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Were the Mets Clean?

By Jason Levy
Perhaps New York Mets fans owe former general Manager Steve Phillips an apology. It was Phillips, after all, who many believe that in the winter of 2000-2001, Phillips halted the Mets pursuit of the most coveted free agent of all-time, young shortstop Alex Rodriguez, over demands that A-Rod and his agent Scott Boras allegedly made during negotiations. Requests for accommodations such as hotel rooms, personal assistants, merchandising, etc., made Phillips bow out of the A-Rod derby, a contest many across the league thought was the Mets to lose. After all, A-Rod was born in New York and said he was Mets fan growing up. The Mets had an opening at shortstop (no one could legitimately argue Rey Ordonez over Rodriquez, no matter how good Ordonez’s glove was) and the Mets were fresh off their first ever back-to-back playoff appearances and a National League Pennant. Phillips caught a lot of heat for letting A-Rod get away.
But as it turns out, Phillips was right about bringing A-Rod into the equation would create a 24-and-1 scenario, just ask Joe Torre. But it also kept a juiced up player out of the Mets clubhouse (A-Rod claims that he only used performance enhancing drugs during his Texas Rangers seasons from 2001-2003, but he’s not very trustworthy at the moment) and saved the Mets from the embarrassment the New York Yankees are facing today with the supposed savior of baseball turning out to be just another cheater.
If you believe A-Rod’s claim that he only used steroids in Texas, than you could argue if he came to the Mets, he would still be clean. Fair enough, but does any body know if those late-90’s to early-aught Mets were clean? This was right in the middle of the Steroid Error, and with all the high-profile players being revealed as steroid users, innocent until proven guilty is not a principle that will convince many fans to trust the players of the era.
Role players such as Matt Franco and Todd Pratt have already been linked to steroids, and former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski was one of the biggest whistle-blowers about the era. So it would be naïve to think that all the Mets players are innocent. But does that mean the cogs of those teams, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile, Al Leiter, Rick Reed, Armando Benitez, John Franco, Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell were steroid users?
There were 103 more positive tests besides A-Rod’s on that infamous 2003 list, and just about all of these players were still active in baseball, not all with the Mets, so it is possible that a few of these players are listed. Piazza has been suspected of steroid use. He was the top offensive player on a team, playing a position not known for offensive production. The fact that he wore down as the years went on could show he wasn’t a user, or that he stopped at some point and his body was no longer able to hold up with the PEDs. If it ever comes out that Piazza took steroids, there would be a lot of dejected Mets fans from my generation. Other players on that list, like Leiter, Reed, and Zeile were well-traveled vets by that time, and while they may not have taken steroids, they probably knew a few players that did and could have had easy access if they so chose. And then you look at the marginal players on those teams like Benny Agbayani, Joe McEwing, Vance Wilson, Luis Lopez, Glendon Rusch, Bobby Jones, and all the players we can’t even remember, were they at the level they were because they were on steroids?
Because of the revelations of the past few years, everyone is under suspicion. That aforementioned list of 103 more positive tests, those were just the players that were stupid enough to get caught even when they knew tests were coming that season (and if you believe some reports, they knew approximate dates of the tests thanks to the union) and the tests probably missed several players who cycled off the drugs and passed their tests. If steroids was as rampant as people like Radomski, Jose Canseco, and Ken Caminiti said, and right now they are a few of the most trustworthy people on the subject, than the majority of baseball was on some form of PED. So it would be naïve to think that players on every team weren’t part of that. The Mets so far have not caught much of the steroids flack. But maybe it hasn’t come out yet. I hate to think of those Mets that way, they were some of my favorite players and I came away with some great memories with them (Pratt’s homer over Arizona, Ventura’s Grand-Slam Single, Agbayani’s walk-off homer over the Giants, Bobby Jones’s one-hitter the next day to clinch the series, just to name a few) that remain some of my favorite overall sports memories. I don’t expect the worst, but will anyone be surprised by it now? If the shining light of baseball can be exposed, than so can anyone.

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