Bret Boone was a star for four seasons in Seattle. Then his career and his life began to crumble.
According to admitted steroid user José Canseco, the interaction was brief—fleeting, almost.
In passing, Canseco had complimented Mariners second baseman Bret Boone on his freshly chiseled physique.
“Shhh, don’t tell anyone,” Boone responded.
I can picture the interaction perfectly: the knowing wink; maybe Canseco gives him a playful punch on the arm. Welcome to the club. Now you’re one of us. Trust me, it’s friggin’ sweet.
Boone is one of the many steroid users “outed” by Canseco in his controversial book Juiced, published over six years ago. While Canseco’s intentions and character often come into question, the book’s value to the steroid debate cannot be overstated, as Canseco offered an insider’s point of view to what many on the outside had suspected of players like Bret Boone.
Boone, Canseco writes, with his “small frame and big arms,” was an “obvious” user.
The statistics, of course, further indict Boone. For most of his career, he had been a solid second baseman with decent pop. From 1992 to 2000, his average season was, well, average—.255, with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs. If genetics predicted baseball performance, it fell right in line with the average season of his grandfather, Ray, and brother, Aaron. Ray Boone, over the course of his 13-year career, averaged a .275-18-87 line, and Aaron came in at .263-18-78 while playing for six different ball clubs.
But then, in 2001, as the new 32-year-old second baseman on the Mariners’ record-setting 116-win team, Boone became arguably their biggest offensive threat. Call it the year of the (enhanced) middle infielder—like Rich Aurilia, who suddenly slugged 37 home runs as the San Francisco Giants’ shortstop, Boone mashed 37 bombs (playing home games in Safeco Field’s spacious confines), with a whopping 141 RBIs, all while hitting a robust .331.
He would go on to average a .275-30-108 line over his next three seasons.
Then, following the 2004 season, Major League Baseball finally began putting together a testing program in earnest.
Coincidentally, his career went into a tailspin. He hit .231-7-34 in the first half of the 2005 season, before the Mariners designated him for assignment. He tried to catch on with the Twins, but wound up hitting .170 over 14 games.
At 36 years of age, Bret Boone’s career was over.
Boone’s story doesn’t end there. He attempted futile comebacks with the Mets and Nationals; around the same time, he started to hit the bottle. Hard.
According to Washington Post writer Dave Sehinin, “By the spring of 2006, alcohol had gone from being a harmless postgame tradition to a seemingly minor liability to a full-blown, wreck-your-life addiction that had Boone sometimes sucking down 10 or 12 beers after a game.”
The monotony and boredom that accompanies everyday life after retirement can become both depressing and unbearable. After all, in what other career are people considered “washed up” in their late thirties?
“Your whole life, [baseball] is … not exactly what defines you—but it’s all I’ve done my whole life,” explained Boone. “You’re Bret Boone, the second baseman, and all of a sudden you’re not that guy anymore.”
Boone’s struggle to come to terms with his departure from the game further illustrates why some players turn to performance enhancers at certain points in their career. For many, it’s the only way to prolong a love and way of life that, all of a sudden, is fading and flickering before their eyes.
More From the All-Steroids Team:
- C: Todd Hundley
- 1B: Phil Nevin
- 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