Cal Ripken and Steroids

Ever do a google search for “Cal Ripken” and “steroids”?  Maybe that’s how you landed here.  I found nothing serious on the subject out there, and what is there are Cal-has-nothing-to-prove blog entries, like this one:

  • Fact:  Cal played in the Steroids Era.
  • Opinion:  Cal Ripken may have used performance enhancing drugs.  I’ll bet he probably did.
  • The 1990s are still a dark age for tangible and detailed information on juicing.

Remember the late Ken Caminiti, the fella won the MVP in 1996 and later told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids that year, and that he estimated 50% of players were using steroids that year.

So let’s talk about 1996.  Remember that 1996 Oriole team? I do, because it was the first time as their fan they made the playoffs.   You remember the ’96 team – it’s the one in which 12 year old Jeffrey Maier snatched a long Jeter drive from OF Tony Tarasco, making it a home run.  But another highlight of that team and year is that every starter had 20 HR or more, and the Orioles set the then all time record for team home runs.

In 1996, Ripken hit over 50% more homeruns than he did in either of the previous 2 years, or for the rest of his playing career.  In 1999, at age 39, he was repeatedly injured, but the .276 career batting average man had a smashing year statistically:  .340 b.a., same number of doubles in that partial season as he hit in full seasons towards career end (27) (except for ’96 when he had 40), and was on a 32 homeruns pace over a 600AB season (the most HR he ever had was 34, in his MVP year of 1991).  Lest it be overlooked, Ripken holds the MLB consecutive games played streak, from May 30, 1982 – Sept 20, 1998.   That huge guy (6’4″, 193cm) played the hardest position physically after pitcher and catcher, and kept the energy up for every game.

This proves nothing, but Ripken’s sidestepping the steriods question in 2006 doesn’t help make sense of his secure place during the steroids era.

But Cal’s remarks in 2006  are of the same ‘gee whiz’ nature that convicted steroid users use when lying about or minimizing extent of their usage, e.g.:

  • “I’m curious [whether McQuire used steroids], but I don’t feel that I’m in a position to judge,” Ripken said at the baseball winter meetings. “History will judge us all in some way. And, if you’re content with the truth coming out, then whether your judgment day is now or 50 years from now doesn’t matter.”
  • “A smarter person will have suspicions when you look around and see people coming back a lot bigger than they were,” he said. “I realize that steroids were an issue in other sports. But no way did I know it was as big as it’s starting to show it was.”
  • “I think we all were very disappointed that steroids came flying out into the game of baseball. The integrity of the game was in question,” Ripken said. “It’s sad that a cloud is over baseball. Maybe the whole story has not been told yet. I believe the story will come out in time.”

Contrite remarks coming from squeaky clean Rip on his way to Cooperstown. Ripken is smart, though, and knew from Palmerio’s finger jabbing in the air before Congressthat he shouldn’t go on any record with too much that could haunt him later.  Speaking of Palmiero, Cal’s quotes above remind me of the hillarious situation Palmiero was in 2005, when on July 15th he got his 3,000th hit, but barely celebrated because his positive steroid test was under appeal and not yet publicly known, though he knew it would be soon (and it was on Aug 2).

Palmeiro cried privately in the dugout and cleared the locker room as fast as possible because  he “had to go get his rest”.  In that twightlight zone of post-3000 hits but pre-steriod suspension, he said in this interview “I still don’t put myself in their class.”  “You’re talking about two of the best players in history. I’m in a group with them now but that doesn’t mean I belong in their class. Hank has about 200 more home runs than I do. Mays has about 100 more home runs. I shouldn’t be anywhere close to this group.”

I remember thinking how unnecessarily modest he was being for a man who just joined the 3000-500 club.  And I never forgot that, just as I haven’t forgot the way Ripken answers questions related to steroids use.

Finally, for a bit of guilt by association, history shows that the Orioles went on to become a steroids infested team after Ripken’s retirement (Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa, Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons, Gary Mathews Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr, Larry Bigbie, Jason Grimsley, David Segui, Manny Alexander, Jack Cust…gawd let me just stop here, before I go into the obvious-but-not-provens, like Brady Anderson.

No one, including the Baltimore Sun, investigates Cal because he was a great player, he “saved baseball after the 1994 strike”, is a local Maryland hero, involved in the community and a decent and likable guy.

But possibly also a PED dabbler too…


UPDATE: Truth From Facts focuses primarily on China, but since Cal Ripken did visit Beijing in 2007, by extension…

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