All-Steroids Team: Edinson Volquez

If the All-Steroids team ever got together to actually play a real game, Edinson Volquez would throw the first pitch.

Thus far, every member of the All-Steroids team has come from what seems like another era: the raucous PED free-for-all of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There’s a reason for this: in 2005, Major League Baseball began testing for steroids and issuing suspensions to players found in violation of the league’s steroid policy. Each year since, they’ve caught several players using banned substances, with names ranging from unknowns to superstars.

Proponents of the new steroid policy claim it’s eradicating PEDs from the league. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Omitting an active player from this team would be a naïve misrepresentation of the prevalence of PEDs in the sport, even to this day. If randomized testing caught every player that used steroids, then players wouldn’t still be using in 2010. Why use steroids if you’re bound to get caught?

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Edinson Volquez perfectly fits the mold of the modern user. PEDs are advancing at least as fast as testing countermeasures, and MLB often must rely on the presence of other banned substances to weed out a ‘roider. This is how the league outed Volquez in 2010; the pitcher tested positive for a male fertility drug often used to artificially boost testosterone levels back to normal during steroid off-cycles.

After three disappointing seasons, the highly touted prospect saw his chances of making it big diminish with every start.

Volquez, of course, claimed he was using the drug to help start a family with his wife, an excuse used across the board by players who test positive for banned fertility drugs (see: Ramirez, Manny). Upon even cursory examination, this excuse doesn’t hold water. Every player is aware of the league’s banned substance list, and an honest need for a fertility drug could have been accommodated. The league gives out therapeutic use exemptions to players who actually need the drugs.

Volquez never applied for a TUE for his testosterone-booster. And why would he? Applying for a TUE would’ve singled him out for further testing, and the last thing a modern ‘roider wants is further testing.

It’s difficult, however, to find fault with what Volquez did. Many players from the Dominican Republic see baseball as a means to escape poverty and build a better life for their families. After three disappointing seasons, the highly touted prospect saw his chances of making it big diminish with every start. The young fireballer was brought up and sent down to the minors—even as far down as single-A ball—every year from 2005 to 2007. Eventually, the Texas Rangers shipped him to Cincinnati for another high-risk player: Josh Hamilton (we hear that guy’s doing pretty well now).

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All of a sudden, Volquez became unhittable upon arriving in Cincy. He made the team out of spring training. In his first nine starts in 2008, he went 7-1 with a 1.33 ERA. He was elected to the All-Star game, and optimistic Reds fans saw a prospect finally reaching his potential. After all, the kid was still just 24. He ended up going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA on the season, along with 206 strikeouts, showing all the hallmarks of a future ace.

Volquez’s story then took an all-too-familiar twist: a devastating injury the year after a career season. Volquez managed only nine starts in 2009, undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in June of that year. In January of 2010, Volquez tested positive for the banned substance and was hit with a 50-game suspension.

This spring, Edinson Volquez is attempting a career rebound after some promising starts to end the 2010 season. We wish him the best of luck, but if he washes out of spring training, or gets hit with another substance abuse suspension, there’s no one we’d rather pencil in to take the mound for the All-Steroids Team.

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More From the All-Steroids Team:

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—Photo AP

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About Will Trueheart

Will Trueheart grew up outside Boston and helped the Red Sox win a World Series title by developing borderline OCD and maintaining an absurdly strict game-watching ritual for a couple of weeks in October 2004. After this, he decided he had accomplished all he could in New England and moved out West to attend Stanford University. A year after his graduation, Will has been unable to pry himself from California despite repeated pleas from the Red Sox front office for him to return.

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