In the wake of George Mitchell’s shocking, shocking (did we say shocking?) report on the calamitous influence of steroids in baseball, Unsportsmanlike Comment proudly presents a super-colossal fantasy matchup between a rag-tag collection of randomly tested drug abusers and an (almost) imaginary team of the best doggone dopers money can buy, the Steinbrenners’ or anyone else’s. Because, while the game’s moral overseers wring their hands, shake their heads and weep mournfully over the latest black mark to tarnish the national pastime’s good name, we believe steroids are fun, and darn it, they should be fun.
In fact, we’re nearly swayed by the argument of modest Jon Swift, who worries that a comprehensive drug ban will have a disastrous effect, leaving steroids in the hands of cheaters while honest ballplayers are left defenseless. And while the guardians of virtue want to see the guilty condemned, pilloried and banned from the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, we’d simply like to thank them for making our gray little lives just a little bit less depressing.
In the end, even in a drug-induced dreamland, the New York Yankees are likely to buy up the majority of the market’s tainted talent and win more than their share of the fantasy World Series, which we hope will attract sponsorship from Organon, the Dutch company that brought us Deca-Durabolin, Sustanon and much, much more.
Even if the Yankees corner the black market, that shouldn’t keep us from dreaming. When newer and better drugs are flooding the market with each new season, hope springs eternal in the human breast.
And now, without further adieu, the lineups:
THE VISITORS: THE ALL-TIME OUT-OF-THEIR-MINDS DRUG TEAM
Back in those dark and terrible days before steroids were readily available, self-destructive personalities needed other outlets to display their creative genius. And drowning yourself in an ocean of booze isn’t for everyone. While the legend that the former The Mamas and The Papas diva died while choking on a ham sandwich is apocryphal and plain mean-spirited, that shouldn’t stop us from making fun of her, well, amplitude. However she went, Mama Cass gets special citation for dying in the same London flat where Who drummer Keith Moon would OD and meet his maker just four years later.
FIRST BASE: Mark McGwire
Not here to talk about the past. Respectfully, sirs and madams. Oh shoot, that’s exactly what we’re here to talk about, isn’t it? Darn, darn, darn! I hit 583 home runs, 70 in one electrifying season. You remember it, the year I saved baseball? Was in awe of myself, I was. But here I am, talking about the past again. I can’t help it! It’s so cool. Remember what Bernie Miklasz wrote after I hit No. 70? Said I “saved baseball and inspired fans on this continent and others. In St. Louis, we saw history. Better yet, we lived it, screamed it and felt it in our hearts. It was a glorious shared experience that unified a city, maybe even a nation.” Can’t it still be glorious?
A doper, you say? B-Rob has jacked 52 home runs in seven seasons. The diminutive Oriole (5-9, 170 pounds) hit 18 homers, drove in 73 runs and compiled slugging percentage of .515 in 2005. Then Roberts found himself snared in the crosshairs of Jason Grimsley’s tell-all saga of syringes and soft bottoms. A doper? “Ridiculous,” Roberts said, and a federal prosecutor said the L.A. Times report that forever maligned his name contained “significant inaccuracies.” Oh fiddle-dee-dee! You’re a doper now, Brian!
Look at that tortured mug! While there was some sentiment for Troy Glaus and even Dangerous David Bell at this position, Caminiti is the obvious choice for the all-time steroid-destroyed fool at the hot corner. No substance was foreign to the 1996 National League MVP, who doused himself in booze and cocaine before admitting to using steroids in 2002. Talk about the Sports Illustrated cover jinx! Caminiti died of a drug-addled heart attack in 2004. Posthumous props, though, for being first big-leaguer to fess up to steroids abuse.
SHORTSTOP: Miguel Tejada
Four-time All-Star, 2002 AL MVP has hit 258 homers and driven in more than 1,000 runs. Famously implicated by belly-crawling invertebrate Rafael Palmeiro, who claimed his own positive test for steroids might have come from a supplement Tejada had foisted upon (or in?) his innocent ass. Tejada was unbowed: “I know I’m clean. I know who I am, and I know everything that I do is right.” Word.
LEFT FIELD: Barry Bonds
The Cream? The Clear? The Perjury? I know what you’re thinking, and you’re a misanthropic cynic. Probably a racist, too. Bonds is the single-most unfairly maligned American of the early 21st century. Accusations and innuendo have hounded baseball’s single-season and all-time home run king and soured his once-pleasant demeanor. Sure, Barry Bonds the Pirate had a svelte, tight little body. But everyone puts on a few pounds as the years unravel. Are you as trim as you were at 21? Didn’t think so. Pleaded not guilty this month to perjury and obstruction of justice charges after a grand jury indicted him for allegedly lying under oath about using steroids. He says he’ll be vindicated, and we have no reason to doubt his word.
CENTER FIELD: Lenny Dykstra
Along with Bonds, “Nails” performed the most spectacular body transformation over the course of a big-league career, morphing from a doe-innocent, rail-thin New York Met to a tobacco-chewing, muscle-bulging Philadelphia Phillie. The three-time All-Star was runner-up to a likely pre-steroids Barry for the NL MVP in 1993, when he led Philadelphia to a thrilling and ultimately excruciating World Series experience. Extra credit for crashing his Mercedes into a tree on a windy road in suburban Philadelphia and walking away with a few broken bones, a couple cuts and a reported blood-alcohol content of .179.
Often tempestuous and never boring, the well-traveled Dominican also has a flair for timing. Guillen got nailed with a 15-day suspension for using HGH on the same day he finalized a three-year, $36 million deal with Kansas City, sparing the downtrodden Royals the further ignominy of having no current players in the Mitchell Report lineup. Reportedly purchased $19,000 in illicit, performance-boosting goods from the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Clinic in Florida between 2002 and 2005. Never one to take things personally, Guillen once called Mike Scioscia a “piece of garbage.” Began career in 1997, and he’s already been with nine teams, 10 counting this one.
Aforementioned weasel is one of only four players to collect more than 500 homers and 3,000 hits in a career, drug-kindled or otherwise. Four-time All-Star batted .288 with 569 homers and 1,835 RBI over 20 seasons. Under the klieg-light glare of Congress, Palmeiro dissolved in a viscous pool of self-destruction, defiantly wagging his finger at accusers real and imaginary and swearing with great indignation that he had never used steroids. Anyone who implied he had was a fool or knave! Straddled moral high ground for six weeks, then tested positive for anabolic steroid stanozolol. Unfazed, he blamed Tejada.
Five-time All-Star won three Gold Gloves and was the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year in 1987, when he compiled a yearling-record 34-game hitting streak. In 20 major league seasons, Santiago never hit more than 18 homers … except for 1996, when he hit 30 for Philadelphia, where he crossed paths with Popeye Dykstra.
STARTING PITCHER: Paul Byrd
Known for old-school windup that recalls the days of flannel uniforms and sleeper trains, his resemblance to Kelsey Grammar and, now, as the guy who bought $25,000 worth of HGH, at least a portion of it from a defrocked Florida dentist. Soft-tossing pitcher went 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA for Cleveland in 2007, and 2-0 with a 3.60 mark in two playoff starts. The Indians picked up his $7.5 million option for 2008.
RELIEF PITCHER: Eric Gagné
Mon dieu! Bilingual closer represents French-Canadians on all-time drug nine. Countering the Ryan Franklin argument that steroids are ineffective at best, he nailed down record 84 consecutive saves. Alas, three-time All-Star apparently is not a natural with syringes. When he called the customer-service line for help in getting air out of his needle, he had the misfortune to get steroid impresario Kirk Radomski, the guy who would become Mitchell’s A-No. 1 informant. Won NL Cy Young in 2003 with 55 saves in 55 attempts. Signed one-year, $10 million deal with Milwaukee days before Mitchell released his report.
THE HOME TEAM, AKA THE BEST DAMN TEAM STEROIDS CAN BUY
The Sultan of Swat was a sports legend before the word legend itself was overrun by linguistic inflation. As far as we know, the Babe never injected performance-enhancing substances into his ample derriere. Other orifices were fair game, though. He liked hot dogs, for example. Googling “Babe Ruth hot dog” returns 63,200 hits. Legend says he blacked out and nearly killed himself after an 18-weiner bender in 1925. Had to have intestinal surgery. In the rare case of truth going toe-to-toe with legend, historians now believe Ruth had surgery for gonorrhea, not for hot dog overload. Reputed to regularly toss down a quart of bourbon at breakfast before devouring a daily dose of steak and eggs. What a player! “He could eat more, drink more, smoke more, swear more, and enjoy himself more than any contemporary,” H.G. Salsinger wrote. It’s only a shame he didn’t live in the steroids era, because we would love to have his bat in this order. Alas, the Babe’s a natural fit to lead this collection of pinstriped drug users, particularly because he went to his grave with a broken heart because the Yankees never considered him realistic management timber.
FIRST BASE: Jason Giambi
A five-time All-Star and the 2000 AL MVP, Giambi told BALCO grand jury he shot steroids without discretion, then apologized to a heartbroken nation without noting just what the hell he was apologizing for. Jailbird Greg Anderson was his dealer. Giambi longed to sing, but he apparently lacked the Pavarotti-like pipes of the Great Canseco: “I will address my own personal history regarding steroids. I will not discuss in any fashion any other individual,” Giambi said in May.
Children, listen up: Chuck Knoblauch is living proof that steroids will fuck your shit up. Bad. Really bad. Perennial All-Star in Minnesota quickly metamorphosed into a Blauch-head favorite of angry New York tabloids. Also called him Brainlauch. Got so lost in his muddled head that he came down with an acute case of Steve Blass Disease and was unable to throw the ball from second to first. Developed a crush on Derek Jeter, and career soon found its way into dustbin of history.
“The Clock” is a nine-time All-Star who has hit 474 home runs. His remarkable versatility (468 games at third, 94 at shortstop) is a great asset to this all-steroids team, which was in dire need of a third baseman. Outspoken outfielder had misfortune of working out with Bonds when the Giants’ slugger unwittingly took steroids. Sheffield accidentally got a bit of that flaxseed oil on his knee, and now cynical management is using that mishap as a convenient excuse to end a malcontent’s career.
Holds distinction of being the only major leaguer to complete an unassisted triple play (5-29-2000 for A’s vs. Yankees) and be implicated as a steroids user by the Mitchell Report. That’s the kind of shit that oughta get him into some kind of Hall of Fame somewhere. Earns honorable mention for his hometown of Midland, Texas, where George W. Bush is rumored to have been a student at Sam Houston Elementary School, though there seem to be gaps in the future commander in chief’s attendance record.
Baseball’s greatest steroids confessor and gossip monger. A steroids Zelig. For a full decade, when any ballplayer was dropping his pants and shooting the juice, Canseco was an eye-witness. If baseball were like the Mafia, this singing stoolie of steroids woulda swum with the fishes a long, long time ago. Wrote the book on steroids in baseball, literally. Teamed with Mark McGwire in Oakland as the Juice Brothers. First player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a season, 1986 AL Rookie of the Year. Six-time All-Star, 1988 AL MVP.
CENTER FIELD: Rondell White
Journeyman has played with seven teams since 1993. After suffering a plethora of injuries during his career, he told Radomski he needed the substances to “stay on the field.” Nice guy who allegedly tipped his dealer handsomely. To return the favor, Radomski showed Mitchell seven checks drawn on White’s account, including one for $3,500. The report also said federal agents ransacking Radomski’s home found a copy of a Federal Express bill for a delivery to an “R. White” that bought both human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin.
Won 2000 ALCS MVP for New York Drug Yankees after hitting series-ending homer against the Seattle Mariners. The 1990 Rookie of the Year for Atlanta made three All-Star teams. Denied using steroids, though he said he’d happily turn over anyone he knew who was using. As luck had it, he had no such knowledge of any such miscreants. Fortunately for Justice and his fans, he has an iron-clad alibi: “I never did steroids,” he told ESPN Radio. “I bought HGH, not steroids.” Then he came to the appalling realization that the use of human growth hormone required a needle and left his cache of drugs unused. Innocent.
CATCHER: Bobby Estalella
Grandfather Bobby Estalella played in majors from 1935-49, never once causing anyone to suspect him of being a steroid user. Bobby the Younger once hit three homers in a game. Once thought to be the Phillies answer at catcher, though even the miraculous powers of human growth hormone couldn’t make it so. Played in three games with Yankees in 2001, getting four at-bats, no hits and two shots of Deca-Durabolin. A Dodgers official reportedly called him a “poster boy for the chemicals.”
DESIGNATED HITTER/BENCH PLAYER TO OVERSEE DISCARDED NEEDLES: Glenallen Hill
Rockies first-base coach played with eight big-league teams, along the way earning the honor as first NL designated hitter. Before being associated with drugs, Hill was most notable for his nickname, “Spiderman,” earned from a severe case of arachnophobia. Once suffered considerable injuries when a nightmare about spiders sent him spiraling out of bed and careening down a staircase.
Call the astounding numerical roll for Montgomery Burns’ clucking chicken with the magical right arm: 354 wins; 4,672 strikeouts; Seven Cy Young awards. Finally, the American Steroids League gets a pitcher worthy of its Murderers Row collection of big-boppers. A modern-day Walter Johnson, only meaner. Bob Gibson on steroids. Struck out 15 Mariners in ALCS 1-hitter in 2000. Will go down in history as the Winstrol Kid with the wondrous arm for the ages. Like the parade of the righteous that went before him, Clemens steadfastly denies knowing that Iraq didn’t have WMDs prior to 2003 invasion. Or perhaps it was steroid use. He’s in full-on denial, in any case.
No, no, no. Not the English historian of medicine, archivist and curator. Six-time major league All-Star with an incendiary temper that gave rise to suspicions he was suffering from ‘Roids Rage. Won 211 games with six teams. After Brown got hurt in 2001, the report says, he naturally sought out Dr. Feelgood. Radomski didn’t disappoint, packing off a shipment of human growth hormone in exchange for a cool $8,000. The patient was hookedwas.
LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER NO 1: Andy Pettitte
Rocket’s left-hand man was first player to make confession after Mitchell’s report. Sort of. Says he apologizes if he made “an error in judgment” when he shot up HGH in 2002 as he rehabbed an elbow injury. Never used steroids, though. Wasn’t looking for any kind of edge, only wanted to heal faster than players not using human growth hormone. Clemens’ faithful caddy has won more postseason games (14-12) than his more famous sidekick. You go to Houston, I’ll go to Houston. You go to New York, I’ll go to New York. You shoot my butt, I’ll shoot yours. Compiled 201 career wins in 13 seasons.
LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER NO. 2: Denny Neagle
An old veteran of pissing-your-trousers-in-the-gutter humiliation. In 2004, after the Rockies used his legal troubles as a pretext to wipe out the last season of a five-year, $51 million contract, Neagle was caught with a prostitute, then nailed for drunk driving three days later. His wife, or soon-to-be ex-wife, was not impressed. A two-time All-Star, Neagle donned his trench coat and dark glasses and met Radomski at a smoky club in New York in 2000. Another happy customer, Denny became a regular patron of Captain Kirk.
Ironically enough first gained fame by crawling through a Comiskey Park air-conditioning duct to swipe Chicago slugger Albert Belle’s corked bat and expose a cheater. The juiced lumber, and Grimsley’s detective work, earned Belle the No. 4 spot on ESPN’s biggest cheaters in baseball history list. Newshounds at ESPN couldn’t wait for the other needle to fall, could they? Subsequently confessed to using Deca-Durabolin, amphetamines, human growth hormone and Clenbuterol. Made a pile of money, then squealed to federal agents like he was Ned Beatty being sodomized by toothless rednecks. Clemens, Pettitte, Tejada and Roberts among those he ratted out.
Left-handed setup man recently floored by three-strikes-your-out rule. One: He’s a middle reliever proud enough to have his own entrance song, which is the on-field equivalent of speaking of yourself in the third person. Worse, his song is “Fantasy” by Aldo Nova. Strike two: Hails from Midland, Texas, a la Randy Velarde and George W. Bush. Candy Man Radomski reported making two sales of HGH kits to Stanton for a total of $4,800. Yer out!
RELIEF PITCHER NO. 3: Ron Villone
A 13-year veteran, reliever had reputation as one of baseball’s good guys, a reputation that came under attack Thursday. Villone reportedly stuffed $3,200 inside a Mariners yearbook and sent it to Captain Kirk Radomski in payment for human growth hormone. Not once, but twice. Journeyman lefty has Neagle to thank for his introduction to Radomski’s Fabulous Pharmaceutical Farm.
FINAL CHAPTER: THE PREDICTION
Turns out the playing field, if you’ll excuse the cliché, is even more lopsided in the great game of steroids baseball than it is on grass, dirt and man-made turf.
Yeah, the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000, but oh, what a team that was! That drug-powered juggernaut blew over the Mets in five games and rates as the greatest team in steroids baseball history.
Manager Ruth has nine – count ’em nine! – veterans of 2000 to play with, including five pitchers. Clemens, Pettitte (2) and Neagle all started Yankees’ wins that year. Stanton pitched in four games, collecting two wins.
An angry Clemens, thank goodness, dominates the story line. In Game 2, he heaped humiliation on the Mets and even found time to up the ante in his feud with Mike Piazza. The Rocket tormented the Yanks’ crosstown rivals with eight brilliant innings, nine strikeouts and one magnificent throw to first – the infamous splintered bat he fielded nimbly and then hurled at Piazza as the Mets catcher made his way up the baseline.
At the time, Mike Lopresti described Clemens as a “tinderbox of intensity.” Seven years hence, it seems probable that “roiling stewpot of stark-raving steroids rage” would be closer to the truth.
You like drug-amped offense? We do. And Sheffield, Justice, Giambi and Canseco have combined for 34 homers and and 118 RBI in the postseason. The All-Time Out-Of-Their-Minders might get lucky in a one-game duel, but they’d have little prayer against these Bronx Behemoths in a five- or seven-game series.
In the final result, the Best Damn Steroids Team Money Can Buy wins, 4-1, and that’s erring on the conservative side.
Even in the steroids game, no one can match the prodigal spending of the Steinbrenner clan, which made a ramshackle art of employing its Croesus-like riches to gobble up spurious stars with dubious, stratospheric statistics. Which helps explain why the visitors in this showdown could afford just two pitchers against Best Damn’s seven-man, steroid-studded staff. (Sorry for the annoying alliteration.)
And that’s why we’re proud to anoint the Bronx Boosters our official Drug Dream Team of the wonderful steroids era. Long may they reign!