Todd Hundley came out of nowhere for two record-breaking years. Then he fell back off the map, eventually landing on the Mitchell Report.
The choice for backstop was a tough one, with a number of good candidates. Should we choose Benito Santiago, who had never hit more than 20 home runs in a season before exploding for 30 in 1996, at age 31? Or Javy Lopez, another known ’roider, who holds the single-season home-run record for catchers with 42? We ultimately passed both of these players over, as both were All-Stars before artificial enhancement, and both continued to be useful hitters after their breakout seasons.
Todd Hundley is a different story. He came up with the Mets at age 23 as a much-heralded prospect, but during his first years in the majors, showed little power and even less promise. Battling injuries and struggling to maintain consistency at the plate, Hundley’s first four seasons as an everyday player look like this (he had limited at-bats as a backup in ’90 and ’91):
Home run totals of seven, 11, 16, and 15 in his first four years as a starter are certainly not the marks of a power hitter about to emerge as an MVP candidate. Hundley appeared headed for an average career as a useful player, but not someone to build your lineup around. The next two years, however, saw Hundley set the single-season record for homers for a catcher (broken by Lopez eight years later) and emerge as one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Hundley more than doubled his career highs in home runs and RBIs in his seventh year in the majors—at the same time baseball was entering the heart of the Steroid Era. Are you kidding me? A guy who had only had an OPS over .750 once in his career rips off back-to-back .900 OPS seasons?
The obvious argument to make: Hundley did have his career years at ages 27 and 28, generally considered a ballplayer’s prime. And it is true that his first six years in the majors saw his average and slugging improve each season.
But the remainder of his career put to rest any doubts that this guy was ‘roided out of his mind in ’96–’97. He was plagued by injuries as his body broke down under the stress of unnaturally added muscle mass, and he never hit 25 home runs again, while only topping 55 RBIs once after 1998. After back-to-back All-Star appearances in ’96 and ’97, he was never selected again; he only topped 100 games once, and left the game in 2003 after going 6 for 33 with 13 strikeouts in 21 appearances as a backup.
When the Mitchell Report came out, it was no surprise to find Todd Hundley featured prominently as not only a user, but also as someone who brought other players into the steroid fold. According to the report, Hundley introduced PEDs to teammates Paul Lo Duca and Chris Donnels after a trade to the Dodgers.
Steroids made, then destroyed, Hundley’s career. This sort of legendary steroid abuse, coupled with awful drug-free years, left him as a mere afterthought in the annals of baseball has-beens.
But it earned him the catcher’s spot on the All-Steroids team.
More From the All-Steroids Team:
- 1B: Phil Nevin
- 2B: Bret Boone
- SS: Rich Aurilia
- 3B: Ken Caminiti
- OF: Gary Matthews, Jr.
- OF: Brady Anderson
- OF: Jay Gibbons
- UTIL: Jay Bell
- DH: David Ortiz
- SP: Edinson Volquez
- MRP: Brendan Donnelly
- SU: John Rocker
- CL: Eric Gagne
—Stats via Baseball-Reference.com