In researching the Padres winning seasons, I came across something very disappointing. This particular piece of information is no secret, it’s not something I should have missed. It is, though, the type of thing a fan overlooks. The troubling part of my oversight is the hypocrisy it shows.
Steroids in baseball are behind us. At least for the most part. However, we will never fully move on from the stigma. This includes San Diego’s beloved 1998 National League Championship team. Let’s first talk about the two lines of thinking when it comes to Performance Enhancing Drugs (for the sake of my forgetfulness, I will probably just use the word steroids). On one side of the fence are those who are dead-set against steroid use, feel it tainted the game, and want an asterisk by every player known to have taken them. On the other side of the fence are those who think it doesn’t matter, feel that players who took the drugs before they were banned should get a pass, and aren’t convinced the advantage the drugs provide is enough to make a difference.
Making a decision as to what side of the fence to land on can be difficult. I’ve found myself nodding my head in agreement many times to logical arguments regarding steroid use and its minimal impact on the game from a performance standpoint. I’ve also found myself fighting an urge to agree with those who say taking steroids before they were banned is not wrong. However, those thoughts are the types of thoughts that enabled steroid use for so long in baseball. I’m standing my ground and truly believe any type of steroid use was wrong. I can forgive and forget when the players who did wrong admit it was wrong, but I refuse to give steroid use a pass.
With that in mind, I was disappointed to find the number of Padres on the 1998 team who admitted to steroid use or were liked to steroid use. Below, I’ve categorized the players by those who admitted to use, those who were linked, and those who were suspected.
Joyner admitted to steroid use during an interview with ESPN the Magazine in 2005. He claims to have asked then teammate Ken Caminiti during the 1998 season how to get steroids. After obtaining them, Joyner says he took three pills over the course of twelve days, then decided it was wrong. He says in the interview he never touched steroids again.
Caminiti’s troubles are well-documented. He admitted to steroid use in 2001 during a Sports Illustrated interview. He admitted using during his 1996 MVP season and beyond. Caminiti’s struggles didn’t just end with steroids. He battled the demons of other drugs and alcohol before suffering a fatal heart attack in 2004.
Leyritz admitted using amphetamines to ESPN in 2006. Leyritz spoke of the first time he used, which appears to have been in 1990, after a night of heavy drinking. His confession came in the wake of the Mitchell Report.
First Barry Bonds said he got amphetamines from Mark Sweeney, then he said he didn’t. Sweeney came out and denied the original reports, but the clouds began building from there. Whether Sweeney actually used amphetamines or anything else will likely remain a mystery. It’s up to us to either believe him or not. Unfortunately, the time in which Sweeney played leads to more doubt than benefit of the doubt.
Brown’s name came up in the Mitchell Report. According to the report, as summarized here, Brown was referred to Kirk Radomski by Paul Lo Duca for HGH. Radomski told investigators that Brown was knowledgeable about HGH but he also sold him anabolic steroids. Brown never admitted to any use.
Yardbarker took a look at Greg Vaughn’s spike in production during is 1998 season. They based their report on a blog called Simon on Sports. During his 1998 season, Vaughn hit 50 home runs seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, the 1998 season saw spikes in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. It’d be nice to just ignore these anomolies and assume Vaughn worked harder than he ever had before during the off-season. However, in the midst of all the other steroid users, Vaughn’s number raise suspicion.
Finley has only ever been linked to Creatine use. Creatine is neither illegal nor is it a banned substance. However, Finley also saw a spike in production that seemed to come from nowhere. As covered by multiple sources, Finley’s increase in offense raised some eyebrows. Finley never hit more than 11 home runs in a season prior to 1996. From ’96 on, he hit 25 home runs or more six times. Obviously this is not a definitive indictment of Finley, but the suspicion is enough to include him on this list.
The 1998 season will still be a special one to me. It should be to all Padres fans. While there may have been some steroid users on that team, there were many others who played the game clean. It’s a shame that so many from this team may have been involved in performance enhancing drugs, but hiding from the truth never helps. Again, I’ve never examined the potential users on this team until now. I probably won’t talk about it again. But at least it’s out there.