With baseball in full swing at training camps in Arizona and Florida, and the news today that tennis star Maria Sharapova failed a drug test at this year's Australian Open, we figured this would be a good time to unveil our first-ever baseball All-Drug Team.
Sure, there was a Duke-North Carolina game this weekend, Peyton Manning officially retired as a Super Bowl champion (we pray the Al Jazeera report about Manning taking Human Growth Hormone isn't true), and the Lakers beat the Warriors in what ESPN calls the greatest upset in NBA history (figuring win-loss records), but since there's not a lot to say about any of those specific topics, we decided to go with the drug cheats. It's an absolute shame that no one seems to care about this anymore, especially when in most cases, players were deliberately trying to fool people and get an unfair advantage. It worked, too, with many players following up their suspensions with multi-year deals in the megamillions of dollars.
Before we get to our lists, a note about Sharapova. She reportedly tested positive for Meldonium, which according to Wikipedia is used for heart issues in Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia, but has not been clinically approved in the United States. In reports about Sharapova, the drug was not banned by the sport of tennis until this year, and Sharapova had been taking it for over a decade. Not exactly Marion Jones or Lance Armstrong-type stuff, but certainly not defending her here, this may be the best use of the 'I didn't know it was illegal' defense. She has been suspended indefinitely.
Now, back to baseball. We have two All-PED teams for you. First, the current players, and then, the All-timers. We wanted to call it the Hall of Fame team, but that would be cruel since they can't get in because they cheated. Here goes...
Current Team: Infield—Chris Davis (Baltimore) 1B, Everth Cabrera (San Diego) 2B, Alex Rodriguez (NY Yankees) 3B, and Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis) SS. In 2014, Davis was suspended 25 games for Adderall. He denied any misuse, but then apologized before serving his suspension. He just signed a seven year, 161-million dollar deal with the Orioles... Cabrera is a shortstop, but did play a little second base in San Diego, so we moved him there to make room for Peralta. Both were suspended for 50 games on the same day in 2013 for their involvement in Biogenesis—a lab where they received the performance-enhancing drugs.. We'll have more on Rodriguez later... Peralta just got hurt, and is going to miss some significant time, so Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis can fill in. He was suspended for 50 games in 2012.
Outfield—Ryan Braun (Milwaukee) LF, Melky Cabrera (Chicago White Sox) CF, Marlon Byrd (unsigned free agent) RF. It was Braun who won the MVP in 2011, then had the gall to assault anyone who questioned his steroid use when a report came out in 2012. He claimed the FedEx guy messed with his urine sample and almost got away with it. But in 2013, the 'Hebrew Hammer' (his nickname according to baseball-reference.com) was suspended for the final 65 games of the season, and he admitted his guilt... Cabrera was perhaps the only player who was actually vilified by his teammates upon returning. He was an All-Star for the Giants in 2012, but banned for the final 50 regular season games. He was eligible for the post-season, but the Giants players told him to take a hike. He signed a multi-million dollar deal with Toronto in the off season... Many may have forgotten that Byrd got a 50-game ban just about six weeks before Cabrera. He played for the Cubs and Red Sox that year... For outfield depth, we give you Cameron Maybin (25 games with the Padres in 2014) and rookie Abraham Almonte of Cleveland, who just received a 50-game ban this week. It's always nice to know the farm system is producing quality talent.
Designated Hitter—Nelson Cruz (Seattle). He's another one of those guys that turned a 50-game suspension for cheating while with Texas in 2013 into a four-year, 57 million dollar deal with the Mariners. He did have to suffer and only get four million for one year in Baltimore first.
Catcher—Yasmani Grandal (LA Dodgers). He got a 50-game suspension while with the Padres in 2012. Francisco Cervelli, who is currently with the Pirates can be Grandal's backup (50 games in 2013), and Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies can be the emergency third catcher. He received a 25-game ban in 2012.
Starting pitching—Like many scouts, we looked high and low for a key lefty and couldn't find one. The top three in the rotation is pretty formidable, though, with Edinson Volquez (Kansas City), Ervin Santana (Minnesota), and Bartolo Colon (NY Mets). People have forgotten about Colon's 50-game ban with the A's in 2012, because he's this lovable 245-pound right hander that got the Opening Day start in New York last year at the age of 41. He still cheated.
Relief Pitching—The setup role goes to Antonio Bastardo (NY Mets). He was one of the Biogenesis group with the Phillies in 2015. And the closer (drum role please), is Jenrry Mejia (NY Mets). He is the first to get completely kicked out of baseball with three positive tests. He failed the third one while on suspension for the first two! That's the way to end a list.
All-Time Team: Infield—Mark McGwire 1B, Brian Roberts 2B, Alex Rodriguez 3B, Miguel Tejada SS. Everyone knew McGwire had Sequoias for arms, but his 70 home runs in 1998 was credited for saving baseball, so he got a pass. Being allowed to be a hitting instructor is criminal, though... Roberts beat out Neifi Perez for the second base job. Perez got 80 games in 2007, but Roberts had a better career. Roberts was not suspended but was named as a steroid user in a federal affadavit... Rodriguez is the only guy that makes both teams, so he'll have to change uniforms between innings if these two sides ever play an exhibition game. A-Rod defiantly told NBC's Katie Couric that he never took steroids, and then was suspended for the entire 2014 season. We wanted Alex as the all-time shortstop, but had to shift him to make room for Tejada. Tejada, while with Kansas City, was suspended for 105 games just two weeks after the Biogenis group, including Rodriguez, went down.
Outfield—Barry Bonds LF, Sammy Sosa CF, Manny Ramirez RF. The home run king (asterisk or not) deserves to stay in his left field spot. Sosa played some center with the Cubs so he goes there, and Manny, mostly a left fielder, moves to right. All kinds of great stories here. Bonds was indicted, Sosa was never proven to have used, but everyone, including Hall of Fame voters thinks he did, and Ramirez was suspended twice—50 games with the Dodgers in 2009, and 100 games in 2011. Ramirez retired instead of serving the hundred-gamer, but wanted to come back, so he served the suspension after signing with Oakland. Man-Ram, though, never played in an A's uniform.
Designated Hitter—Rafael Palmeiro. Many people forget, but he actually did get suspended ten days in 2005. Palmeiro was the one who testified in front of Congress with Sosa and others, but suddenly didn't understand English when asked a direct question. Palmeiro hit 569 home runs in his career—twelfth on the all-time list.
Catcher—Eliezer Alfonzo. It took a lot of digging, but we found someone that truly belongs, otherwise Hall of Fame-Elect Mike Piazza was going to have to go here. Piazza has never been formally accused of PED use, but his size had former players suggest he was juicing. Alfonzo was suspended for 48 games in 2011 while with Colorado. It was originally 100 games, but he got the suspension reduced. That was about the most successful thing he did in his career. He was a lifetime .240 hitter in 193 games over six seasons.
Starting pitching—Roger Clemens RHP, Andy Pettitte LHP. Everyone thinks Clemens was 'roid-raging when he threw a piece of a bat at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series. He also had the audacity to challenge the world about his PED use, and got his ass dragged in front of Congress because of it. Pettitte was cited in the infamous 'Mitchell Report' in the early 2000s, and later admitted using Human Growth Hormone. At one point, he made the admission, but also said he only used it for two days. Liar.
Relief Pitching—Former Dodger and Giant Guillermo Mota gets the setup role. Mota gets esteemed status for being suspended twice. He got 50 games as a Met in 2006, and then 100 as a Giant in 2012. You need a guy in the bullpen that can do things well repeatedly. And finally, the closer was never suspended for steroid use, but think about this. Neither was Bonds, and most people generally believe his all time home run record is tainted. Eric Gagne converted a major league record 84 consecutive save opportunities from 2002 to 2004, but was also named in the 'Mitchell Report' as a steroid user. Gagne later admitted to using HGH in 2010, and also alleged that “80 percent” of his Dodger teammates used steroids. He never mentioned names.
There you have it. There are dozens of other players not mentioned here, but most didn't have careers that were worth mentioning anyway. Play ball.
National Anthem: Google is a wonderful thing. If these two teams did play an exhibition game, we'd need someone to sing the Star Spangled Banner. In a list by styleblazer.com in 2013 of the top celebrities accused of or rumored to be using steroids, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Fifty-Cent, and Danny Bonaduce came up (Bonaduce was a member of the Partridge Family, so he can sing, right?). That would be an interesting way to get this party started.
Ceremonial First Pitch: No accusations here. Donnie Baseball was one of the game's all-time great left handed hitters, but former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly loves having steroid guys around. McGwire was his hitting coach in LA, and now that Mattingly is managing in Miami, he has hired Bonds as his hitting instructor. Both McGwire and Bonds should be behind the plate for that ceremonial first toss.
Manager/President/Commissioner/Owner: We almost forgot, and what a glaring omission that would be. He was never suspended for steroid use, but outed himself, and threw a whole bunch of people under the bus with him when he wrote a book called Juiced in 2005. He later said that everyone should take steroids. He is the man, the legend, and the godfather of steroids. Of course, that would be Jose Canseco.