Major League Baseball has seen its fair share of cheaters over the years, from teams purposely losing the World Series to pitchers who’ve done nearly everything imaginable to doctor a baseball in an effort to gain the slightest advantage.
Heck, there are even legendary Hall-of-Famers who would trip, hold, grab and maim opponents when baseball was played with only one officiating umpire. Sure, that’s cheating, but you’re not going to find any of those guys on this list.
Guys who reinterpret the letter of sports law, razz their opponents for an unfair advantage and break a few written and unwritten rules of play — these guys willingly face the consequences of trying to manipulate the game. We’re all cool with these guys and are often entertained by their antics.
But there’s another type of cheater: the guys on this list who’ve earned a place in sports infamy, guys who attempted to manipulate who they were to cheat* in a manner presumed most inconspicuous — performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
The late Ken Caminiti was one of the first players to freely admit he was a steroid user. He even admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs during his 1996 National League MVP season with the San Diego Padres. Caminiti served as an early example of a player who got bigger, faster, stronger and better as he aged. Considering his substance abuse problems, including cocaine and alcohol, his increased performance didn’t make sense. At the time, speculation about steroid abuse in baseball was a rarity, so not much was made of his inflated numbers. Sadly, his accolades helped set a disturbing precedent: cheaters prosper. Caminiti eventually succumbed to the physical abuse he subjected himself to: he died in 2004 at the age of 41.
*Legacy: Caminiti openly admitted to using steroids for baseball-related performance enhancement.
This guy. C’mon. He’s been baseball’s walking comedy of errors since the 1990s. That said, you can’t argue with his importance in the modern era of baseball. For what it’s worth, in his own way, he’s the jester who spoke exceptional truth. Many referred to him as a snitch, but for those of us who love baseball, we’re happy he played his role in shedding light on a very dirty subject.
*Legacy: Canseco openly admitted to using steroids for increased performance, while also naming more than a dozen fellow players who he claims also used performance-enhancing drugs.
Should this guy be in jail for lying to Congress? A lot of people think so, but the courts say no. In 2012, a verdict of not guilty exonerated Clemens from charges of illegal drug use (and perjury). His trial in the court of public opinion is ongoing, however, starting when he threw a bat at Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series.
*Legacy: Clemens maintains that he never knowingly used a performance-enhancing substance.
Quick, name a player who’s been suspended twice for PEDs and is presently attempting a MLB comeback. Yep, that’s Manny. Has any player in MLB history garnered as many facepalms, head shakes or eye rolls as he has? When Ramirez was signed to AAA Round Rock (Texas Rangers) earlier this season, he reportedly asked team president Nolan Ryan, “Do you like my hair?” And as you’d suspect, Ryan answered, “No, I don’t like it at all.” The next day, Ramirez showed up with his head shaved. His bush-league move to retire in 2011 rather than sit out his 100-game suspension is the reason he’s on this list. Well, that and the fact that he and a bunch of other guys cheated their way to two World Series championships.
*Legacy: Ramirez apologized after his first conviction and admitted to using a substance on MLB’s banned substances list, but has never openly confessed to using steroids.
Ryan Braun has been, and I believe will continue to be, a good baseball player. I appreciate that he’s accepted his suspension for using banned PEDs. But allow me to pose this question: If the Brewers were still in the playoff picture, do you think he’d have agreed to his suspension so readily, a suspension longer (65 games + playoffs) than anything levied against other first-time offenders? It just seems like such a convenient time to admit his guilt. He’s on this list because he allowed so many others to be spattered with his mud when he proclaimed his innocence the first time around. Oh, and the fact that he jacked the 2011 NL MVP from Matt Kemp.
*Legacy: Braun has yet to make a statement following his 2013 suspension. He’s alleged to have used a performance-enhancing substance provided by BioGenesis.
He thought the clear stuff was flaxseed oil and the cream was arthritis ointment. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. The most disgusting aspect of the Barry Bonds scandal was that Bonds was widely regarded as the best player in baseball. He might have been regarded as the greatest of all-time if he’d just continued to do what he already did so well. Instead, he became obsessed with hitting home runs. It’s sad he didn’t have the foresight to see that most dirt comes out in the wash. How many home runs did he hit to earn himself a couple of asterisks? No real baseball fan cares or will ever honor it as a record.
*Legacy: Like Clemens, Bonds has never admitted to knowingly using any performance-enhancing drugs.
Do you remember Alex Rodriguez with the Seattle Mariners? What a revelation of talent. He was so enjoyable to watch, possessing the most realized potential of any young player in the game. But it wasn’t enough. A-Rod took the big money and went to Texas. Then he took the assured, long-term, biggest money and joined the evil empire in New York. At the time of writing this post, A-Rod may never play another game in the ranks of Major League Baseball. The league is considering a lifetime ban on the former face of professional baseball due to his past transgressions, his manipulation of the system and his current involvement in the BioGenesis scandal. Yeah, he’s cloaked in attorneys but his reputation has been tarnished irreparably.
*Legacy: Alex Rodriguez beat the system the first time he was accused of PED abuse. He later admitted to using steroids due to the pressure of performing up to his big-money contracts.
Honorable mentions go to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire for the home run chase embarrassment of 1998. McGwire offered a tearful apology for his role in the steroid era, while Sosa has yet to properly convey anything in English.