Just less than two years ago, three men were on top of the proverbial world in the AL East. Roger Clemens announced a greedy comeback during the stretch in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez was having his career year, and Manny Ramirez was winning his second World Series title in four years.
Each one suddenly fell out of favor with fans, media, and most importantly for them, the sportswriters, as one by one, their names were linked with Performance Enhancing Drugs. So after Manny's sudden 50-game suspension, I started wondering, who is next? I thought about it for a few days, and I've drawn up some of my own rationale for each guy, and this is entirely speculation and theory. Here's what I came up with. What should be done? Hit them with Jack Bauer to find the truth? Or wait for tainted urine?
Statistical Evidence: While Ludwick was Johnny on the spot for the Cards last year, clubbing 37 HR and knocking in 113 runs, it was his first full season in the bigs after playing 120 games in 2007. In 2005 Ludwick hit a dismal .191 for the Toledo Mudhens as a 26 year old. 2006 saw his average climb to .266(roughly his career minor league average), and it climbed to .340 when he earned his call up in 2007.
Rationale: After spending so many years in the minors, and getting the smallest of chances in the bigs, it is completely likely that Ludwick dialed up some sort of substance to help him stick in the majors. Rick Ankiel was a teammate in Memphis and St. Louis, and we all know he was using. So it's possible right?
Statistical Evidence: His numbers have fallen off a cliff. Yes, I know it's only mid-May, but even last year, Ortiz was not the Big Papi that Fenway Pawk fell in love with. His slugging was it's lowest since his days as a Twin, and his OBP was his lowest since 2003. Yes, his years are getting to him, but Ortiz is only 33, the same age at A-Rod. Coming into play Tuesday night, Ortiz was batting just .224 without a blast.
Rationale: Not only has Ortiz's numbers trailed off of late, but his body has always been, well "Big." Whether or not he is Glen Davis big, or Barry Bonds big, is uncertain.
Statistical Evidence: From his days as an Oakland A, through 2007, Isringhausen was as consistent as a pitcher could be. 2008 was a bad year for the pitcher, but he battled injuries, and therefore statistical evidence is practically not existent in "Izzy's" case.
Rationale: This is purely me being skeptical of his body size and muscle mass. Unlike most pitchers, Izzy is built, and his wide neck is possible to be enhanced. Yes, I'm making a stretch with Izzy, but I would not be surprised in the least if he was pinned for using.
Statistical Evidence: Ryan was a mediocre pitcher until he came into his own in 2003 and 2004, posting an astounding 2.28 ERA in 87 innings in the latter season. That was followed by 2005 and 2006, seasons that saw 74 saves and ERAs of 2.43 and 1.37. Last year Ryan was healthy after missing most of 2007, and he returned with a slightly lower K-ratio, and his highest WHIP since 2003.
Rationale: Again, Ryan's evidence is not as convincing as Ludwick or the next slugger on the list, but look at B.J. Ryan physically. The guy is built big time, and he has that Mark McGwire neck.
Statistical evidence: Gonzo's batting average in 1998 was a mediocre .267, but the year after the home run chase, 1999, saw his average climb to .336. As for homers, his career high tally of 57 in 2001 is almost double his second highest that came in 2000. His gradual climb in the years proceeding would put him at 30-37 homers in 2001, but 57? That's shady.
Rationale: Just like Barry Bonds, the lure of the Sosa/McGwire chase has got to be the motive if he did it. Although his body didn't balloon like Bonds or Canseco, he had to be on something. Right?
While I've named nothing but players so far, how about I bring up a manager for thought: Tony LaRussa. TLR has not only won titles, but he has coached some of the biggest names in juicing like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rick Ankiel. Coincidence?
Photo: The Situationist