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How Good Was That Guy?

by Nick Vitrano

Hitting for the cycle. It's an unfathomably incredible accomplishment. But take a look at the list of guys who have hit for the cycle in MLB's history - it's filled with a measurable crop of "who?" It got me thinking about steroids (again). Yeah, I know. Here we go again. Nice job, Nick. Does everything have to revolve around steroids? Well, sort of.

The fog of the steroids era will never fully lift. Visibility has increased exponentially since the 2007 release of the "Mitchell Report," but the haze remains. It never will fully dissipate. We'll get along just fine in its presence. We've already learned to deal with it and adapt to it. But it is forever a part of the great game's history.

Over the years, we've debated the victimization of the game at the hands of the abusers, focusing our ire on the assault on the record books. For most, Hank Aaron will always be the king, and the stars of a decade will always carry the suffix "of the steroids era."

As the list of confirmed juicers has grown, so too has the register of suspected cheaters. So great is that tally that it seems plausible to rattle off an inventory of the clean far more easily than the dirty.

And there...on that short list...reside the true victims of the steroids era.

The true victim of the steroids era is the guy who was run outta town because he couldn't get his ERA under 4.70 - the guy whose 20 bombs ranked him 18th at his position - the guy who slapped .268 and was a disappointment. The true victim of the steroids era is the guy about whom we remark, "Remember that guy?"

Dwarfed by the steroids era's artificially inflated line of excellence, the contributions of the clean have left us with the greatest injustice of all...no answer to the question "How good was that guy?"

I wonder how many of those on the cycle list were really a lot better than we think they were.

MLBs All-Time Cycles List

Tease Image: By Tage Olsin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons