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Pitchers, Not Sluggers Surprise of Steroid Testing

7th June 2006

Let’s play some word association…

If I say Juiced baseball player, what comes to mind?… Hmmm, head looks like a potato… Bulging arms… sudden surge in hits for power… probably performing past his prime. Bonds… McGwire… Giambi… Sosa… Canseco… Caminiti.

Now, here’s some reality: There have been as many pitchers as there have been power hitters involved in the steroid controversy.

There have been 12 players found to be in violation of the Joint Drug Agreement in MLB and suspended for failing their drug tests. The number of pitchers to position players was split exactly down the middle in MLB last year: 6-6

Here’s the break down for 2005:

#
Date
Player
Position
Team Name
ID
# of offense
Duration
Cost to player
1 04/04 Alex Sanchez CF Devil Rays TBA 1 10 days $32,787 of $600,000 salary
2 04/11 Jorge Piedra CF Rockies COL 1 10 days $4,600 of $84,280 minor-league salary
3 04/20 Agustin Montero P-Rel Rangers TEX 1 10 days $4,918 of $90,000 annual minor-league salary
4 04/26 Jamal Strong CF Mariners SEA 1 10 days N/A
5 05/02 Juan Rincon P-Rel Twins MIN 1 10 days $24,000 of $400,000 annual salary
6 07/08 Rafael Betancourt P-Rel Indians CLE 1 10 days $18,503 of his $338,600 salary
7 08/01 Rafael Palmeiro 1B Orioles BAL 1 10 days $165,746 of his one-year contract with the Orioles for 2004 that paid him $4.15 million. The Orioles exercised an option for 2005 at $3 million.
8 08/02 Ryan Franklin P-Starter Mariners SEA 1 10 days The suspension will cost Franklin $147,540, based on his $2.7 million 2005 contract.
9 09/07 Mike Morse SS Mariners SEA 1 10 days N/A
10 10/04 Carlos Almanzar P-Rel Rangers TEX 1 10 days N/A
11 10/18 Felix Heredia P-Rel NY Mets NYN 1 10 days N/A
12 11/02 Matt Lawton CF Yankees NYA 1 10 days N/A

Whether it is pure coincidence, or not (the sample size is too small to determine), pitchers were caught at a higher rate at the end of the season than position players.

Pitchers are using steroids, not for power, but for it’s recuperative properties. In the case of pitchers at the end of the season, they could be used when players are stressing their arms, elbows, and shoulders after a long season. Steroids would allow pitchers to be more effective and consistent in the rotation, or moreover, keep from having to miss starts in the rotation.

As a sidebar, the steroid scandal might not reach its pinnacle over Barry Bonds, but rather Diamondback relief pitcher, Jason Grimley.

As the AP reports (Feds probe Arizona’s Grimsley for performance-enhancing drug use):

Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Jason Grimsley is the latest name linked to the federal investigation of steroid use in baseball.

Thirteen federal agents searched Grimsley’s house in Scottsdale, Ariz., for six hours Tuesday, according to Internal Revenue Service Agent Mark Lessler, who would not say what they found.

In seeking a judge’s permission for the search, investigators who cracked the BALCO steroid scandal here said Grimsley initially cooperated in the probe. He withdrew his assistance in April, but not before he allegedly made “extensive statements” about illegal drug use, “for the purpose of performance enhancement,” according to the court documents.

As my collegue at Baseball Prospectus, Will Carroll reports today in his Under The Knife column:

I’m following the Jason Grimsley situation. It looks like the entire 2003 list, in the hands of IRS investigators, is going to be checked. If so, the Mitchell investigation will be moot. The biggest worries at this stage are the continued use of performance-enhancers like HGH for the future and the release of the names that, by agreement, should have not been trackable. The list of nearly 100 names (PDF link) caught in 2003 has been in Federal hands, but Grimsley’s statement, naming well over 20 teams and team-related drug sources is pure dynamite and sure to leak in a non-redacted form very soon. Within baseball, the guessing game of which names are blacked out is already in full effect, largely because many are easily connected to Grimsley and because there are some big, juicy names. Someone’s going to equate this with Grimsley’s corked bat caper years back and they’ll be wrong. This, perhaps more than the Barry Bonds situation, will be the one we remember. It’s not the bosses that roll, it’s the lieutenants; Jeff Novitzky now finally has his Joe Valachi. The ball is now in the court of Ken Kendrick and, more importantly, Bud Selig.

To close on this topic, I have not pulled in the minor league violations into the discussion here (for a later column, it seems), but the trend is the same at that level, as well.

So, the untold story is that it’s pitchers, and not sluggers, that may well define the Steroid Era in baseball. Watch the mound.

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