“This is a story about the real cost of steroids in baseball -- not the broken records, not the litigation, not the talk-show drone about the elite players who juiced and how to weigh their Hall of Fame candidacy. This is a story about the hundreds, even thousands, of anonymous ballplayers whose careers and lives were changed by a temptation that defined an era. It is also a story about the secrets we keep and the casualties we create when we allow the corrupt to go unspoken -- especially when the corrupt is something far more horrific than steroids.”
The story is especially interesting to Twins fans because it is mostly about Dan Naulty, a reliever from the Twins from 1996-98 who came up through the Twins farm system.
It compares his career to those of three similar Twins pitching prospects from the 1994 Fort Myers Miracle.
Because of offseason steroid use, Naulty added about 60 pounds to his frame, 10 mph to his velocity and carved out a four-year career as a reliever. None of the other three made the majors, topping out in AAA, and the piece tries to focus on how a generation of clean players were cheated in their attempts to reach the majors, sometimes by teammates like Naulty who were covertly injecting steroids.
But is also documents the costs to Naulty and this is the most comprehensive part of the story. It talks about why Naulty turned to steroids - how desperate he was and how few options he felt like he had. It also mentions personal challenges he had faced from childhood, including episodes of being sexually abused. It follows his major league career, which turned into an addiction cycle between performance-enhancing amphetamines and alcohol. It talks about him hitting rock bottom the night after winning the 1999 World Series and talking about suicide. And it talks about his recovery, his honesty in the Mitchell Report, and his new career as a pastor.
Tangentially, it talks about the Twins organization at the time, but Verducci refrains from pointing any fingers. There are some details that probably make Twins officials cringe a bit. Verducci points out that of the six players from the 1994 Fort Myers Miracle who made at least $500,000 in their MLB careers, at least three (Naulty, Matt Lawton and Dan Serafini) are know PED users. However, especially in the naïve 90s, it's certainly feasible that Twins officials didn't recognize that Naulty’s offseason gains were due to drug use. His fellow pitchers certainly didn't. Brett Roberts, one of the fellow prospects that Verducci followed, reacted to the news about Naulty:
"I guess I should have been suspicious. How can a guy go from 85 miles an hour to 95 in three or four years? As I look back on it, it's so clear and obvious that I can't believe I was that naive and incredibly stupid. All the signs were there."
Roberts, who made it as far as AAA but no further, talks later about how cheated he feels.
“’It's cheating,’ says Roberts, who bristles at the steroid users who made it. ‘It sticks in my craw because I know how hard I worked. Was I going to be a guy with a five- to 10-year career? Probably not. But I know I could have been there.’"
That is another point of the story – how thin the line can be between making the majors and not making the majors, and how tempting it can be to do whatever it takes to cross that line. Later in the article, Verducci talks about how Naulty joined a Yankees prayer group that included Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton and Jason Grimsley – all of whom found their names in the Mitchell Report. Nobody was immune.
It’s a thorough, well-researched story and worth the half hour it will take you to read it. If you’re ready to dive into a depth beyond the effects steroids have on the record books, check it out. You can find the on line version here.
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