Raw lamb testicles, the specialty supplement of champions. Well, maybe not yet, but we believe that their testosterone-boosting qualities will soon be the MLB's best-kept PED secret. Until then, we'll talk about steroids and the eye-popping seasons they produced. For an idea of how obvious they were, we're leaving Manny Ramirez off this list.
Baseball is less fun without steroids. Let's be fair here, chicks still dig the long ball as much as like they did in John Maddux and Tom Glavine's classic 1998 Nike commercial. Many of us were but young lads and lasses when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were bumping chests with one another on their chase for 70 home runs. One thing is certain, you watched those games because you wanted to see the home run records be broken - just like you wanted to watch every Barry Bonds at-bat.
To be clear, we are in no way condoning steroid or human growth hormone use in sports. No person should have to see their crown jewels shrink in size for the sake of his professional success, nor should any person or acquaintance of a user have to deal with roid-rage outbursts. Jose Canseco, the steroid poster child, now regrets his former appetite for performance enhancers linking them to his premature exit from the game and his current sterility (Fellas).
Nowadays, besides fewer home runs, there are fewer punches thrown in altercations between players as it seems natural levels of testosterone are the new norm. So, it can hard to pinpoint the users - if you're blind and and don't notice giant biceps and home runs. Right, fellas?
Here's where things get tricky. When people look at "obvious" steroid users, they consider how productive a player was prior to a breakout season and then look for a cliff-like drop-off in production. People against that theory might say, "Sosa and McGwire were chasing Roger Maris and his 61 home runs in 1961. Maris never hit 40 before he broke Babe Ruth's mark, and never again came close to hitting 40."
Those same people don't realize that Maris played in Kansas City prior to being a Yankee and didn't know how to deal with the New York media. Maris once said, "Anybody who expects me to do it again must have rocks in his head." So, it's clear that pointing fingers at players not yet associated with steroids and screaming "Cheater!" is not much better than conjecture, but we're doing it anyway and you will like it.
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15 Jose Canseco (1998)
There is no doubt that Jose Canseco used steroids, but there is some doubt as to whether it helped him. He has since preached that steroids are overrated and that children should never look up to users of illegal performance enhancers. Canseco has also stated in his numerous books and interviews that he now deals with sterility and serious financial problems, in large part due to his steroid addiction. He may be a whistle-blower, but there would be no transparency in this world without a little investigative auditing. "The Chemist," as he is aptly nicknamed, was never a great contact hitter but slugged for the fences. With the Blue Jays in 1998, after several seasons of relative mediocrity, Canseco popped up to 46 homers after reaching 31 just once in the previous six seasons.
14 Eric Gagne (2002-2004)
One of only modern-day closers to win the Cy Young Award, Eric Gagne had an incredible stretch between 2002-2004. He converted 84 consecutive save opportunities in that span, which is an unfathomable feat. Just like most records between 1990-2010, steroids sucked the fun right out of this one. After his name came up in on the 2007 Mitchell Report, it took Gagne three years to publicly admit to using HGH while also claiming most of his teammates cheated. A line in his book reads, "I was intimately aware of the clubhouse in which I lived. I would say that 80 percent of the Dodgers players were consuming them."
13 Juan Gonzalez (1996)
Easily one of the Texas Rangers' greatest hitters of all time, Juan Gonzalez will never again be on a Hall of Fame ballot despite claiming he "never used any of that stuff." Who is to say, though, right? Most evidence against cheaters is circumstantial, but Juan's name came up in the Mitchell Report along with Jose Canseco's book. At a Cleveland airport, the Mitchell Report states, one of Juan's bags was seized because it contained HGH and steroid paraphernalia. That is hard to refute. In 1996, after two years marred by injury, Juan put up 47 homers and 144 RBI and a 1.011 OPS...coincidence? We think not.
12 Melky Cabrera (2012)
Melky Cabrera came out of virtually nowhere in 2012 to hit .346 with the San Francisco Giants. It all came to a crashing halt that August when he and several other MLB players were suspended for 50 games. It's a shame that his remarkable run that season was marred by a positive test, but it is a true testament yet again to the men of yore. The men of yore who played without synthetic PEDs and managed to reach 50 home runs even without 21st century health and workout equipment. The Milk man has since shown an ability to hit .300, but never gotten back to his remarkable numbers.
11 Brady Anderson (1996)
Former teammate Bob Melvin named him "Barley" at some point, but we're still not quite sure why. In any case, Brady Anderson managed to become just the twelfth player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season in 1996 - joining all the greats. It was a truly freak season that was neither preceded nor succeeded by any signs of greatness. Along with reaching 50 (he had never gotten to 25 before, or after), he managed 110 RBIs, 29 more than any other of his seasons, and a .297 average which is 41 points higher than his career average of .256. A startling and interesting statistic, the same season he hit 50 he also happened to be hit by a league-high 22 pitches - a category in which he led the following season and again in 1999. While it's never been proven that he used steroids, there are plenty of rumors and it's hard to deny the sharp jump and decline in his stats.
10 Jhonny Peralta (2013)
Jhonny Peralta had an eye-popping 2013 season, only to be found a cheater mid-season along with several others (namely A-Rod and Nelson Cruz) and ultimately suspended for 50 games. Peralta's case is one all to similar to others who have used PEDs. He had a very bad season (in 2012) and needed a boost to prove his worth for a big new contract. That meant taking a risk on illegal performance enhancers - and, boy did it work. After hitting .260 from 2009-2012, Peralta boosted up to a .303 average in 2013 before testing positive for a banned substance and being suspended. Now Cubbies fans can give Cardinals fans lip for having a cheating shortstop.
9 Jay Gibbons (2005)
Just look at the guy - his whole face and body seems to have been distorted by whatever performance enhancers he took. In 2007, it was confirmed Jay Gibbons received several shipments of HGH between 2003-2005. Thankfully, unlike some of the cowardly deniers on this list, he quickly admitted to his wrongdoing. "I blame myself," Gibbons said. "It was the steroid era, and I made my own bed." This begs the question: Do we forgive those who admit and allow them into the Hall of Fame? Well, no, because those who have yet to admit still could be guilty. Just another reason why praising outward honesty is a strange concept. The year of 2005 is Gibbons' blatantly obvious steroid year, attempting a comeback from injury - his numbers were nothing special (26 homers and .833 OPS), but his admittance says it all.
8 Luis Gonzalez (2001)
Luis Gonzalez sits between Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio for the tenth most total bases in a single season with 419. No player has surpassed 425 total bases in a season since Stan "The Man" Musial in 1948. If that doesn't tell you what steroids did for baseball, I don't know what will. His 2001 performance was one for the ages, but won't be remembered fondly. Gonzalez exploded for 57 home runs and 142 RBI in 2001, never previously or subsequently topping 31 homers. Alongside these numbers were a .325 average and a 1.117 OPS - and he finished third in NL MVP voting. Oh, how times have changed.
7 Richard Hidalgo (2000)
Who? Exactly. His fluke single-season success is why he makes this list. Richard Hidalgo had one of the most roller-coaster statistical careers of anybody on this list. He went from batting .303 in his rookie season to his sophomore slump, when he struggled with a .227 average. If fear of never getting out of a rookie contract isn't reason enough to roid-up, I don't know what is. It worked wonders for Hidalgo the next season, who magically rose to 44 home runs, 122 RBI, and a 1.028 OPS in his third season. He never again hit 30 home runs or 90 RBI, but got the Houston Astros to pay him $12.5-million in 2004. He left baseball when his wife became ill in early 2006.
6 Sammy Sosa (1998)
Slamming Sammy Sosa, the one and only. Possibly the most fun baseball player of the past quarter-century, Sosa was always swinging for the fences and jumping for joy. As proof, he led the league in strikeouts for three straight years starting in 1997, passing 170 Ks each time. In that same three-year stretch, Sosa's home run totals were eye-popping. He went from consistently hitting 30-40 each year for several years, then jumped to 66 in 1998. He won the NL MVP award that season and pumped chests with Mark McGwire in their chase for 70.
5 Ken Caminiti (1996)
Ken Caminiti is a name that always pops up in steroid conversations. He is frequently named in the Mitchell Report as a contact for other players seeking knowledge on steroids, specifically by Wally Joyner. At age 33 in 1996, Caminiti sky-rocketed his notoriety as an out-of-nowhere NL MVP. He reached 40 home runs and 130 RBI to go along with a 1.028 OPS, having never come close to 30 homers or 100 RBI in his seven full seasons prior to 1996. Caminiti's health soon deteriorated and he never reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs again. He admitted, after Canseco blew the whistle, that he took steroids during his MVP season and said, "At least half the guys are using steroids," according to the LA Times.
4 Rafael Palmeiro (Any Season)
Few know that Rafael Palmeiro was born in Cuba, but that's where his baseball genes come from. We can essentially say any season was PED-fueled for Palmeiro as he tested positive in 2005 for steroids - yet somehow was given just a 10-day suspension. It goes to show the MLB's level of commitment, or lack thereof, to keeping steroids out of the league. For those of you unaware, the new suspension for a PED positive-test is 50 days. After a third positive test, a player receives a lifetime ban. Palmeiro joins a lengthy list of Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers linked to PED-use, as much as it hurts me (as a Marylander) to admit.
3 Alex Rodriguez (2007)
Mr. May (a sarcastic compliment to his early-season success) and his playoff ineptitude likely fueled his insecurity and subsequent hunger for PEDs. A-Rod and his inability to admit to both steroid use and links to the Biogenesis lab are the biggest reasons why he is execrated by his family and all of baseball. We'll go with his 2007 in New York as the most blatant steroid-filled season among the dozen to choose from. That year with the Bronx Bombers he hit 54 home runs and drove in 156 runs. There is no doubt that the New York media got under his skin enough to drive him back to illegal performance enhancers, as he mustered just nine RBIs in his first 24 playoff games with the Yankees.
2 Mark McGwire (1998)
Mark McGwire, the massive man with hulk-like forearms capable of driving a ball out of the ballpark despite it never going more than 20 feet above the ground. Big Mac, as he is fondly remembered, was a part of the roid-rageous teams in Oakland alongside Jose Canseco. His 70-homer season in 1998 is the most obviously steroid driven, especially given that he was 34 at the time. Now a coach with the San Diego Padres and respected as a great hitter - one who himself said he did not need steroids to hit the long ball.
1 Barry Bonds (2001)
"You wanted me to jump off the bridge; I finally have jumped. You wanted to bring me down, you've finally brought me and my family down. You've finally done it. So now go kick a different person. I'm done. I'll do the best I can and that's about it. [I'm talking about] inner hurt. I'm physically, mentally done. I'm mentally drained. Tired of my kids crying." - March 23, 2005 on MLB. Bonds hit an untouchable 73 homers in 2001.
We were this close to putting Manny Ramirez on top, especially given his two positive tests amidst his post-Red Sox comeback. However, he immediately fell from the top-15 after we realized there were no statistics to prove his PED-use actually helped him.
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