After reading Jayson Stark’s excellent perspective on Rick Ankiel today, I was reminded of my conclusion in Baseball Between the Numbers: the players that are most likely to use steroids and other PEDs are those that stand the most to gain by doing so. There are two inflection points in a baseball player’s career at which he can receive what amounts to a life-altering money. The first is when he’s trying to establish himself in the major leagues. If a player survives long enough to make it to his first arbitration-eligible season, he’s probably going to have received at least a couple million dollars for playing baseball, money which if invested wisely will last him the rest of his natural life. The second is when he’s about to sign his first major free agent contract. That money, if invested wisely, will allow a player to live very, very comfortably for the rest of his life.
When did Rick Ankiel take HGH? Allegedly beginning in 2004, when he was trying to re-establish himself in the major leagues (still then as a pitcher) after undergoing Tommy John surgery. And Troy Glaus? SI.com reports that the shipments occurred between September 2003 and May 2004, coinciding with the 2004 season, which would be Glaus’s last before he hit free agency.
These players are the rules; it’s the Barry Bondses of the world that are the exceptions.