COMMENTARY | It should come as a surprise to no one, but it appears Alex Rodriguez's home runs totals were a result of more than just his Bally Total Fitness membership.
After Major League Baseball thrust the first nail into the career coffin of A-Rod with a 211-game ban that will keep the slugger off the diamond until the 2015 season, the number of legendary players unmarked by the scarlet letter of performance-enhancing drugs is getting smaller and smaller.
As the mighty continue to fall from the graces of MLB royalty, the teams that have been able to largely stay out from under the cloud of PED suspicion should now be celebrated as the shining examples of how baseball can still be played.
With the likes of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine never so much as being accused of taking extra-strength Tylenol, the Atlanta Braves have emerged as one of the cleanest clubs to crawl their way out of the "Steroid Era."
Another PED scandal has rocked the baseball world, and again, the Braves were able to stay out of the fray. Of the 14 players in total who were suspended for their connection to the Biogenesis facility, none play for -- or have ever played for -- the Braves at any point in their careers.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees - 211 games
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers - 65 games
Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers - 50 games
Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres - 50 games
Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers - 50 games
Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies - 50 games
Francisco Cervelli, Yankees - 50 games
Jordany Valdespin, New York Mets - 50 games
Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners - 50 games
Cesar Puello, Mets - 50 games
Sergio Escalona, Houston Astros - 50 games
Fernando Martinez, Yankees - 50 games
Fautino De Los Santos, San Diego Padres - 50 games
Jordan Norberto, FA - 50 games
Mount Rushmore Makeovers
Hopefully, there still exists a person handy with a chisel because some club's Mount Rushmore of greatest all-time players will likely have to be redone. The histories of legendary teams such as the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs will now forever have big chunks of their past tied to PED usage, thanks to the cloud of suspicion surrounding Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.
For the Braves, their Mount Rushmore of Hank Aaron, Maddux, Chipper and Warren Spahn is safe from the carver's eraser. One could argue that, in MLB history, the greatest hitter (Aaron), switch-hitter (Jones) and pitcher (Maddux) all wore a Braves uniform, and did so free of PED suspicion. There are a lot of franchises with black eyes covering the greatest parts of their histories, but the Braves are not one of them.
Braves' Ties to PEDs
The Braves can't exactly sit on a high horse and look down on the rest of the league -- more like a medium-sized pony of judgment. Atlanta has had its brushes with performance-enhancing drugs, too, but those names were not franchise-defining players, nor were they in Atlanta long enough to have to register as a steroid offender and go door to door to inform the neighbors they were moving into the area.
When the infamous Mitchell Report named names, it threatened to turn baseball into this generation's McCarthy Trials. Gary Sheffield appeared in the report, but the two seasons he played with a tomahawk across his chest did not exactly earn him entry into Atlanta's ring of honor. The same too can be said for reliever John Rocker, whose admitted steroid use may actually be the least embarrassing thing he made news for during his career.
The most highly thought of player the Braves had with ties to PEDs was David Justice. Justice played eight seasons with the Braves, including being an instrumental piece to their 1995 World Series team. The rub on Justice is that his alleged HGH use did not begin until he was five seasons removed from Atlanta, when he became teammates with Clemens on the Yankees in 2000.
Other one-time Atlanta players mentioned in the Mitchell Report include Paul Byrd, Matt Franco, Kent Merker, Todd Pratt, Denny Neagle and Mike Stanton -- none of which were overly consequential in Atlanta's prolonged success of the '90s.
Current Braves' Attitudes Towards PEDs
Fans should be delighted to hear the strong stance the current crop of players have taken with regards to performance-enhancing drugs.
Slugging second baseman Dan Uggla shared his desire for tougher penalties when he said, "I don't think the people that are taking a risk really care about it. They're like, 'Oh, what is 50 games?' The risk-reward, the reward is way better than the penalty of the 50-game suspension."
But Uggla is far from the only Braves player echoing the cry for a cleaner game. Current National League batting leader Chris Johnson added, "We're all glad that it's happened. If there are guys that have cheated and Major League Baseball thinks they legit cheated the game, they need to be suspended. I think it's a great thing."
Although no team in baseball can say it has been 100 percent clean from top to bottom, the Atlanta Braves have been lucky enough in that none of the franchise-defining players have had their legacies tied to the wacky muscle cocktail.
When Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine walk across the stage to become presumptive first-ballot Hall of Famers in 2014, no one will be whispering about their stats being over-inflated, or that the honor is undeserved. In recent years, the biggest stories coming out of Hall of Fame weekend have been about the players barred from entry into Cooperstown. The Braves should feel an overwhelming sense of pride that their players' names will be beyond reproach.
Legendary manager Bobby Cox and the rest of the Braves' front office surely deserve a measure of appreciation for their hand in guiding Atlanta through one of the murkiest times in MLB history. It would really hurt to think Cox's all-time ejection record was simply fueled by roid-rage, but I think it's safe to say No. 6 was clean, too.
For America's favorite pastime, it is nice to know that in the land of the free, home of the Brave(s), Atlanta can still be looked at as one of the few teams that has done it the right way.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
- Sports & Recreation
- Major League Baseball
- Alex Rodriguez
- Atlanta Braves
- Greg Maddux
- Chipper Jones