1. Ken Griffey Jr: The best clean player of the Steroid Era, Griffey’s only performance enhancer was playing in the Kingdome.
2. Derek Jeter: Jose Canseco, of all people, said he was sure Jeter never used steroids. That’s good enough in my book. In an era of gaudy numbers, Jeter was, like Griffey, a throwback.
3-4. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine: If it ever emerges these guys took steroids, I think I’m done with baseball. That means, basically, everybody used, even groundskeepers. Then again, that seems unlikely, especially with Maddux and Glavine, two finesse pitchers with excellent longevity.
5. Albert Belle: A Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter recently asked Belle if he’d ever used steroids, as ‘roid rage could have explained his frequent emotional outbursts during his career. Belle replied, “I was just an angry black man.” Milton Bradley is going to get the chance to say the same thing in about ten years.
6. Ichiro Suzuki: Suzuki seems like another guy who belongs to another era, say 1910 (imagine how many more triples Suzuki would have got in the Deadball Era, when massive ballparks were standard.) At it stands, he’s perhaps the best hitter of this era, steroids or not. If I could have anyone from the last twenty years in my lineup, I might take Suzuki.
7. Omar Vizquel: I did a Google search on “Omar Vizquel steroids” to see if anything would come up. There were of course a few blogs speculating he had used, including one in Cleveland that said Vizquel “needs to go back on his 2002 steroid regimen,” a possible explanation for why he hit a career-high 14 home runs that year. That kind of sounds like sour grapes to me regarding Vizquel, an ex-Indian. But the top search result, a 2006 Yahoo! Sports article said Vizquel “quietly embodies everything the Steroid Era does not.” That sounds more apt.
8. Ben Grieve: I wish there were more stories out there like what follows about Grieve. A book I recently read, Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed, finds the former American League Rookie of the Year retired and angry at all the players who used and prospered, while he stayed clean, struggled with injuries and retired early. “I compare it to stealing money,” Grieve said via email in the book. “You are breaking the rules of baseball (as well as the law) in order to make money for yourself… I’m happy every time a player is accused because it demeans their accomplishments.”
9. Fred McGriff: There are a lot of recent baseball players who put up artificially inflated home run totals. McGriff is one of the few who probably did it naturally. He is tied with Lou Gehrig with 493 career home runs and never had the surreptitious spike in power numbers that typically accompanied steroid use, I.E. he didn’t bust out with 56 home runs in 1999. McGriff was a model of consistency in his 19-year career, and I’m a little surprised he hasn’t done better in the Hall of Fame vote (consider him a Veterans Committee pick waiting to happen, if nothing else.)
10. Rico Brogna: I racked my brain trying to come up with a tenth player, and got Brogna, who once told ESPN the Magazine that he considered using steroids late in his career when he was struggling with injuries but chose not to and quit playing shortly thereafter. In this era, that’s more believable than, “I only took it once.”
A lot of guys didn’t make the list, including Tony Gwynn. That might sound insane, but Gwynn put up some of his best slugging numbers late in his career, including in 1997 when he hit .372 with 17 home runs and 119 RBI at age 37. Granted, at 38, Ted Williams had the second-highest slugging percentage, of his career, .731, nearly 100 points above his lifetime rate, and I would bet he didn’t use steroids. Still, Williams had the luxury of not accomplishing his feat of ageless wonder at the zenith of the Steroid Era. These days, everyone’s a suspect.