Many players who were suspected of using steroids during the 1990s and 2000s have been failing to earn enough recognition to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and many other players from this era also have also been affected. Fallout from this era, that implicated many of the period’s major stars, has made the public question many of the accomplishments in this tainted time.
Whether its a couple of guys who were big stars in thin air of Colorado or a player who followed Barry Bonds in the lineup, the association with players who have been suspected of using steroids, has seemingly diminished the value of many accomplishments that were made in this era.
Pitchers might have been affected the most. They had to battle line ups full of suspected steroid users, overcome the effects of throwing what were perceived to be juiced balls and compensate for the lack of being able to effectively throw inside. Imagine getting through lineups with greater ease and taking away a few home runs each year and many earned run averages would be significantly improved.
The following list of 20 underrated MLB players contains players whose accomplishments seem to have been diminished in due in large part to the accusations of rampant steroid abuse. Although none of these players were proven to be completely clean, their accomplishments are quite substantial and too significant to overlook, leaving them underrated.
20. Kenny Lofton
In an era that saw many players put up some incredible power numbers, Kenny Lofton probably didn’t gain enough recognition for the numbers that he put up. Lofton only hit 130 home runs in his 17-year MLB career, but hitting the long ball was never really a big part of his game.
Lofton ended up scoring 1,528 runs, while stealing 622 bases to get in better position to score, and batting .299 throughout his career. Lofton stole over 50 bases in a season six times in his career, leading the American league five times between 1992-1996. On top of his prowess at the plate and on the base paths, Lofton also won the Gold Glove Award four times. Lofton had 13 triples in 1995, 210 hits in 1996 and hit .349 in 1994. Looking back at this era where most power numbers were inflated, Lofton’s accomplishments are quite respectable.
19. Andres Galarraga
Andres Galarraga (“The Big Cat”) was a very popular Venezuelan first baseman who came into the game already possessing great size and cat-like quickness. His accomplishments were overshadowed by the accomplishments of players who were suspected of using steroids. Galarraga still had some highly productive seasons and was well liked on and off the field.
Galarraga finished his 19-year MLB career with a .288 batting average, 399 home runs, 444 doubles and 1,425 RBI. He even had a .499 slugging percentage and even managed to steal 128 bases throughout his career. Galarraga batted .370 in 1993 and had a terrific season in 1996 with 47 home runs and 150 RBI. Many people discredit his power numbers because the bulk of his production occurred as a member of the Colorado Rockies. The 5-time All-Star and 2-time Gold Glove Award winner was no stranger to striking out, amassing 2,003 of them throughout his career.
18. Mike Mussina
Mike Mussina was one of the most consistent pitchers of this era, finishing his career with at least 11 wins in an incredible 17 straight seasons. Mussina’s great consistency on the mound was not limited to just throwing strikes. He was a great fielder as well and a 7-time Gold Glove Award winner. Mussina pitched for the Orioles and Yankees, making the AL All-Star squad on five different occasions.
In just his second season in the big leagues, Mussina finished with a solid 18-5 record and 2.54 ERA, while logging 8 complete games. He ended his career with a 270-153 record and 3.68 ERA, while starting in 537 games. Mussina was very durable, logging over 200 innings of work in nine consecutive seasons (1995-2003). He never won the Cy Young Award, but came in the top 6 of voting in nine separate seasons. In his last MLB season with the Yankees, Mussina had one of his best seasons finishing with a 20-9 record and 3.37 ERA.
17. Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling battled injuries throughout his career and probably would have had less respectable numbers if he wasn’t such a warrior. His 11-2 postseason record (.846 winning percentage) is evidence to his ability to overcome pain and perform on a big stage. Schilling was a power pitcher who had great control to go along with a nasty split-finger fastball as his out pitch.
Schilling finished his career with a 216-146 record, topping 20 wins in a season three times. He topped 300 strikeouts in 1997, 1998 and 2002, while never having more than 61 walks in any season. He had a career ERA of 3.46, and had a wicked 2.35 ERA in 1992. Schilling came in 2nd place for Cy Young voting on three separate occasions, failing to win the award despite a 22-6 season with a 2.98 ERA, 293 strikeouts and 256.2 innings pitched in 2001. In 1998, Schilling had 15 complete games and 268.2 innings of work, proving his great endurance and ability to finish games.
16. Joe Carter
Joe Carter was a solid athletic outfielder and first baseman who was very adept at getting base runners across home plate. Carter exceeded 100 RBI in ten seasons while also belting over 20 home runs in twelve seasons. Carter was a complete offensive player who could also steal a few bases and get across home plate himself.
Carter finished his career with 396 home runs, 432 doubles, 1,445 RBI, 1,170 runs scored, 231 stolen bases and a .259 career batting average. Carter received enough recognition to be a 5-time all-star and was an integral part of two World Series championship teams with the Toronto Blue Jays. He enjoyed highs of 121 RBI (twice), a .302 batting average, 31 stolen bases and 35 home runs. Although he didn’t put up the gaudiest numbers, Carter played in at least 150 games nine times in his career. He was a solid offensive player who could contribute at the plate and on the base paths.
15. Will Clark
A throwback to the early days of baseball, Will Clark was a rather slight first baseman for his era who compensated for the lack of bulk by having one of the sweetest swings around. Clark was a terrific hitter who would be one of the last players to ever consder a steroid user. He was a gritty player who could hit for average and hit occasional home runs.
Clark finished his career with a .303 batting average, a .384 on base percentage and .497 slugging percentage. He enjoyed a fast start with the San Francisco Giants, hitting over 500 RBI in his first five full seasons of play. A string of injuries limited Clark’s effectiveness during the later part of the 1990s, but his fast start earned him the nickname, “The Thrill.” He finished his career with 284 home runs, 1,186 runs scored, 1,205 RBI and 440 doubles having hit at least .300 in ten of his fifteen MLB seasons. Clark remains underrated due in large part to his home run total that doesn’t measure up to many of the bulked up players of his era.
14. Jeff Kent
Jeff Kent was hardly a household name until he was united with one of the most recognized players of the steroids era. Batting behind Barry Bonds, Kent was able to get some pitches to hit and managed to take advantage of his opportunities. This combination worked well for the Giants and Kent, helping him hit over 100 RBI in six consecutive seasons.
Kent finished his career as the all-time leader in home runs for a second baseman. Despite his deficiencies in the field, Kent was one of the best hitting second basemen of all-time. He finished with a .290 career batting average, 377 home runs and 1,518 RBI. In 2000, Kent won the NL MVP award after finishing the season with 114 runs scored, 125 RBI, 33 home runs and a .334 batting average. He also had an outstanding .596 slugging percentage and .424 on base percentage. Perhaps due to in part to his time spent with Bonds, Kent became an advocate for HGH testing in MLB following the end of his career.
13. Dwight Gooden
Dwight Gooden came into the league as one of the most promising pitchers of the era. Problems with illegal substances and alcohol as well as various health issues combined to derail Gooden’s career. After starting right out of the gate with a 17-9 season, 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts, Gooden was an instant superstar. This stardom combined with a heavy workload more than likely contributed to his drug use and various ailments.
In his first three MLB seasons, Gooden registered 35 complete games, had a 58-19 record, 744 strikeouts and 13 shutouts in 744.2 innings pitched. He earned the Rookie of the Year honors, the NL Cy Young Award and a Triple Crown for pitchers during this time. In 1985, Gooden had a monster season with a 24-4 record, 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts while pitching in 276.2 innings. In 1996, Gooden became a member of the New York Yankees, struggling to achieve the same level of success in the American League. He finished his career with a 194-112 record, 3.51 ERA and 2,293 strikeouts in 2,800.2 innings pitched.
12. Albert Belle
Albert Belle’s career only spanned 12 MLB seasons, but it was certainly long enough to make an impact on the game. Belle had run ins with the media, fans and league office, but there was no denying his special talents on the field. The only player to ever hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season, Belle also had nine seasons with over 100 RBI. He was one of the most consistent power hitters of the era.
Belle finished his career with a .295 batting average, .564 slugging percentage, 381 home runs, 389 doubles, 1,239 RBI and 974 runs scored. In Belle’s magical 1995 season, he batted .317, scored 121 runs and had 126 RBI in addition to hitting 52 doubles and 50 home runs. Belle had four seasons with a slugging percentage of over .600. Belle was a 5-time All-Star and led the AL in RBI in 1993, 1995 and 1996. His nasty disposition with the media and incidents with fans along with his less than lengthy career helped overshadow his accomplishments, making him underrated.
11. Moises Alou
Moises Alou was a 6-time All-Star, twice came in 3rd place for the NL MVP voting (1994 and 1998), and was a World Series champion in 1997 as a member of the Florida Marlins, but he still hasn’t seemed to get the same attention as a good number of his peers. Alou finished his career with a solid .303 batting average and a .516 slugging percentage.
In fact, some of Alou’s season-best numbers are quite impressive. He batted .355 for the Houston Astros in 2000, scored 106 runs for the Cubs in 2004, had 124 RBI in 1998 and clubbed 39 home runs in 2004. He hit over .300 in eight different seasons and hit over 20 home runs in nine different seasons. Alou was a good outfielder and difficult batter to strike out, finishing with only 894 strikeouts in 17 seasons. Alou finished his career with 1,287 RBI, 1,109 runs scored, 332 home runs and 421 doubles. Alou’s numbers and popularity might have been greater if he could have played in more than 150 games in a season, a feat he accomplished only four times in his MLB career.
10. Edgar Martinez
It is somewhat of a shame that a player who had a .312 career batting average has not received enough votes to make it into the Hall of Fame. Martinez spent his entire career with the Seattle Mariners and probably flew under the radar in Seattle due in large part to the team’s overall lack of success. For his part, Martinez did appear in seven All-Star games, was a 2-time AL batting champion and did win five Silver Slugger Awards.
Since most of his production came as a designated hitter, Martinez will probably continue to get a little less consideration for the Hall of Fame. He is still the only designated hitter to ever win a batting title (hit .356 in 1999) and some of his numbers, like his ridiculous .479 on base percentage in 1995, are worthy of more consideration. Martinez finished his career with 1,219 runs, 1,261 RBI, 514 doubles and 309 home runs to go along with his very respectable .312 batting average. He scored 121 runs scored in two different seasons and had a season with 145 RBI in which he also clubbed 37 home runs. Martinez finished his career with a hard to overlook .418 on base percentage and equally impressive .515 slugging percentage.
9. Jim Edmonds
Jim Edmonds really came into his own in 1995 after he scored 120 runs, hit 33 home runs and had 107 RBI. Despite his offensive prowess, what really made Edmonds special was his play in center field where he earned plenty of recognition with eight Gold Glove Awards. One of the best center fielders of his time, Edmonds was also a pretty accomplished hitter.
Edmonds finished his career with a .284 batting average, 1,251 runs scored, 393 home runs (for a center fielder!), 437 doubles and 1,199 RBI. Despite his ability to cover ground in the outfield, Edmonds only stole 67 bases throughout his career and was caught stealing 50 times. It was his power at the plate that was more impressive as Edmonds topped 24 home runs in ten different seasons. In 2000, Edmonds scored 129 runs, hit 42 home runs, had 108 RBI and had a .411 on base percentage to come in 4th place in the AL MVP voting. Nice numbers for a player who could routinely make amazing over the shoulder catches in center field.
8. John Smoltz
John Smoltz was the Dennis Eckersley of this era, but might have been more dominant. Smoltz could be untouchable on any given night whether as a starter or coming out of the bullpen late in a game. Despite missing a full season of play in 2000 and spending four seasons in the bullpen, Smoltz still won 213 games, while also finishing his career with over 3,000 strikeouts.
What made Smoltz so special is that he had two incredible seasons that defined his versatility. As a starter in 1996, Smoltz went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA, 276 strikeouts, 253.2 innings pitched and NL Cy Young Award as well. In 2003, as a reliever, Smoltz had 45 saves in 62 appearances with 73 strikeouts, only 8 walks, and an outstanding 1.12 ERA. Smoltz finished his career with a 213-155 record, 3.33 ERA and with 3,084 strikeouts in 3,473 innings pitched. In his prime, Smoltz had only one season with an ERA over 4.0 (4.14 in 1994) and won the Cy Young Award in 1996.
7. Mike Piazza
When he was in his prime, Mike Piazza was considered one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. In 16 MLB seasons, Piazza finished with 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, 1,048 runs scored and a .308 batting average. Piazza came from nowhere to be the NL Rookie of the Year in 1993 and a 12-time All-Star throughout his illustrious career.
Piazza holds the record for most home runs hit by a catcher with 427, but there are many people who believe he was as much a part of steroids as Barry Bonds. From his rookie season on, Piazza batted over .300 in eight consecutive seasons. He had over 100 RBI in six of his MLB seasons and hit over 30 home runs in nine different seasons. He even finished his career with a .545 slugging percentage. Piazza finished his career with nine Silver Slugger Awards to go along with his 12 All-Star nominations. Although he never won the MVP Award, he was at least considered to be in the top 10 of the NL’s best players on seven different occasions.
6. Larry Walker
Larry Walker has been more of a victim of the thin Colorado air than a suspect in the MLB steroids scandal. He might never get the credit for being a great .313 career hitter because of his many years spent playing for the Colorado Rockies. Walker batted .350 or better in four MLB seasons. He could get on base (.400 career on base percentage) and crush the ball as well (.565 slugging percentage). If that wasn’t enough, Walker could steal some bases (230 career steals) and even play some good defense.
Walker had all the tools and used them to put up some gaudy numbers. He finished his career with 383 home runs, 471 doubles, 1,355 runs scored, 1,311 RBI and even 62 triples. Walker hit 49 home runs in 1997, winning the NL MVP award while also finishing with 143 runs scored, a .452 on base percentage and ridiculous .720 slugging percentage. Walker’s resume includes three NL batting titles, seven Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards and five All-Star nominations. Pretty good numbers for a guy who played about 70% of the games in his career outside of Colorado.
5. Fred McGriff
Fred the “Crime Dog” McGriff quietly went about his business of being one of the best first basemen of this era. McGriff had a productive career in which he hit 34 home runs early in his career in 1988 as well as 30 home runs near the end of his career in 2002. He managed to have great consistency throughout his career and was never accused of using steroids.
McGriff finished his career with 493 home runs, just 7 short of 500, and 1,550 RBI. He had a respectable .284 career batting average and a .509 slugging percentage as well. McGriff also had 2,490 hits in his 19-year MLB career and managed to score 1,349 runs once he got on base. He was a mercenary of sorts who ended up playing for seven different teams, batting .303 in 50 postseason appearances. McGriff eclipsed the 100 RBI mark in eight different seasons and had at least 30 home runs in ten different seasons. He was able to play in over 140 games in 14 of his 19 MLB seasons. In an era where many numbers have been given an asterisk, McGriff fared quite well. Also, he had the best nickname in baseball history.
4. Juan Gonzalez
Juan Gonzalez was implicated of using steroids in a book by Jose Canseco and caught with a bag that contained banned substances, but he has denied using them. It is hard not to give credit to the 2-time AL MVP who belted at least 40 home runs in five different seasons. Gonzalez was easily one of the most productive power hitters of the era, but the least talked about by far.
Gonzalez finished his career with 1,404 RBI, 434 home runs, 1,061 runs scored and a .295 batting average. He had a terrific slugging percentage of .561. In one of his MVP seasons in 1998, Gonzalez finished with a .318 batting average, 110 runs scored, 50 doubles, 45 home runs and 157 RBI. In four consecutive seasons between 1996-1999, Gonzalez had a total of 560 RBI and 173 home runs. He won six Silver Slugger Awards and was a 3-time All-Star throughout his career. Despite all the power numbers, Gonzalez probably hasn’t received as much attention because he only played in 15 postseason games.
3. Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield cleared a major hurdle on his way to Cooperstown (509 career home runs), but his induction might not be such a sure thing. Sheffield took 22 years to reach his home run total as well as his RBI total of 1,676. Despite many controversies throughout his career and being named in the Mitchell report for MLB steroid abuse, Sheffield had a very productive major league career.
In addition to topping the 500 home run mark, Sheffield also had 1,676 RBI, 1,636 runs scored, 467 doubles and a .292 career batting average. He batted at least .300 or better in nine different seasons, while topping a combined 100 runs scored and 100 RBI six times. Sheffield hit over 30 home runs in eight different seasons. Sheffield had the ability to not only knock in runs, but get on board and across home plate as evidenced by his career .393 on base percentage and .514 slugging percentage. He was selected to be an All-Star nine times and won the Silver Slugger Award five times. In 1996, Sheffield batted .314 with a .465 on base percentage, 42 home runs, 118 runs scored and 120 RBI, but only came in sixth place in NL MVP voting.
2. Rafael Palmeiro
Rafael Palmiero’s statistics will forever be tainted due to MLB’s steroid scandals and his perceived involvement. He is a player who had over 3,000 hits (3,020), 500 home runs (569) and 1,800 RBI (1,835) during a solid 20-year MLB career. Yet his inclusion in the Mitchell report as well as being called out in a book by Jose Canseco, have hurt his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.
Palmiero was always an offensive threat throughout his career, batting .288 and scoring 1,663 runs in addition to having the ability to knock them in. Palmiero had 38 or more home runs in nine consecutive seasons between 1995-2003, while also tallying over 100 RBI in each of those nine seasons. Even if steroids inflated his power numbers, he was still a very consistent hitter who hit .324, had a .420 on base percentage and .630 slugging percentage to go along with 47 home runs and 148 RBI in 1999. In 1992, Palmiero even stole 22 bases on his way to scoring a career high 124 runs. Palmiero even won three Gold Glove Awards and was a good defensive player at first base. So, as much as we should disregard some of his power numbers, there’s no denying that he was a great hitter who’s underrated.
1. Craig Biggio
Craig Biggio was a baseball player who could do it all. He started as a catcher, played a little center field and eventually found a home at second base on his way to cranking out 3,060 hits as a member of the Houston Astros. Biggio was a tremendous athlete who could bunt to get on first base or stretch singles into doubles as evidenced by his career mark of 668 doubles. He should eventually find his way into the Hall of Fame but he failed to make it on his first ballot despite having a typical prerequisite, 3,000 plus career hits.
Biggio finished his career with 1,844 runs scored, 1,175 RBI, a .281 career batting average and even 414 stolen bases. Despite changing his position several times throughout his career, Biggio still managed to be recognized with four Gold Glove Awards. The gritty Astro was also known for leaning in at the plate (hit by pitches 285 times) and having the dirtiest batting helmet around. Biggio also had enough power to club 291 career home runs and even holds the NL record for most home runs to lead off a game with 50. His numbers are mind boggling, his play in the field was mesmerizing and his prowess on the base paths was terrorizing for any opponent. For now, Biggio is easily the most underrated player in baseball.
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