The Steroids Era is headlined by great players who wanted to be immortal. But what about those guys who just wanted a quick taste of greatness and everything that comes with it?
For many baseball fans, Barry Bonds rounding the bases on a cold San Francisco night after crushing number 756 is the lasting image of the Steroid Era. For others, it’s the frozen rope to left McGwire hit off Steve Trachsel for number 62 in 1998, with rival Sammy Sosa sprinting in from right field to envelop him in a congratulatory hug.
For those who didn’t witness these events live, the word steroids conjures up images of Sosa, McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro sitting before members of Congress, pointing fingers, spouting half-truths, and deflecting blame.
These fallen icons, blackballed from the Hall with their legacies muddied, bear the burden of unofficial banishment from baseball. McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, Palmeiro—they were perennial All-Stars, many on the fast track to Cooperstown, who used PEDs to take their game to previously unimaginable heights. They’re the ones who blew it for everyone else, raising eyebrows as record after record swiftly fell. They couldn’t live with being merely great. For whatever reason—ego, narcissism, competitiveness—they wanted to be the best ever.
And the record setters were only half the story. We can’t forget the unsung contributors to the Steroid Era—the poor schmucks who nabbed obscene power numbers for a couple of seasons, then faded back into oblivion after a big payday. In some cases, players who had no business even being in the league were garnering MVP votes, all thanks to absurd amounts of PEDs and a complete lack of concern for any long-term health effects.
Numbers alone weren’t enough to qualify the players for this list. We looked for shockingly terrible pre-steroids years, precipitous drop-offs once testing started, and ignominious exits from the game when their bodies completely deteriorated. Bonus points if their steroid-inflated seasons occurred in their mid-30s, after an unremarkable 12 years in the league.
The strange thing is, we can identify with these guys. Sure, they had a cancerous effect on the great American pastime. But we think of impoverished Dominicans desperate to support their families, or borderline Major Leaguers pining for that big break, or veteran athletes with mediocre careers who dream of just one shot at stardom—and before we shake our heads in disgust, we marvel at their reckless abandon. …