Baseball is a game that comes with a lot of baggage. Fans and players are held to the standards of "unwritten rules," almost always receiving harsh and ongoing criticism upon breaking said rules. Most baseball people would say that cheating is about the worst rule you could break in this century old game. See, traditions have become so deep rooted into the minds of players and fans, if you break a rule, you've tarnished the games legacy as well as your own.
Below is a list of 15 guys who did quite a bit of tarnishing. Keep in the mind that the order of this list correlates with the overall production throughout the player's career.
15 Ryan Braun
The Hebrew Hammer comes in at the 15th spot on our list. The University of Miami product quickly climbed the ladder to the top of league, but as they say, what goes around comes around. This guy made an absolute idiot out of himself in 2012 not long after he won the NL MVP. He spewed lie after lie to his teammates, family, and fans. Making untrue comments ranging from "I'm innocent" to claiming that he had been set up. The most compelling aspect of these lies is he had already failed a drug test for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). Ryan Braun took the lie so far that he even started a petition. This obviously had little success as he ended up serving a 65 game suspension to end the 2013 season.
14 Jason Giambi
Playing in a city like New York and for a franchise like the Yankees comes with a lot of perks, but we can't forget about the pressure. Jason Giambi landed in New York after a scorching start to his career with the Oakland Athletics. Per usual, the Yankees went out and bought the best player money could buy, a 30-year-old MVP caliber player in Jason Giambi. He signed a very generous contract worth 120 mill over seven years. That's a big time deal in the early 2000s. Coincidentally, Giambi got on the juice right around the same time he got to New York, where using a needle wasn't very foreign. He'll go down in history as one of the Yankee greats, but most will remember him as a cheater.
13 Miguel Tejada
Like Giambi, Miguel Tejada began his legacy in Oakland where he started his career with 1,152 straight games, during which he won the AL MVP. In 2002, his MVP season, Tejada was easily the best hitting short stop in the league as he played every game and knocked in 131 runs. Miguel was kind of thrown under the bus with the steroid scandal when a couple reliable sources claimed Tejada had been using. That wasn't the only black mark on his record. In 2005 he lied to congress about steroids, which came back to bite him when he was investigated a few years later. In Canseco's 2005 book "Juiced," he mentioned Tejada's name as an Anabolic steroid user. Tejada continued to lie and cheat throughout his career until he was finally slapped with a 105 game suspension essentially ending his career.
12 Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
Unlike most guys on this list, the Puerto Rican backstop's use of steroids isn't one hundred percent proven, but various quotes have definitely implied it. During an interview with the Associated Press, the omnipotent catcher responded to the question of steroid use with a simple, subtle "only God knows." Actually Ivan Rodriguez, you know. Pudge was a career .296 hitter which is phenomenal for a catcher with his defensive prowess. His career was just about over when he got into the steroid phase. His body changed drastically and his consistency at an old age may have been a product of performance enhancement. With 13 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star appearances, an MVP and a World Series ring, Pudge has all the accolades to put him atop the all time list of catchers. Of course, this association with steroids will forever place a black mark next to Pudge's legacy.
11 Andy Pettitte
Another Yankee, another cheater. It's seemingly obvious that getting a hold of steroids in New York at this time was not a tall task. In fact, it was flat out easy. Pitchers, position players, and even trainers were on the juice. That shouldn't change the fact that Andy Pettitte had a really good career, even without the performance enhancement. He was ultimately sold out via the Mitchell Report along with some of his teammates and other big time players. One of which, Roger Clemens who was also a close friend. A few years later Pettitte retired from the game, only to come back the following year. Eventually he decided it was time to hang it up collecting 256 wins in his career. The long time Yankee was throwing heat into his forties. As much as his longevity is impressive, he needed steroids to do it.
10 Jose Canseco
Jose Canseco, a Miami native, is widely considered the face of steroids. When you write a book titled "Juiced" you will forever represent the darkest era of baseball. Yes, this guy wrote a memoir recounting experiences of his steroid use and he made sure to not leave out one detail. When his book came out, about 10-15 player names were linked to using PEDs. Canseco explains how prominent steroids are among all players by stating: "The challenge is not to find a top player who has used steroids. The challenge is to find a top player who hasn't." Seems to be a tactic to deflect heat, but still a disappointing reality. While known as one of the most powerful hitters in the game, Canseco will never escape his link to steroid use.
9 Mark McGwire
Big Mac hit some monster shots in his day, one of which that flew a mind blowing 545 feet. The behemoth of a man amassed 135 long balls in just two seasons. His surge in numbers was a clear indicator that he had been injecting human growth hormone, which he was eventually proven guilty of down the line. In 1998, Mark McGwire would bring all eyes to his bat as he chased and eventually broke the single season home run record set by Roger Maris at 61 long balls. McGwire would end the season with a total of 70 home runs. With a few failed drug tests, and a handful of lies, McGwire will always have a rain cloud over his head.
8 Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa comes in on the list one spot ahead of his counterpart, Mark McGwire. Mainly due to his career average being 10 points higher and having 26 more career home runs, respectively. These two took part in the most intense home run race in history of the game. Both were chasing Roger Maris' record of 61long balls ironically set in 1961. Needless to say, both sluggers broke the record, and compared to McGwire's 70, Sosa would end the season with 66 home runs of his own. Sammy wasn't the best at hiding the fact he was cheating, and was eventually caught due to a failed drug test. Alongside Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa denied allegations in front of Congress.
7 Rafael Palmeiro
The 6'0 180 pound Rafael Palmeiro was a total stud! From a statistical stand point one of the best all time. A member of both the 500 home run club and the 3000 hit club, he would be a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer if not for testing positive for steroids use in 2005. In a Fox Sports interview with Flinder Boyd, Palmeiro was quoted saying: "based on my credentials, what I did on the field equals first-ballot Hall of Famer, end of story." But that's not the end of story, he lied to Congress like the aforementioned Miguel Tejada, so regardless of his credentials he will likely be forever banned from the Hall. Palmeiro had a great career, no doubt, and the number reflect that. However, how would those numbers look if not for his steroid use?
6 Roger Clemens
Any way you cut the cake, Roger Clemens was one of the best pitchers ever. His pure dominance can be backed by his accolades throughout his career. The seven-time Cy Young winner also collected two World Series rings, and 11 All-Star appearances. Most of Clemens success came before he ever got involved in steroids. It wasn't until he ended up in New York with the likes of Andy Pettitte, that he started using. This was an attempt to prolong his career, which he successfully did, but at the cost of being kept out of the Hall of Fame. While controversial, Clemens is regarded as one of the best to ever take the hill. It's a shame that the pitcher turned to steroid use and tarnished his legacy.
5 Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez is what we call "hard-headed." The talented slugger from the Dominican Republic was caught on three separate occasions throughout his career for performance-enhancing drugs. One time can be viewed as an accident, or a lapse of judgement, but three times really shows the guy's commitment to the juice. By the time he failed the third test he was well past his prime, and instead of serving his 100 game suspension, he opted to retire. A member of the 500 Home Run club and a career .312 hitter, his success on the field is undeniable, but it's evident he didn't learn much from his mistakes. Take away the juice and we're left to wonder just how great Ramirez' career numbers would have been.
4 Joseph "Shoeless Joe" Jackson
Shoeless Joe Jackson earned his asterisk in a different way than anyone on this list. Being one of the best players in the game, Joe and his team had made it to the World Series in 1919. The Sox were set to face the Reds. Chicago ultimately lost the series and Joe and his teammates were accused of fixing the series. This is known as the Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Many believe Joe's innocence as he tore the cover off the ball all series long, and committed no errors in the field. Either way, being involved in a scandal of this magnitude has forever clouded the reputation and reception of Shoeless Joe. Now considered one of baseball's greatest stories, the idea of fixing the World Series will forever follow the long-lasting legacy of Shoeless Joe.
3 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez, another Miami-born star, showed some of the most talent in the history of the game. He displayed pure dominance from the moment he was called up to the big leagues. For example, in his first full season at the age of 20 he hit a mind-blowing .358 with an on base percentage of .414. The Mariners couldn't have been more thrilled for the future of their first overall pick. Alex Rodriguez went on to have one of the most productive careers ever (500 home run, 3000 hit club,) but just like the rest of the guys on our list, he broke one of baseball's golden rules. A-Rod originally denied all allegations of steroid use, but was sensible enough to tell the truth when under oath. He officially announced his plans to retire last week, but don't count him out yet; we could see him in a Marlins uniform rather soon.
2 Pete Rose
Pete Rose was the definition of a scrappy player. He always ran hard, and did anything and everything he could to win games. For instance, in the 1970 All-Star Game, Rose trucked the catcher Ray Fosse consequently ending Fosse's career. Like Shoeless Joe, Rose didn't use steroids to inflate his performance. In fact his situation is very unique and controversial. Pete Rose was gambling on his team as a player and manager, but wasn't throwing games. Rose claims he only bet in favour of his team which would technically mean he didn't do anything to hurt their chance of winning. There are groups of fans protesting his absence from the Hall of Fame, so if things go his way he could actually make the Hall someday. I mean, he is the hit king after all.
1 Barry Bonds
762 home runs. Wow, this guy could mash like no other. He was must-see television as he set records left and right. Bonds was so scary at the plate that he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded on multiple occasions. In 1996, Bonds stole 40 bases and crushed 40 home runs. Joining A-Rod, Palmiero, and Alfonso Soriano as the only players ever accomplish this. Barry enjoyed a very decorated career before getting into steroids. In 1998 Bonds fired his then personal trainer to hire a long time friend, Greg Anderson to take the position. Not long after, Bonds had put on 40 pounds of muscle and went up multiple hat sizes. Anderson, Bonds, and several other players found themselves involved in the BALCO Scandal. This was confirmation that the Steroid Era in baseball was upon us. Bonds would've easily been a Hall of Famer without the juice, like many guys on our list, but he just couldn't resist the temptation.
While coming up with this list and doing research on each case, I discovered that most of the player's didn't want to accept the fact their careers were coming to a close. So they did the only thing they could to extend their career. While some guys did it to chase rings, others did it to chase accolades and records. Either way, breaking these unwritten rules of baseball taints one's legacy. The way the player handles the accusation says a lot about them as a person. A handful of these guys lied under oath and while their lawyers may have forced them to do so, they still did it. All of these guys listed would have a very solid shot at reaching the highest achievement in baseball, the Hall of Fame. But instead, some of the best player's in history are banned due to poor judgement.
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