alone? If we have learned ONE thing during this dirty laundry airing time, it's that pitchers have been using PEDs at a virtual equal rate as hitters and size alone is not the giveaway. Seems that HGH, which aids in recovery more than mass-building steroids, was favored by pitchers.
Check out this table from that same ESPN.com article:
Pitchers make up the largest percentage of the 157 players who have been suspended over the past two seasons.
Pitchers: 87 [55 percent]
Infielders: 32 [20 percent]
Outfielders: 20 [13 percent]
Catchers: 18 [12 percent]
Again, back to Donovan's list.
Pedro Martinez -- Injuries have cost Martinez the chance at some more wins, but when he's healthy and on -- as he should be this year -- Martinez is without peer. His lifetime 1.03 WHIP is the best among active players and third best of all-time. A first-ballot electee, no doubt.
Now, Pedro is slight of build, but has suffered a number of injuries. But for me, the biggest red flag comes from this article, in which Pedro defends "controversial fitness guru and massage therapist Angel 'Nao' Presinal". Who's he, you ask. Read:
And Presinal had THIS to say, and doesn't it make you the least bit skeptical?
Presinal, 54, popped up on Major League Baseball's radar in October 2001 after he and former two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez, then his primary client, were linked to an unmarked bag, reportedly containing steroids and hypodermic needles, that was seized by Canadian authorities at the Toronto airport. Questioned by Canadian Border Service agents, Gonzalez said the bag belonged to Presinal. Presinal has said the bag and everything in it belonged to Gonzalez, then a Cleveland Indians outfielder.
"Pedro is working again [with me]," Presinal gushes. "Pedro will be brand-new, the Pedro of maybe '97. It is my challenge, to build Pedro the old Pedro way. The old Pedro form. Everybody is waiting for Pedro. Everybody will have the new, like the old Pedro. "Pedro will again have the power in the fastball."
Donovan's list is much greater than I listed and my main takeaway is this: I hope he's 100% correct as these are guys we all root for, guys we want our kids to look up to (on the field), guys we hope will own some of the most prestigious records in the game when they are done.
Baseball NEEDS these guys to be clean. I pray they are.