The recent case involving Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) has brought the word steroid back to the forefront in a post-World Series baseball community. In a case that involves not steroid-trafficking, but tax evasion, a number of high-profile athletes, including five MLB players and a heretofore unknown anabolic steroid called THG (tetrahydrogestrinone), is perfect for the media but tells the fans nothing they shouldn’t already have known. The sexy sheen of a steroid probe involving Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi is a story that lays itself out on a silver platter for a lazy journalist that will not allow the thought to cross his or her mind that there have been no accusations of usage by these athletes or any other baseball players. Worse, by putting the word “steroid” and “Bonds” or “Giambi” in the same headline, the color of impropriety is almost impossible for these athletes to overcome. There is simply no way to ever give either a fair trial or even a reasonable testing, but there’s nothing wrong with this fact. Innocent until proven guilty is not a doctrine in American athletics; we’ve moved to a tabloid-style stoning by innuendo and rumor.
The 2003 season will go down as the final chapter for the New Haven Ravens franchise, as the team will relocate to Manchester, New Hampshire in 2004. The final season will also go down as one of the best as well, having won 79 games, the Northern Division championship, and putting more major league prospects on display than any team in recent memory. The Ravens hosted nearly every notable prospect in the Blue Jays’ system for some length of time, and an outfield trio of first round selections highlighted their lineup.
Alexis Rios, the team’s number one selection in 1999, continued his transformation from project to prospect with a breakout season. The 6’6 Puerto Rican had been projected as a power hitter when selected, but had managed just six home runs and a .362 slugging percentage in 1450 career at-bats prior to 2003. He also had shown little regard for the base on balls, drawing 82 walks in his first 380 professional games, and seemingly did not fit the mold that the Blue Jays were building.
The coaches preached discipline to him, however, and the lessons learned helped him earn the Eastern League MVP. His .352/.402/.551 line translates to a .255 MjEqA, a solid mark for a 22-year-old at any level. He nearly doubled his career home run mark, hitting 11 round-trippers as part of his 54 extra base hit attack. He also set a career high with 39 walks, though his plate discipline deteriorated as the season wore on and he saw his strikeouts rise as well. However, that essentially boils down to nitpicking what was a tremendously successful year.