Baseball’s reputation has been severely damaged by performance enhancing drug usage since the early 1990s. With Ken Griffey Jr. announcing his retirement, let’s take a look back at the top players who seemingly have stayed clean and still achieved greatness during this controversial period.
4. Derek Jeter
Although his statistics are not overwhelming, Derek Jeter has been the unquestioned leader of the New York Yankees’ latest dynasty. In an era when hitters have been defined by home runs, Jeter has consistently hit for average and has a lifetime batting average well over .300. In fact, barring injury, Jeter should easily eclipse the magical 3,000 hit total early in 2011. But Jeter’s value to his team cannot be strictly defined by statistics. Jeter’s leadership and clutch performances in the postseason have helped the Yankees win five World Series since he joined the club. Derek Jeter has won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and he is a 10 time All-Star.
3. Albert Pujols
Like Jeter, Albert Pujols has also played his entire career with one team. In addition to playing clean, this reminds fans of a more innocent era in baseball; one before performance enhancing drugs and free agency. Unlike Derek Jeter, Pujols has no trouble hitting for both average and power. Through early June 2010, Pujols had already hit 379 HRs and has a lifetime average of .333, all by the age of 30. In fact, the Cardinals star has never hit under .300 or hit fewer than 30 HRs. Unquestionably the best current player in the National League, Albert Pujols has won three MVPs and has been an All-Star for eight of his first nine years in MLB.
2. Greg Maddux
Greg Maddux amassed some of the greatest pitching numbers in MLB history. And he did so in an era when batting dominated baseball’s landscape. “Mad Dog” ranks eighth on the all-time win list with 355, providentially one ahead of Roger Clemens’ 354. Unlike Randy Johnson, Maddux was hardly an imposing figure on the mound. Standing at barely six feet tall, Maddux relied on craft and guile to retire batters. He was effective against left handed batters by throwing a fastball that appeared to be headed inside, but at the last moment would change direction and tail back over the inside corner. Greg Maddux won four straight Cy Young awards and was an eight time All-Star.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
When Ken Griffey Jr. retired in early June 2010, it forced baseball historians to look back at his stellar career; one that was tarnished by injuries, but never by scandal. When “Junior” debuted in 1989, there was little doubt that he was the most talented and gifted player in the game. Also, fans respected the way he played the game; always hustling in the outfield with little regard for his own body. In fact, it was his constant hustle that led to some of his injuries later in his career. Many players used the excuse of taking PEDs to recover from injuries more quickly; something Griffey never did. During the ’90s, Griffey appeared in each All-Star game and won a Gold Glove each year. Ken Griffey Jr. won the MVP award in 1997 and retired with 630 HRs, fifth on the all-time list.
Statistical data found at the official MLB web site
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