Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Before B-12, There Was Brady

In light of the current steroid controversy, is it fair to question Brady's big season?
By Christopher Heun

Brady Anderson has something in common with Barry
Bonds, but it might not be what you think.

They both hit 50 home runs in a single season. Only 22
players have ever done that. Hank Aaron never did.
Besides belonging to that elite club, Brady and Barry
also both stole 50 bases in a single season. They’re
the only two players ever to accomplish both
milestones.

And you thought this was going to be about steroids.
Well, it is.

After his career year in 1996, when he hit exactly 50
homers (which still stands as the Orioles record),
Brady never came close to matching his surprising
power. He never hit more than 24 homers in any other
season. BaseballLibrary.com calls Brady, "the most
unlikely fifty home-run hitter in baseball history."

But there is no proof Brady Anderson ever took
steroids. He said publicly that he did not after Jim
Palmer aired his suspicions during spring training two
years ago.

“I don't think you should get accused of steroids if
you perform well,” Brady told The Sun. “I know what I
accomplished, am proud of it, and know that it was
done with integrity.”

“It was 26 more home runs than I hit in any other
season, but that's just one more home run per week,
just one more good swing.”

Simply looking for career years may be a crude way to
comb for potential juicers and cheats. But looking at
50 homerun hitters might not be. It’s such a rare feat
and yet so many players have done it recently that you
have to wonder about the entire group.

In the century before 1995, players had hit 50 in a
single season just 18 times. But in the 11 years since
then, the Steroid Era, sluggers managed to do it 19
times. In descending order of swat: Bonds. McGwire.
Sosa. Griffey. Luis Gonzales. Alex Rodriguez. Thome.
Fielder. Belle. Andruw Jones. Greg Vaughn. And Brady.

Jose Canseco, for what he’s worth, wrote this about
Brady in his book, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant
'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big:”
“Was he
using steroids? I never saw him inject himself, but he
and I discussed steroids many times. And consider
this: How else could someone go from hitting a total
of forty-one home runs over three seasons to cranking
out fifty in one, without a major boost from
steroids?”

According to one theory, some players have turned to
steroids before a free agent year. Big numbers equal a
big contract. That doesn’t quite hold true for Brady.
The Orioles had a $4 million option after the ’96
season; he wasn’t a free agent until the next
off-season, when owner Peter Angelos, over dinner in
Little Italy, convinced his centerfielder to sign for
$31 million over five years, considered below market
value at the time.

The theory looks a lot stronger, though, with some
more recent performances by players whose power
shriveled the following season. Adrian Beltre, who hit
48 homers for the Dodgers in 2004 (after never hitting
more than 23) and then signed a five-year, $64 million
deal with Seattle, managed just 19 homers last year in
as many at bats. And then there’s the Orioles’ own
Javy Lopez. No catcher has ever hit more homers in a
season than the 43 he popped for the Braves in 2003.
After that season, he signed at the Warehouse for
three-years and $22.5 million but then managed only 23
homers in 122 more at bats in 2004. He missed 59 games
last year and hit just 15.

In Brady’s defense, he played hurt in 1997, the year
after he joined the 50 Homer Club. Not only did he suffer
from tendinitis in his knee, he cracked a rib late in
spring training but refused to go on the disabled
list. By then, he was used to people questioning his
performance. In his nine full seasons after stealing
53 bases in 1992, his breakout year, he managed to
swipe more than 30 only twice.

There’s another curious link between Anderson and Bonds. Brady set a record (later broken by Alfonso Soriano) with 12 leadoff homers in 1996, eclipsing the previous high set in 1973. The man who had held the record? Barry’s dad, Bobby Bonds.

Was Brady on the Juice? Vote in the poll on the sidebar

1 comment:

Jeremy McWhorter said...

Good piece Chris. Anderson's season was truly one of the more suspicious/odd of recent memory. My vote - JUICED!