In Search of the Last Clean Champions

Not that the Red Sox didn’t already have a very prominent juicer among their recent franchise heroes, but with today’s outing of David Ortiz they no longer have their idiotic Papi-love to cling to, and despite the ever-decreasing amounts of faith we can put in explanations like “finally finding their niche” and “Big Fat Guy Power,” we can at least say the 2004 Boston Red Sox are in no way, shape or form some kind of magical champion. And that’s a good thing, because Red Sox fans are, generally speaking, a bunch of jerks, especially now that they will inevitably rally around the guy who ruined Big Fat Guy Power forever.

But it raises an important question: when was the last time a team won without the juice?

Obviously there are things we don’t know, and of course there is almost too much room in our drunken day-to-day sports banter to make reckless speculation, but there are some things we know to be true. Reports. Affidavits. Leaks. Et cetera. That said, idiotic guesses and semi-informed probables are not in anyone’s best interests; to put it another way, certain players may have highly suspicious career arcs, but that’s not automatic grounds for accusation.

We’ll also use the commonly accepted, post-strike timeframe as the known “Steroid Era.” Obviously, some players were dabbling with various PEDs well before then, but until the players and the league decide to act like adults, we’ll have to stick to the idea that sometime around 1994 was when steroids and other assorted goodies became accepted, if not encouraged, in the halls of Major League ballparks.

Likewise, we don’t always know the extent, duration or frequency of most of the accused players’ usage. David Ortiz, for example: did he start consuming the “protein shakes” in 2003, or was that simply when he first learned how to use them in conjunction with a workout and training program? All we’re left with is a combination of an at-least-slightly-tarnished career and, by association, slightly tarnished teams. Player X may have only had five at-bats in for a team in a given season, but those are still five at-bats we are allowed to look at in a different light. Perhaps someday we will be able to discuss this all more sensibly. Until then, all we can do is gather what we know.

So without further ado, a look back through the juice era’s championship pieces:

Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Outed Juicers: J.C. Romero

Team: Boston Red Sox
Outed Juicers: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Brendan Donnelly

Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Outed Juicers: Gary Bennett, Larry Bigbie

Team: Chicago White Sox
Outed Juicers: Pablo Ozuna

Team: Boston Red Sox
Outed Juicers: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez

Team: Florida Marlins
Outed Juicers: Chad Allen, Ivan Rodriguez

Team: Los Angeles Angels
Outed Juicers: Brendan Donnelly, Troy Glaus, Scott Schoeneweis

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Outed Juicers: Jack Cust, Matt Williams

Team: New York Yankees
Outed Juicers: Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Grimsley, Glenallen Hill, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Denny Neagle, Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton

Team: New York Yankees
Outed Juicers: Roger Clemens, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, Dan Naulty, Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton

Team: New York Yankees
Outed Juicers:Darren Holmes, Chuck Knoblauch, Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton

Team: Florida Marlins
Outed Juicers: Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Gregg Zaun

Team: New York Yankees
Outed Juicers: Ricky Bones, Andy Pettitte

Team: Atlanta Braves
Outed Juicers: Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton

For those keeping score, that’s every team. Every single World Series-winning team since 1995 has, in some fashion or another, started taking their own medical advice , save for the reigning Phillies team who history suggests will find themselves diminished in due time. [ed. note: Thanks to reader Matt for pointing out Romero.]

And while we won’t pass judgment on the right or wrong of it, we will say it’s hard to get mad at anyone anymore – until now. You can take our memories, you can take our ignorant joy, you can take our passive engagement and the tangential lameness built in to something as frivolous as sports but please, please, please don’t take our big fat guy power away.

But that, it seems, has died a little as well. A nation weeps.

9 thoughts on “In Search of the Last Clean Champions”

  1. Any member of the 1998 Yankees linked to use of performance enhancing drugs started long after 1998, as demonstrated in the Mitchell Report. So how can you say that title is not “clean?” It looks like the ’98 Yankees were the last clean champion.

  2. You’re right Joe. Also, Roger Clemens never took anything and Brian Roberts only took h.g.h. the one time mentioned in the report. Chuck Knoblauch didn’t even start juicing until he got to Kansas City. The Yankees are magic. 1998 was the most best year EVAR!!!11! Obviously. F the ’98 Yankees.

  3. Hamlin Park, if you have evidence that any member of the 1998 Yankees used PEDs in 1998, or at any time earlier, what it is? Here’s your chance. The four players identified above were all concretely referenced in the Mitchell Report to have started using PEDs much later than 1998: (Staton, 2003, with the Mets; Knoblauch, 2001; Pettitte, limited use in 2003; Holmes, who barely played in 1998, in 2003). You have no evidence. Nothing, to impeach the credibility of the 1998 Yankees.

  4. I dislike the Yankees as much as anyone else, but Joe’s got you there, Hamlin Park. At the same time, because of any number of factors, those folks saw it as acceptable to hit the juice. Whether or not they did almost seems irrelevant, and were we to follow cases like Sprague we’d probably be looking back into the 1980s. I personally am spiteful enough to cast Knoblauch’s entire body of work under that umbrella, for example. Good guy, hard worker and all that, but if you juiced, you juiced.

  5. Thanks for the support, Andrew. Articles like this one are troubling because they distort the content of the Mitchell Report.

    Based on credible available evidence, you could also exclude from this list the 1995 Braves, the 1996 Yankees, and the 1997 Marlins. In each of those cases, the available evidence ties the players listed to PED use after the date of their championship.

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