By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

David Ortiz and steroids

Heard about David Ortiz flunking a 2003 test for steroids while driving around a little while ago. Very sad. What we don’t know is whether Ortiz stopped using after he got caught. Still, with Manny Ramírez already outed, the ’04 and ’07 championships seem just a bit tainted now.

The reason I say “just a bit” is that it’s really starting to look as though it would be easier to compile a list of players who didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs during the recently concluded (I hope) Steroid Era.

Given the disproportionate amount of heat they’ve come under, maybe Roger Clemens’ and Barry Bonds’ biggest offenses were being too good — and, of course, being first-class jerks who may have lied under oath.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Media should keep pushing on Crowley


The Globe and non-profit journalism


  1. mike_b1

    If everyone is using, then it's not tainted. And there is still no evidence that PEDs enhance baseball performance.Noted baseball guru (ha!) Shaughnessy is already making excuses for Papi, saying the tests came before Papi's surge.Keep in mind that lots of guys switched to other PEDs (such as HGH) once the testing for steroids began.

  2. ShelT

    The release of the list of 103 players who voluntarily submitted to testing never should have occurred. It's unfair that it's being released in a trickle (someone doesn't like A-Rod, so he gets outed), because more than the 103 players probably used. It's also unfair that players who didn't use come under suspicion. On the other hand, if true, Papi is a bit hypocritical given his comments about reaching the Sox HR single-season record "the right way" and his publicly condemning steroid users.

  3. lkcape

    Poor Mr. B_1. Apologizing for the cheaters.Not everyone in baseball — or sports — does steroids.So his premise is false from the start.

  4. mike_b1

    "Not everyone in baseball — or sports — does steroids."How can you know?

  5. lkcape

    How do you know that "everyone" does. It's your contention…Your citation, please?Or is this just more blather?

  6. Steve

    I'm trying to make sense of your last comment, Dan. If you survey the list of players suspended for PED use, you'll find that most of them are marginal major leaguers. And Clemens and Bonds aren't on that list, even though they were users. So I don't quite get what you mean there (except for the jerks part, which has been amply demonstrated).

  7. meamoeba

    espn has a pretty good "shame list" that shows nearly all players tainted by implication, admission, the mitchell report or a positive result. pretty impressive. seems to me the difference between the marginal players who got caught and suspended and the superstars who didn't is the bank account to buy designer drugs to beat the system. and i disagree, mike. whether peds may help or hinder is irrelevant; they are banned by mlb and, in the case of steroids, illegal in the eys of the law. until the rules are changed, these guys are cheaters. and as for ortiz, i love him but as painful as this is for me to say, if this is true, he's now a hypocrite.

  8. Don, American

    The Steroid Era is far from over. Almost every day in the "Transactions" section of the sports' page, one or more minor leaguers is busted for its use. Stupidity, defiance, whatever.

  9. Bill H.

    mike_B1: In my book, even if "everyone" cheated– which I don't believe, but even if they did–the game is tainted. Cheating is the taint, not the statistics that result.

  10. mike_b1

    Bill H, is throwing the spitball (and its derivatives) cheating? What about scuffing the ball (which almost every pitcher does)?Was using greenies — as almost every player in the 1950s and 60s did — cheating?Is stealing signs cheating?I'm just saying, where do you draw the line?

  11. meamoeba

    you draw the line at what is against the rules. pete rose found that out. scuffing and spitting weren't cheating until they were. stealing signs is bad form but not cheating. there's no rule against it. it could end up in being beaned but won't impede your march to cooperstown.

  12. mike_b1

    meamoeba, you're cherrypicking. The rule against applying substances to the baseball have been in effect since 1920. So do we kick Gaylord Perry (among others) out of the Hall?And there are laws governing amphethemine use, which almost assuredly included filling large coffee pots full of "lead," as they would call it, or dispensing greenies willy-willy.

  13. Steve

    Well, if using illegal substances is against the rules of baseball, doesn't that disqualify Babe Ruth?

  14. O'Rion

    I believe a majority used (50% +1?). Of course performance is tainted, they weren't supposed to be enhancing even though MLBPA had successfully thwarted testing. It was particularly easy for the Dom's who wintered on the island and had access to whatever was the PED du jour. Ortiz followed the leaders and he's as much as said so (didn't know what was in his shakes?) for years.

  15. Adam Riglian

    I think this revelation is more damning for Ortiz than it is for many of the other superstar talents linked to steroids.While Ramirez, Bonds, Clemens and others had proven track records as power hitters/ Cy Young-level pitchers, Ortiz languished in Minnesota before joining the Sox in '03.This theory only works if mainstream steroid use entered the game in or around 2001-2-3.

  16. mike_b1

    "Languished" isn't exactly the right word. He hit 38 HRs in 715 ABs and with an SLG of about .490 over the two seasons prior to coming to Boston. That's pretty good slugging. That the Twins didn't recognize what they had wasn't Papi's fault.

  17. Adam Riglian

    True, languished probably isn't the right wordStill, his number jump from the Twins to the Sox is ridiculous. Just look at the OPS difference between '02 and '03 ('02, is also a logical time for him to have started juicing, given he tested positive in '03). Then factor in his mediocre 2000 season (at least from a power perspective) and his sub .800 OPS in 2001 (which is extremely weak for a 1B/DH type in the American League).I can't write 2000 off to youth, he was 24 and already had more than 400 major league plate appearances and three years of MLB coaching.If it's true that he had not tested positive after 2004 (which I overheard someone say at work), then his stats from then on should be clean, although you could argue an inflated OBP based on a catcher's assessment of him being a guy that his team needed to pitch around, an assessment he earned while on the juice.

  18. Peter Porcupine

    DK – my opinion of the Red sox has been validated.Cheaters never win. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.

  19. Aaron Read

    I cared about the Yankees using steroids not because they sullied the game, but because I hate the Yankees.I don't care about the Red Sox using steroids for the same reason: I don't care HOW they win, I only care THAT they win.Or that the Yankees lose. I'll settle for that.If the Sox beating the Yankees means my boys all have to be hooked up to salient I.V.'s when they're in the dugout? Well shit, brother, break out the stents!Yankees suck! Go Sox!the recently concluded (I hope) Steroid Era.You're just adorable, Dan. Keep telling yourself that, it makes you that much cuter. Yes, that's what we in the industry call "sarcasm". After championing an anti-Birther piece about how reality should not be subject to who screams the loudest, I'd almost be offended by the disingenuousness of that statement if it weren't for the fact that you're a Sox fan, too. 🙂

  20. mike_b1

    Adam, it has been shown — conclusively — that a player's peak season typically is their age 27 season, plus or minus one year. Ortiz turned 27 prior to the 2003 season (his first with the Red Sox). Moreover, a player's walk rate typically is consistent beginning from the time they get to the majors. OBP is of course heavily tied to walks, since the major league average of balls put into play is around .300. Ortiz has always had a good eye, and throughout his career consistently walked more in than 12% of his ABs.(Of all the MLB players ever, only Sammy Sosa has had an OBP of under .300 and also one over .400.)Finally, I'm not sure why you call his 2000 season mediocre. He finished well above the league averages in batting average, slugging and OBP, and came into the season with less than 350 major league at-bats. What more do you want from a 24 year old?As far as I can tell, he followed a fairly typical progression of adding power as he got older. Yaz, for example, hit 15 HRs in 567 ABs when he was 24 (or 1 HR/37.8 ABs; Ortiz at the same age: 1 HR/41.5 AB). Two years later, he won the Triple Crown. PP: Of course cheaters win. Look at George Bush.

  21. Mike from Norwell

    "The release of the list of 103 players who voluntarily submitted to testing never should have occurred."Do you know what you're commenting on here? The actual 103 number is the figure of all of the players (given advance warning also, so the number is lower than the truth) in 2003 who tested positive for PEDs. Just a little difference, to put it mildly in how you interpret that number.

  22. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Good grief. Imagine being lectured on cheating by a Patriots fan.

  23. Bill H.

    I've followed baseball pretty closely for my whole life, but apparently I've missed something. Will somebody tell me how Babe Ruth cheated, and what banned substances–aside from hooch–he consumed to bolster his performance?

  24. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: Babe Ruth was a heavy user of performance-detracting drugs (PDDs).

  25. Steve

    Babe Ruth famously consumed alcohol, which was illegal at the time.

  26. Amused

    Actually, consuming alcohol was never illegal. Prohibition outlawed "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States"So if you stockpiled your hooch, and didn't sell or transport it, you could get as hammered as you pleased.

  27. Adam Riglian

    MikeI wrote "Then factor in his mediocre 2000 season (at least from a power perspective)"He hit ten home runs. That's mediocre. His slugging was at league average, but what's important is the contrast between his league average slugging before 2003, and his near league leading slugging after

  28. mike_b1

    Adam, Ortiz was 24 in 2000. Baseball players typically peak in their age 27 season, plus or minus one year.

  29. bob gardner

    2003 was the year when the Red Sox hushed up a much bigger scandal.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén