More than any other professional sport in America, baseball and it's reputation have been marred by substance abuse and drug scandals throughout the last 15 years or so. There have been countless examples of players who have been suspended, or their reputations stained because of steroids and recreational substance use during their professional career. On the whole of it, it has hurt the game and it's reputation, turning America's Pastime into a breeding ground for corruption, trial hearings and reckless behavior. The use of drugs was rampant in baseball for a long time, and the game has paid a considerable price.
While there are many players who have dabbled with various substances over the years, there also remains a list of players who too their personal use to the next level. Some of them went on to great careers, and some of them bottomed out early, but they all struggled with substance abuse of some kind, and it at least ended up partially or completely defining them and their career. It's a sad way to witness a career, but these MLB players were all their own worst enemy, and ultimately there decision making wasn't in their best interest.
Ranked below are 15 MLB players who struggled with substance abuse throughout their career.
18 Roger Clemens
He went from being one of the respected and feared pitchers of his generation, to just another star who had his name tied to steroid use in the mid-2000s. Clemens was accused of PED use, and his reputation has taken a massive hit over the past decade or so. Typically, steroid use is associated with hitters, but Clemens proved that it had the potential to benefit pitchers as well. As a result, what should have been a first-ballot Hall Of Fame career, has now been ignored in Cooperstown, and Clemens has had to answer a lot for all of the allegations around his name. It's just another example of baseball's biggest stars losing ground with the fans, which is a major reason why the sport has fallen somewhat out of vogue in the modern day.
17 Jason Grimsley
At the end of his career in 2006, Grimsley was suspended for PED use with the Diamondbacks, and his career ended almost on the spot. He opted for a request to be released from the team, and never returned to professional baseball. His suspension came right at the time that PED use was being exposed throughout the game, and Grimsley was one of the first targets to be a subject of punishment, on the whole of it. Later, it was discovered that his drug use began in 1998, as an active MLB player, and included steroids and amphetamines. Grimsley may have been one of the first to have been punished in the days of MLBs revamped drug policy, but he definitely wasn't the only one using.
16 C.C. Sabathia
Sabathia is a league veteran, and in 2015 made waves when he announced that he would be going into alcohol rehab. It was the result of drinking in the clubhouse and his hotel room while the team was on a road trip. Mostly everyone around the league praised Sabathia for his courage to do what he felt was right to treat his addiction, and get himself on the straight and narrow. He remains with the Yankees, although his career is winding down at this point, and retirement looms on the horizon. Sabathia might have suffered a career setback with alcohol, but he took it upon himself to get right, and hasn't done any significant damage to his reputation. He'll hope to stay on the right path, and have a clean retirement, which will mark the end to a great overall career.
13 Barry Bonds
Without a doubt, Bonds is definitely the figurehead of the steroid era in baseball. The all-time home run leader, and All-Star player for several decades, Bonds was one of the most popular names in the sport. After leaving the Pirates for the Giants in the early-90s, it wasn't soon that his physical stature changed from a slight, athletic build, to a thicker, muscle-ridden one. It's since been determined that he was a user of PEDs, and has since been under every microscope the game has had to offer. As it turned out, it wasn't positive for Bonds or for the game. His personal reputation has been heavily tarnished, and baseball's all-time leading home run leader is a clearly defined PED user. Not good for anyone.
12 Mickey Mantle
Though no one thought much of it at the time, Yankee great Mickey Mantle was actually a big-time alcoholic. Before his death in 1995 from cirrhosis, and years of destruction to his liver, Mantle had admitted to his heavy use of the bottle, and conceded that he should have done something about it earlier. It's rare that one of the greatest players of any era was ever into recreational substances so heavily, but Mantle was a legitimate, functioning alcoholic during his best days with the Yankees. The story in total is actually quite sad, and by the time that Mantle sought help for his addiction, it was too late. He was 63 years-old when he passed away. Even before PED use, there were always substances around the game, and in Mantle's era, alcohol was the one most players were susceptible to.
11 Mark McGwire
Along with Sammy Sosa, McGwire's legendary 1998 home run race season was one of the pinnacles of baseball during the era that he played in. There wasn't a hotter sports story of the year, and the nation was captivated by it. That was all soon forgotten when it was confirmed that Big Mac had been a frequent PED user during his playing days. Given that it happened to McGwire, who was one of the biggest figures in the sports world in general, it took a lot of the innocence away from baseball, and slowly the sport began into descend into a cesspool for doping and drug use. McGwire was a player who was cherished during his playing years, but his cheating through substance use cost him the respect of many fans, the same as many players from his era.
10 Miguel Cabrera
One of the best hitters in the game over his career, Cabrera has had multiple issues with alcohol, including a three month stint in rehab in 2010. He's also been arrested for suspicion of drunk driving, and simultaneously resisting arrest. Still playing, and still regarded as one of the most feared bats in the game, Cabrera seems to have turned it around mostly, but he was undoubtedly in troubled waters for several years. Still, it's a testament to his will that he was able to see himself through it, compared with some athletes over the years who haven't been so lucky. In the future, Cabrera hopes to stay on the right path, and play for several more years making an impact with his play, all the while being alcohol-free.
9 Dontrelle Willis
Willis was a phenomenon early in his career with the Marlins, as a result of his funky pitching windup, and infectious personality. He helped lead the Marlins to a World Series victory during the 2003 season, which was undoubtedly the highlight of his career. In 2006, Willis was arrested and charged for DUI. Widespread suspician that he was struggling in some form with alcohol soon followed, and Willis' general career trajectory took a downturn. Whether or not he actually suffered from abuse of alcohol is still somewhat of a mystery, but the fact that he was arrested because of it in the prime of his career, isn't a vote of confidence otherwise. All things considered, he could have had many more years at the top.
7 Jenrry Mejia
Mejia made MLB history when he became the first player to be banned for life because of multiple PED violations. In total, he suffered three failed tests, and now is one of only two people banned from MLB for life, the other of course being Pete Rose. Mejia is clearly in an outlying situation, and really has nobody to blame but himself. Even as rampant as PED use has been in the sport, most players are able to get by without testing positive on three separate occasions. In all, the case of Mejia is an example of Darwinism at its finest, and it's safe to say that most future players don't risk the same fate. Mejia's stupidity is one in a million, and won't likely be seen again for a very long time in the league.
6 Lenny Dykstra
If there was an all-time reckless behavior list for professional athletes, Dykstra would most likely be in the top ten. While he's dealt with substance abuse of numerous types for the majority of his career and life after his career, he's also been involved in a host of other sticky situations, and legal troubles throughout the years. The former Mets and Phillies outfielder isn't one to toe the line, and his list of legal infractions is far too extensive to even begin listing here. Whether trouble follows him, or he just consistently makes bad decisions, Dykstra is an example of someone who just can't learn their lesson the first time, or second, or third. He was a steroid user in his era, just like many others, but his list of used substances goes above and beyond most other players.
5 Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez was the subject of perhaps the last major MLB doping scandal, and his situation in particular really left a huge stain on the game. It was closely monitored, and it disappointed a lot of fans who saw A-Rod as one of the last true baseball players who didn't need to dope to be successful. It came as a rude awakening, and in combination with all the other cases of PED use over the years, has produced a collection of American sports fans who just don't trust the sport of baseball anymore, which is observed through reduced ratings, and lower general interest level. It isn't solely Rodriguez's fault, but as far as PED allegations that put a strain on the sport, his is near the top of the list. All in all, a very unfortunate situation.
4 Josh Hamilton
Undoubtedly, Hamilton could have been one of the greatest hitters of his generation, but addictions to cocaine and alcohol put a limit on just how much he was able to achieve. Several different times throughout his career, he went into a rehab facility, would appear to be clean, and then relapsed and started using again. The cycle would continue, and is currently in limbo, almost bound to happen again at this point. It's one of the games saddest stories, and concerns one of the most talented hitters of his generation, but he just isn't able to shake the monkey off his back for good. Sports fans everywhere are rooting for Hamilton to kick the habit, but it seems like it's an uphill battle at this point.
3 Darryl Strawberry
A member of the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series, Strawberry's story is one that has been retold countless times. Strawberry suffered from substance abuse issues all throughout his career, on top of a laundry list of reckless behavior. He's always seemed to rebound in one way or another, and seems to be clean today, but that's been the case before, and another incident inevitably ends up occurring. For a short time, he was one of the most popular players of his era, and could have been one of the great hitters of all-time, but issues with his drug usage escalated before he could be truly elite, though he would stay in the game for over a decade. Strawberry's story is one of underachievement, and one that all future players can learn from.
2 Dwight Gooden
"Doc" Gooden was Strawberry's teammate on the 1986 Mets, and suffered his similar share of substances abuse issues, namely with cocaine and alcohol. Also in similar fashion, incidents mounted up throughout the years, and Gooden was arrested multiple times, for multiple reasons, but none of them signified that he had turned a corner in his life. One of the most promising young arms of his time, Gooden did put together a few of the greatest pitching seasons ever in the early-80s, but he was quickly off the straight and narrow, never able to reclaim the level of his best work. As fate would have it, the Mets had two of the most talented, yet most troubled players of all-time, and over the years they would both fight to stay clean, despite numerous setbacks. The story of Gooden and Strawberry in tandem together is one of the most psychologically intriguing, but unfortunate ones in MLB history.
1 Steve Howe
Howe should have been the next big thing in baseball, when he debuted in 1980. He was named National League Rookie Of The Year in 1980, and was by far the best pitching prospect in the game during that season with the Dodgers. It wasn't long however before a cocaine addiction took over his career, and he was never the same again. Though he lasted 17 total years in the majors in some capacity, he was suspended a total of seven times, and never was able to shake his substance addictions. His difficulties continued after his retirement in 1997, and Howe was killed in a crash crash in 2006, with methamphetamine found in his system. It's one of the most tragic stories in all of professional sports. Howe possessed the talent to be an all-time great, but his addiction simply didn't allow him to come anywhere close to that, and he paid the ultimate price later on in life. His story serves as a warning to future generations, and a reason for all current addicts to attempt rehabilitation.
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