Starting Pitcher: Edinson Volquez
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.
Middle Reliever: Brendan Donnelly
There’s something sort of sad about Brendan Donnelly. “Sad” might not be the right word—as a fan, you understand why.Don’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free
As a 30-year-old rookie, he had a starring role in an Angels pen that dominated throughout the regular season. Together with veteran closer Troy Percival, Scot Shields, and his bespectacled counterparts, rookie Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez and Ben Weber, Donnelly was part of a group that had a collective 2.98 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Donnelly had a nice little season himself: in 49.2 innings pitched, he only allowed 12 runs—good for a 2.17 ERA—while striking out 54. Pretty impressive for a guy who, only three years before, at the age of 27, had been pitching for the Nashua Pride in the independent Atlantic League.
Setup Man: John Rocker
If you were assembling a real team, one that had to actually take the field and win games, John Rocker would be the last player you’d want on it. Few ballplayers of the Steroid Era (or any era) were as polarizing as the lefty reliever. Actually, “polarizing” is the wrong word for John Rocker; it implies an equal division of opinions. After a December 1999 Sports Illustrated piece in which he went on a homophobic, racist, and sexist tirade to interviewer Jeff Pearlman, a better word for the erstwhile reliever lies somewhere between “embattled” and “abhorred.”
But we’re not assembling a real team here; we don’t have to worry about clubhouse cohesion or public opinion, and few known steroid users dominated out of the bullpen like John Rocker.
Closer: Eric Gagne
Eric Gagne broke in with the Dodgers as a starter in 1999. The young pitcher already had a checkered medical history, missing the entire 1997 minor league season for Tommy John surgery. His first three seasons in the majors were unremarkable. He went 11-14 with a 4.61 ERA, while struggling to stay healthy (just 101/151 IP in 2000–2001 after his 30-inning cup of coffee in ’99). To all observers, it seemed Eric Gagne lacked the durability to pitch in the major leagues.
But this was the Steroid Era; injury-plagued pitchers had alternative methods of prolonging their careers.
The All-Steroids Team:
- C: Todd Hundley
- 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
—Photo Andres Rueda/Flickr