In the Eye on Baseball Top 10, here's what we do: rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10 will always be informed by some angle or another. (Note that the absence of an angle is itself an angle!)
And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who are the best active players to have at least the whiff of PED use about them?
Obviously, some strict criteria are in order. We're absolutely not getting into the distasteful and roundly ignorant game of guessing which players may be using banned substances based on appearances or recent performance. Instead, we're limiting our rankings to those who were mentioned in the Mitchell Report and those who have been suspended under MLB's Joint Drug Agreement, including those disciplined for their roles in the Biogenesis scandal. As for the "active" qualifier, we're talking about players currently on MLB active rosters or, in a couple of cases, those now in the minors who have been in the majors before.
Please do bear in mind that some of the players mentioned here -- i.e., many of those who appear in the Mitchell Report -- have not admitted to PED use, so don't take their inclusion here to be tantamount to an accusation. That is, "whiff of PED use" absolutely does not equal "proven use of PEDs."
How are we ranking them? We're doing so in terms of career value, and, no, we're not taking any half-baked guesses at how PED use, alleged or otherwise, may or may not have altered their numbers.
And now let us recite baseball names for purposes of SEO and making you angry. As always, feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.
1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: In a vacuum, he has some of the most impressive numbers of all time. Depending on how much he plays the rest of the way, A-Rod could wind up with 700 homers, 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBI and 2,000 runs scored.
2. Manny Ramirez, Rangers: Absent PEDs, Ramirez would be remembered as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time: 154 OPS+ for his career; 555 homers; 1,329 walks; 4,012 times on base; 1,122 extra-base hits. It doesn't look like he's going to hit his way out of the minors this season, but what a career.
3. Jason Giambi, Indians: Minus the taint of PEDs, Giambi would have a credible Hall of Fame case: .279/.402/.520 batting line, 436 homers, 401 doubles, one MVP and five All-Star appearances. He's likely to notch his 2,000th career hit this season.
4. Miguel Tejada, Royals: Tejada missed exactly three games between 1999 and 2006. He won the 2002 AL MVP Award, and he's the proud owner of 2,404 hits, 307 homers, 468 doubles, and almost 2,000 games at shortstop.
7. Brian Roberts, Orioles: The 35-year-old Roberts has been diminished by injuries, but not so long ago he was a plus defender at the keystone. Offensively, he has to his credit a career OBP of .350, three 50-double seasons and 276 stolen bases.
8. Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Two-time All-Star, 157 homers, .496 SLG, solid defender and base runner, 45 doubles a season ago ... Cruz is a solid and established performer. He'll be missed in Arlington this season.
9. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: Ruiz is enduring a tough 2013, but his career slash line of .274/.359/.410 is quite strong by catcher standards. He has also handled some impressive rotations over the years.
10. Michael Morse, Mariners: Morse owns a career OPS+ of 125, and he tallied 31 homers for the Nats in 2011. Oddity of oddities: The lumbering Morse has more than 450 career defensive innings at shortstop.
1. Andy Pettitte, Yankees: Hall of Famer? Despite his PED associations, Pettitte seems to have positioned himself above the fray. What will also help his case are his 252 wins (and counting) and five World Series rings.
2. Bartolo Colon, Athletics: The 40-year-old Colon is in the AL Cy Young discussion this season on the strength of a 2.50 ERA and 21 walks across 22 starts. He was a previous Cy winner in 2005 as a member of the Angels.
3. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies: Betancourt has established himself as a shutdown reliever, and his numbers impress despite the fact that he has called Coors Field home since 2009. His ERA since joining the Rockies? A sparkling 2.97.
4. Edinson Volquez, Padres: Volquez, mostly because of control problems, has never realized the promise he showed during his exceptional rookie season of 2008. Still, he's a rotation survivor if nothing else.
5. Guillermo Mota, free agent: Mota hasn't pitched at all in 2013, but he's not retired (call him!). Across parts of 14 major-league seasons, Mota -- a Montreal Expo at one point -- has notched an ERA+ of 104. His 2003 season with the Dodgers (1.97 ERA, zero unearned runs, 105 innings) stands as one of the great relief seasons of the current era.
6. J.C. Romero, Indians: The 37-year-old Romero is still trying to make a go of it, as he has pitched at Triple-A for the Nationals and Indians this season. If it's the end -- and it probably is -- then Romero leaves the game with a 110 ERA+ across 680 games and a 3.15 ERA across 25 postseason appearances.
7. Antonio Bastardo, Phillies: Bastardo has been highly effective for the Phillies this season (2.32 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings), and for his career the 27-year-old lefty has limited same-side hitters to a line of .188/.279/.337. Yes, he'll have a long career.
8. Sergio Escalona, Astros: As you can tell, the crop of PED-linked pitchers is substantially less impressive than the hitters. Escalona has a 3.48 ERA in 63 big-league appearances, but he hasn't appeared in the bigs since 2011. He's currently pitching for the Astros' Double-A affiliate.
9. Jordan Norberto, FA: Norberto has made 78 major-league appearances across three seasons and has pitched to a 102 ERA+. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June.
10. Fautino de los Santos, FA: He was released by the Padres in May but isn't retired. Yet. For his career, he owns a 4.21 ERA in 40 major-league games for the A's.