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A batting Triple Crown winner from Venezuela named Cabrera was suspended after testing positive for Performance-Enhancing Drugs.
No need to worry Tigers fans, I’m not talking about Miguel.
Former Nippon Professional Baseball star Alex Cabrera tested positive for anabolic steroids last Thursday, as reported by the Mexican Baseball League (LMB), where he plays for the Veracruz team. Cabrera – who played briefly at the big league level with the Diamondbacks in 2000 – has denied the use of such substances (don’t they always?), but few people doubt he actually did consume them. He has the prototypical large build of steroid users from the 90s, has had abnormally high home run rates throughout his career, and last but not least, was mentioned on the Mitchell Report in 2007.
Cabrera’s suspension may not mean much to baseball fans in the United States, but for people here in Venezuela, it’s a hard blow to our “beisbol” tradition. As I mentioned before, he won a Triple Crown in the Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP) earlier this year, the first time that has ever happened in the league’s 70 years of existence. What really hurts, though, is the single-season home run record he broke this past season, which belonged to Bo Diaz and had been standing for 34 years. Diaz had a solid 13-year major league career as a catcher that included two All-Star games and a trip to the World Series in 1983. He died in a tragic accident at the early age of 37 while fixing his satellite dish, and is remembered dearly by most Venezuelan baseball fans.
This situation is unfortunately similar to the one Americans have to go through with Barry Bonds, who not only has the single-season home run record, but broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record as well. It’s certainly an uncomfortable feeling to have such an important milestone tarnished by the doubt and the “what ifs” that PEDs bring along with them. It got me thinking about how the Rockies have the fortune of not having much to be ashamed of in that regard, despite being established right at the dawn of the steroid era.
Colorado has had its fair share of sluggers and batting champions throughout its 21-year history, and virtually none of them have been associated with the use of illegal substances. Players like Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, and more recently Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez, have never been tied with steroids. That is not to say none of them actually did it, because we’ll never know for sure. But the sole fact that they haven’t been suspected, or even mentioned in this time of witch-hunting, gives us Rockies fans some peace of mind. There have been, however, some Rockies players with PEDs implications, some of them while playing with the team.
Before the Colorado Rockies even played a single game in the Big Leagues, they were in some degree related to a certain PED user we’ve already mentioned. For the 1992 season, the Rockies and Cubs shared an Arizona League rookie team, in which Colorado had 21 players and the Cubs 12. Of the twelve players that Chicago sent, there was a 20-year-old Venezuelan 1B/OF signed in 1991 by the name of Alexander Cabrera. He had a grand total of one home run in 135 at-bats, along with a .259 slugging percentage. If he was already using steroids at the time, they certainly didn’t do the trick.
The most famous steroid user that has played for the Rockies, however, was Jason Giambi, who was involved in the BALCO scandal and testified to a grand jury in 2003. He later admitted publicly in 2007 to have used performance-enhancing drugs and apologized for it. Rockies fans embraced Giambi after he helped the team during the last stretch of the 2009 season to win the NL Wild Card. Baseball fans in general were quick to forgive Giambi because he never denied it vehemently or sued people for saying it. That sets him apart from players like Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun, who are still given a hard time by most fans. Alex Cabrera seems to be going down that same path, also. I know people in Venezuela would much rather see him just admit it and apologize.
Another “notable” Rockies player tied with the use of PEDs was Denny Neagle. The lefty pitcher was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, where Kirk Radomski stated he sold anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormones (HGH) to Neagle several times between 2000 an 2004. That is almost exactly the time period in which he played for the Rockies. If Colorado got a juiced version of Neagle, then I don’t even want to imagine what the clean version of him would’ve been like.
Other players who had short stints with the Rockies and were related to steroids were Bobby Estalella, Todd Greene, Matt Herges, and Ron Villone (who, by the way, was referred to Radomski by Denny Neagle). However, none of these players appear to have done it while with Colorado.
There’s also the case of former Rockies’ first base coach and current Colorado Springs Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill. He was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report for using HGH while he was an active player. He was required to talk to investigators given his condition of MLB employee, but denied using the drugs he admitted buying from Radomski, which I honestly find hard to believe.
Nine players related to the Rockies organization have been suspended by Major League Baseball because of their involvement with banned substances: Rafael Betancourt, Juan Rincon, Jorge Piedra, Jonathan Herrera, Christian Parker, Dan Serafini, Humberto Cota, Omar Quintanilla, and Eliezer Alfonzo. Betancourt and Rincon, were suspended in 2005 while they were with the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, respectively. Alfonzo’s first suspension came in 2008 while playing with the Giants. He tested positive again in 2011 while with the Rockies and was given a 100-game suspension, since it was his second offense. He appealed and MLB eventually dropped the suspension for the same reasons the Ryan Braun suspension was overturned. Of the other six players, only Jorge Piedra and Dan Serafini were suspended while on the major league roster. Herrera, Parker, Cota, and Quintanilla were on the minor leagues when they were suspended.
It’s really sad for baseball followers in general when big-name players are known to have cheated; it’s especially disheartening when they stain a record or cast a shadow over an otherwise exciting performance, like the cases of Alex Cabrera or Barry Bonds. Rockies fans may not have championships to brag about, but at least we can still assume our stars were aided by nothing but talent and hard work; and yes, also a little bit by Coors Field.