SEAN MCGINLY

SPORTS

Aside from movies my other great loves are food and sports, specifically baseball.  Maybe one day I'll write an essay about food but so far I haven't had any ideas. However, I recently had this idea for an essay about baseball.  I say it in the essay but I just want to reiterate it here: this is just an exercise for me. I'm speculating wildly and making some pretty big assumptions and allegations. Still, I thought it was a fun idea and I spent hours looking up all this data so I wanted to post it here. 



A HIGHLY SPECULATIVE LOOKS AT STEROIDS AND AWARDS IN BASEBALL


Obviously, steroids and other PED’s have had an enormous impact on baseball.  There are a lot of arguments about this.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece for the New Yorker a while back where he asked if certain genetic advantages aren’t perhaps more unfair than any advantage that could be gained through the use of drugs.  I think he makes some good points. 


I understand how someone might find themselves using steroids or other PED’s, especially if they’re in an environment where they feel like these drugs are being used widely.  I had a handful of acquaintances in the early to mid 90’s who played minor league baseball and a couple who even had a cup of coffee in the majors. I was surprised at the time when these men told me that steroids were rampant in professional baseball.  The number I heard from several different people was that 70-75% of the players were using.  I thought this must be an exaggeration but now I’m not so sure.


Anyway, I understand how someone could find themselves using steroids and even feeling like it was a necessity to remain competitive in an atmosphere where the use of steroids was perhaps something close to endemic. However, I always find myself thinking about the guys who, even in this climate, didn’t use. 


I have no idea if the number I mentioned above, 70-75%, is correct, but let’s say it is.  That leaves 25-30% of players who managed to resist the temptation.  Maybe some of them were so good that they didn’t need to.  Perhaps others didn’t do it because it was unlawful and eventually illegal under the rules of baseball.  Others were probably scared of possible health risks.  But I feel certain that there were players who didn’t use steroids because it just felt too much like cheating.  These guys were robbed; of career longevity, of awards and of a lot of money. I feel like they deserve some recognition.  So, I decided to go through the 4 major awards in baseball – NL MVP, AL MVP, NL Cy Young and AL Cy Young – from 1988 to 2011 and speculate who should have really won the award.


Now, the problem with this is that we don’t know for sure everyone who used.  Guys like Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Nomar Garciaparra have been suspected of using steroids but no one has any proof.  There are other guys like Brady Anderson and Luis Gonzalez who put up numbers that were so downright bizarre that, even though they never failed a test, it’s generally accepted that they were using during these seasons.


The other problem is that we don’t know when the use began.  Rafael Palmeiro put up great numbers in Texas and Baltimore before getting busted at the end of his career. Was he using the whole time?  It’s generally thought that Barry Bonds didn’t use in the early part of his career when he won 3 MVP’s in the 90’s (should have been 4) but was using when he won 4 more (should have been 5) in the early 2000’s.  The same goes for Roger Clemens.  No one knows for sure when he started using PED’s though it’s generally assumed that he did use them.  But when did it start?


I don’t have a solution to this problem or an answer to these questions and I am not an expert on baseball, steroids or PED usage.  I’m just a baseball fan.  But, for the purposes of this I have appointed myself judge, jury and executioner.  I’m sure I’m going to get certain things wrong and I know this is highly, highly speculative.  And, of course, if it’s revealed that Albert Pujols or Randy Johnson ever used PED’s then the whole thing falls apart.  Still, here’s my best shot at this.


2011

NL MVP:  Ryan Braun (Matt Kemp)

AL MVP: Justin Verlander

NL CY:  Clayton Kershaw

AL CY:  Justin Verlander


We know Ryan Braun used PED’s.  Matt Kemp came in second and assuming he never used he should have won.  Many would argue that he should have won in any case.


2010

NL MVP:  Joey Votto

AL MVP:  Josh Hamilton

NL CY:  Roy Halladay

AL CY:  Felix Hernandez


No known users here.


2009

NL MVP:  Albert Pujols

AL MVP:  Joe Mauer

NL CY:  Tim Lincecum

AL CY:  Zack Greinke


No known users here.


2008

NL MVP:  Albert Pujols

AL MVP:  Dustin Pedroia

NL CY:  Tim Lincecum

AL CY:  Cliff Lee


No known users here.


2007

NL MVP: Jimmy Rollins

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez (Vladimir Guerrero)

NL CY: Jake Peavy

AL CY: CC Sabathia


Of the four above, of course, Rodriguez is a confirmed user.  The voting after him went as follows: Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Jorge Posada.


As I said, this is all highly speculative.  Magglio Ordonez has been implicated as a user.  If this is correct, Guerrero, who has never been suspected, should have won the MVP.  I give it to Guerrero.


2006

NL MVP: Ryan Howard

AL MVP: Justin Morneau

NL CY: Brandon Webb

AL CY: Johan Santana


No known users here.


2005

NL MVP: Albert Pujols

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez (Vladimir Guerrero)

NL CY: Chris Carpenter

AL CY: Bartolo Colon (Mariano Rivera)


Two confirmed users here – Rodriguez and Colon. 


The voting after Rodriguez went as follows: David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez.  Ortiz is an admitted user so Guerrero should have won.


After Colon, the voting went as follows: Mariano Rivera, Johan Santana, Cliff Lee.  Looks like Rivera should have won the Cy Young this year.


2004

NL MVP: Barry Bonds  (Albert Pujols)

AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero

NL CY: Roger Clemens (Randy Johnson)

AL CY: Johan Santana


After Bonds the voting went as follows: Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds.  Adrian Beltre hit 48 home runs that year.  His previous high was 23.  I believe he used that year and it was widely suspected so it goes to Pujols.


With Clemens the voting went as follows: Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt, Jason Schmidt.  Looks like Randy Johnson should have won the Cy Young this year.


2003

NL MVP: Barry Bonds (Albert Pujols)

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez (Jorge Posada)

NL CY: Eric Gagne (no award given)

AL CY: Roy Halladay


3 of the 4 winners are known users.


After Bonds the voting went as follows: Pujols, Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Javy Lopez, Eric Gagne, Todd Helton.  Pujols should have won.


After Alex Rodriguez the voting went as follows: Carlos Delgado, Jorge Posada, Shannon Stewart.  I’ve heard Delgado whispered about so even though I have no proof I’m giving it to Posada just to be safe.


After Eric Gagne, only 3 others got votes: Jason Schmidt, Mark Prior and Russ Ortiz.  I’ve heard steroid whisperings about all of them so I’m not giving out any award this year.


2002

NL MVP: Barry Bonds (Albert Pujols)

AL MVP: Miguel Tejada (Torii Hunter)

NL CY: Randy Johnson

AL CY: Barry Zito


Bonds and Tejada are known users.


After Bonds the voting went as follows: Pujols, Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero.  I give it to Pujols.


After Tejada the voting went as follows: Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Garret Anderson, Jason Giambi, Torii Hunter.  I get to Torii Hunter before I feel comfortable giving out this award so he gets it.


2001

NL MVP: Barry Bonds (Albert Pujols)

AL MVP: Ichiro Suzuki

NL CY: Randy Johnson

AL CY: Roger Clemens (Mark Mulder)


After Bonds the voting went as follows: Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Shawn Green, Jeff Bagwell.  Everyone knows Sosa and Luis Gonzalez (who hit 57 homes runs in 2001!) were using.  Pujols is robbed again.  After that you have Berkman, who I don’t think ever used and two other guys who I think did.


After Clemens the voting goes as follows: Mark Mulder, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Mike Mussina.  You give it to Mulder, who had more wins and a lower ERA than Clemens that year anyway.


2000

NL MVP:  Jeff Kent (Vladimir Guerrero)

AL MVP: Jason Giambi (Frank Thomas)

NL CY: Randy Johnson

AL CY: Pedro Martinez


I believe Jeff Kent was a user. I have no proof of this.  It’s just a hunch.  He didn’t deserve to win anyway. Barry Bonds was way better and came in 2nd.  I can’t give it to him though.  After Bonds the voting went Mike Piazza, Jim Edmonds, Todd Helton, Vladimir Guerrero. The suspicions surrounding Mike Piazza are too great to ignore.  I’ve heard whispers about Edmonds and Todd Helton though no proof at all.  I’m giving it to Guerrero.


Jason Giambi was a known user.  After him the voting went as follows: Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez.  Frank Thomas was robbed.


I have suspicions about Pedro Martinez but not to the point where I can take away his award.


1999

NL MVP: Chipper Jones (no award given)

AL MVP: Ivan Rodriguez (Derek Jeter)

NL CY: Randy Johnson

AL CY: Pedro Martinez


No one ever mentions Chipper Jones having used steroids but I have heard that he did this year.  After him the voting went as follows: Jeff Bagwell, Matt Williams, Greg Vaughn, Mark McGwire, Robin Ventura, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero, Craig Biggio.  I believe that everyone on this list used steroids until you get to Larry Walker but come on, it’s just too far down the list.  No award this year.


Ivan Rodriguez is a suspected user.  After him the voting went as follows: Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Derek Jeter.  So many of these guys were suspected or known users.  As I said, my suspicions of Pedro aren’t big enough to take away his award.  But I’m not willing to give him an award he in came in 2nd for.  I’m giving it to Jeter.


1998

NL MVP:  Sammy Sosa (Craig Biggio)

AL MVP: Juan Gonzalez (Derek Jeter)

NL CY:  Tom Glavine

AL CY: Roger Clemens (David Wells)


Another year were 3 out of 4 were users.


After Sosa the voting went as follows: Mark McGwire, Moises Alou, Greg Vaughn, Craig Biggio.  I’m giving it to Biggio even though I have a few doubts.


After Juan Gonzalez the voting went as follows: Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Mo Vaughn, Manny Ramirez.  I think Nomar used so I give it to Jeter.


After Clemens, only 3 others got votes: Pedro Martinez, David Wells, David Cone.  I’m giving this to David Wells just to be sure even though I’d bet Pedro hadn’t started using yet, if he ever did.


1997

NL MVP:  Larry Walker

AL MVP: Ken Griffey

NL CY: Pedro Martinez

AL CY:  Roger Clemens (Randy Johnson)


I believe this is the year that Roger Clemens started using PED’s.  He’d been in decline and then suddenly went to Toronto and was great again. After him the voting went as follows: Randy Johnson, Brad Radke, Randy Myers.  Gotta give it to Randy Johnson.


1996

NL MVP: Ken Caminiti (no award given)

AL MVP: Juan Gonzalez (Ken Griffey)

NL CY: John Smoltz

AL CY: Pat Hentgen


Caminiti used.  Here’s the voting after him: Mike Piazza, Ellis Burks, Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds, Andres Galarraga, Gary Sheffield, Brian Jordan.  As I said, the suspicions around Piazza are too strong to ignore.  I believe Ellis Burks used.  I've heard that Chipper Jones didn’t use this year but it’s too close.  It’s generally thought that Barry Bonds hadn’t started using yet in 1996 but I can’t say that with any confidence.  Galarraga was a suspected user.  I don’t think Sheffield had started using at this point but he did later and there’s just too much doubt. We’re too far down the list. No award given this year.


Juan Gonzalez used.  After him was Alex Rodriguez, who probably was not using steroids at this point but who knows for sure.  After that was Albert Belle, who I believe used steroids.  Then you have Ken Griffey, Mo Vaughn, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Frank Tomas, Brady Anderson (the year he hit 50 home runs!) and Ivan Rodriguez.  I give it to Griffey.


1995

NL MVP: Barry Larkin

AL MVP: Mo Vaughn (Edgar Martinez)

NL CY: Greg Maddux

AL CY: Randy Johnson


Of these I only believe Mo Vaughn used.  After him, the voting went as follows: Albert Belle, Edgar Martinez.  I give it to Edgar Martinez.


1994

NL MVP: Jeff Bagwell (Greg Maddux)

AL MVP: Frank Thomas

NL CY: Greg Maddux

AL CY: David Cone


I believe Jeff Bagwell used.  After him the voting went as follows: Matt Williams, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux.  I believe that Matt Williams used.  I also believe that Moises Alou used.  I doubt Barry Bonds was using this year but I’m giving the MVP to Greg Maddux just to be safe.


1993

NL MVP: Barry Bonds

AL MVP: Frank Thomas

NL CY: Greg Maddux

AL CY: Jack McDowell


I feel confident Barry Bonds wasn’t using at this point.  None of the other guys were suspected as far as I know.


1992

NL MVP: Barry Bonds

AL MVP: Dennis Eckersley

NL CY: Greg Maddux

AL CY: Dennis Eckersley

Same as above.


1991

NL MVP: Terry Pendleton

AL MVP: Cal Ripken

NL CY: Tom Glavine

AL CY: Roger Clemens


I don’t think Roger Clemens was using at this point.  I do think that Barry Bonds got robbed this year.  He had 3 more home runs than Pendleton and 30 more RBI’s.  His OBP, before anyone paid attention to it, was 47 points higher.  He had 33 more stolen bases and almost 2 more WAR before anyone knew what that was.  The only stat Pendleton had on Bonds was batting average.  Bonds’ was .292 and Pendleton batted .319 that year.


1990

NL MVP: Barry Bonds

AL MVP: Rickey Henderson

NL CY: Doug Drabek

AL CY: Bob Welch


I don’t think Barry Bonds was using at this point.  Lord knows what Rickey Henderson was putting into his system.  I’ve heard that he was called “Cocaine” Henderson at points in his career.  But I’ve never heard that he used steroids.


1989

NL MVP: Kevin Mitchell (Will Clark)

AL MVP: Robin Yount

NL CY: Mark Davis

AL CY: Bret Saberhagen


Kevin Mitchell hit 49 home runs this year, which is just too bizarre.  After him the voting was Will Clark, Pedro Guerrero and Ryne Sandberg.  I give the MVP to Will Clark.


1988

NL MVP:  Kirk Gibson

AL MVP: Jose Canseco (Mike Greenwell)

NL CY: Orel Hershiser

AL CY: Frank Viola


After Canseco the voting was: Mike Greenwell, Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield.  Mike Greenwell should have been the MVP.



So, let’s say I’m 100% right about all of this.  What does it add up to.  Well, a lot:


If I’m right, Albert Pujols has been unfairly robbed of 4 MVP awards.  


Vladimir Guerrero would have won an additional 3 MVP awards.  I hear him mentioned as a fringe candidate to the Hall of Fame.  This would remove all doubt.


Randy Johnson would have won an additional 2 Cy Youngs.


Derek Jeter would have won 2 MVP’s instead of none. 

Ken Griffey would have an additional MVP award.  So would Frank Thomas.


I can see why no one wants to bother with this exercise and why baseball doesn’t want to put asterisks next to the names of guys who won these awards but who were known steroid users.  I’m sure I got some stuff wrong here.  There are probably players who I gave the award to who actually used.  There are others who I took the award away from who didn’t use.  This is just an exercise and it’s not meant to be perfect because it can’t be.  


That said, let’s say I’m 50% right.  I think I’ve done better than that but let’s just be conservative.  It still makes a big difference.  And I just can’t figure out why more isn’t made of this.  If I’m Mike Greenwell I’m furious.  The guy had an MVP stolen from him.  


These awards don’t mean everything and, let’s face it, all these guys made good money and are rich.  But I just can’t understand why players who didn’t use aren’t more vocal. Forget about the stars who didn’t win awards.  What about the guys who battled in the minors and never got a shot?  What about the players who sat on the bench as utility infielders while players who used steroids got the huge contracts and played every day?  


I hate hearing sports writers say that it was the climate of the time or that there’s no point in speculating about this stuff.  There were players out there who didn’t use, who didn’t cheat.  There are other guys who did and got away with it.  There should be some voice that speaks for the guys who didn’t use, even if it’s a speculative voice.  And there should be some small punishment for those that did.  This is why I support the idea of great players who used steroids never making it into the Hall of Fame.  It’s the least that can be done in the name of the men who never cheated, even if we’ll never be 100% certain who those men were. 

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