The "steroid era" is defined as the period from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s when performance-enhancing drugs supposedly ran "rampant" throughout baseball, with some players speculating that upwards of three-quarters of the league was on some sort of banned substance.
Following the publication of the Mitchell Report, which outed several high-profile players as "users," fans around the league grew disillusioned with the sport, with some going so far as to say that the league's reputation had been irreparably damaged.
Thankfully, we now know this not to be the case. Baseball is indeed alive and well (just ask the 5 million people who attended the Cubs World Series parade), with fans turning out in droves this season to watch their favorite teams play. With over 70 million attendees league wide, 2016 marked the 11th-highest attended season in league history.
Still, there was a time not that long ago when the future of the league felt uncertain. As a reminder, here are 15 key figures from the steroid era, and here's what they're up to today.
22 Jose Canseco
After publishing the tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, Jose Canseco became the face—and bulging biceps—of the steroid era. Before that, however, he was a six-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champ, an MVP, and a member of the exclusive 40-40 club (Canseco was the first to do it, followed only by Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano).
Things haven’t been going so great for Canseco as of late. In 2003, he was sentenced to three years of probation and two years of house arrest. In 2008, he lost his house to foreclosure and was arrested at the border for trying to smuggle fertility drugs into the States. In 2014, he nearly lost a finger after he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun.
21 Rafael Palmeiro
Perhaps no image from the steroid era is more seared into our memories than that of Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger at Congress while saying, “I have never used steroids. Period.” As we now know, he had been using steroids. Period.
Palmeiro receded from the public eye after he retired following the 2005 season, but he made a one-game comeback a year ago with the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent team in the Atlantic League. At the age of 50, he went 2-4 in the game with a walk and an RBI. Also on the Sugar Land roster was his son, Patrick Palmeiro, and a 26-year-old Denny Almonte, who is famous for having pitched for the Bronx at the 2001 Little League World Series despite being two years over the age limit.
20 Alex Sanchez
Let’s continue with the first person ever to be suspended under the league’s new drug policy, Alex Sanchez. Most people think of PED users as hulking, home run-hitting galoots, but Sanchez was a lightweight speedster with just six home runs in five seasons.
Despite being a good player, with nearly a .300 career batting average, Sanchez never quite recovered from the 2005 suspension. After a few years in the minors, he joined the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League and eventually the Tigres de Quintana of Mexico before hanging up his cleats for good in 2010.
Aside from the fact that he is married with two kids, today, little is know about Sanchez, who defected from Cuba as a teenager in order to play in the majors.
19 Mark McGwire
In 1998, at the age of 34, Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’s single-season home run record, which had stood for nearly four decades. He would follow it up by hitting another 65 home runs the next year, eventually retiring with 583 for his career.
In 2010, after years of allegations, McGwire finally admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his playing days. “Looking back,” he said, “I wish I had never played during the steroid era.”
McGwire decided to come clean about his steroid use so as not to have it hanging over his head when he took up his new job as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.
After two seasons as the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was named the bench coach for the Padres.
18 Eric Gagne
Eric Gagne was one of the most dominant closers of the early 21st century—maybe of all time. From 2002-04, he saved 152 games for the Dodgers, including a league-best 55 during his 2003 Cy Young campaign and a record 84 consecutive saves in that same stretch.
After being named in the Mitchell Report in 2007, Gagne admitted to using HGH, later labeling himself as a cautionary tale for young players.
Due to injuries, Gagne struggled in the latter half of his career, never converting more than 16 saves in a season after 2005. At 40 years of age, he is still playing baseball, but now he’s doing it in his home country of Canada for the Ottawa Champions of the Can-AM league.
16 Chuck Knoblauch
Some people think that steroids are magical substances that automatically give a player the ability to hit home runs, but Chuck Knocblauch is living proof that that’s not the case. In fact, the former Yankees second baseman claimed that he had his worst years in the majors immediately after taking HGH.
Knoblauch’s hit a few rough patches after his successful career. In 2009, he was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony after his wife accused him of choking and hitting her. Five years later he was charged yet again for domestic assault, this time with a different wife, costing him an induction into the Minnesota Twins’ Hall of Fame.
14 Manny Ramirez
Twelve-time All-Star and two-time World Series champ Manny Ramirez was first suspended for violating the league’s drug policy in 2009, when he tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Not one to learn from past indiscretions, he tested positive for banned substances once more in 2011, this time choosing to retire instead of serve his suspension (he later un-retired).
Although he played his last game in the MLB in 2011, Manny played baseball up until just a few years ago, spending time in the minors, the Chinese Professional Baseball League, and the Dominican Winter League.
The latest on Manny is that he was working as hitting consultant within the Cubs’ organization.
13 Rick Ankiel
Rick Ankiel’s career in the majors took many twists and turns—going from a top pitching prospect to a pitcher with serious command issues to a position player who hit 25 home runs in a season—and it took another turn in 2007 when he was outed by the New York Daily News for having received eight shipments of HGH.
Ankiel’s success as a position player in the majors was short-lived, as his performance at the plate would continue to deteriorate until his retirement in 2014, hitting a combined .188 with the Astros and Mets in his final season.
In 2015, the Washington Nationals hired Ankiel to be their Life Skills Coordinator. He is responsible for mentoring young players within the organization.
12 Roger Clemens
Seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens should have taken a page out of teammate Andy Pettitte’s book when it came to handling his steroid allegations. Instead of apologizing, he adamantly denied ever using PEDs, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
Like Barry Bonds, Clemens’ unwillingness to admit to any improprieties led to the public turning on him, and to this day his reputation in the league remains tarnished. Despite being one of the greatest pitchers of all time (354-184, 4,672 strikeouts), his chances of making it into Cooperstown are virtually nonexistent. As it stands, he is the only eligible pitcher with 300 or more wins not to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
11 Jason Giambi
Thanks to a chemical boost, Jason Giambi hit 440 career home runs. From 1999-2002, he was one of the elite hitters in the game, batting .326/.452/.612 with 155 home runs and 502 RBI with the Athletics and Yankees over those four seasons.
After his name became ubiquitous in discussions of steroid use in the league, Giambi vaguely apologized in 2005, never explicitly citing what exactly he was apologizing for. In 2007, however, he finally came out and specifically addressed the allegations, saying he “was wrong for using that stuff.”
Giambi continued to play long after the steroid scandals, even winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2005. He retired in 2015 at the age of 43.
10 Miguel Tejada
Looking back at Miguel Tejada’s career, two scandals stick out: 1) the birth certificate scandal, where it was discovered that he had lied to the league about his age 2) the steroid scandal—or rather, scandals.
Tejada was first accused of using steroids by none other than Rafael Palmeiro, who blamed the Dominican infielder for his positive test result. Jose Canseco then threw him under the bus in his book Juiced. The nail in the coffin of his innocence, however, came when he was charged for lying to Congress, for which he received a one-year probation and narrowly avoided jail time.
Not long after retiring, the former 2002 AL MVP filed for bankruptcy, despite have earned close to $100 million over his career.
9 Andy Pettitte
Even though he admitted to using HGH (more than once) in 2002, Andy Pettitte came out of the steroid era relatively unscathed because he claimed that he had used performance-enhancing drugs simply as a means to recover from injury, and not as a means of cheating.
Following the controversy, which came out in 2008, Pettitte went on to enjoy several more successful seasons in the majors, including a World Series win in 2009 and an All-Star selection in 2010. He retired in 2013 with his legacy intact and tied for the most games started for a Yankees pitcher.
6 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez led the league in home runs five times. He won three MVP Awards, 10 Silver Slugger Awards, and two Gold Glove Awards. He won a World Series in 2009 and hit nearly 700 home runs. But for all that he’s accomplished, he’s destined to be remembered for one thing above all else: performance-enhancing drugs.
After an abysmal season in 2016, A-Rod finally announced that his time in New York was coming to an end, officially playing his last game in pinstripes on August 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Despite what many perceive to be a forced retirement, there is still speculation that Rodriguez will return next season, with some citing Miami, his former hometown, as a possible destination.
3 Sammy Sosa
While Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds get most of the recognition for being the “Home Run Kings” of the steroid era, Sammy Sosa is the only player in the history of the league with three seasons of 60 or more home runs (1998, 1999, 2001). In total, he finished with 609 home runs, good enough for 8th all time, even if it does come with an invisible asterisk next to it.
The last time Sosa was in the headlines, it wasn’t for anything he’d done on the baseball diamond, but rather for his drastic physical transformation. He appeared at an event a few years ago sporting skin that was a few shades lighter. He later said of the noticeable difference to his appearance: “It’s a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some. It’s a cream that I have, that I use to soften my skin.”
Other than that, the only time Sosa’s name comes up is when he’s being passed over for induction into the Hall of Fame.
1 Barry Bonds
With 7 MVP Awards, 762 career home runs, and the single-season home run record (73), the only argument against Barry Bonds being the greatest home run hitter of all time—and perhaps even the greatest all-around player of all time—is his steroid use, which, due to his staunch denial (at least of intentionally using), remains “alleged” to this day.
Following a tumultuous relationship with the media near the end of his playing career, Bonds, for the most part, stayed out of the public eye after 2007, but he reemerged last season when he became the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins, a gig that lasted until October 2016, at which point he was let go by the organization.
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