Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement has inspired seemingly every sportswriter in America to recall their fondest memories of baseball’s golden child.

More importantly, Griffey continues to be hailed, now more than ever, as the league’s only steroid-free star of the Steroid Era.  

So, the question here is simple: Why?

The only real persuasive evidence anyone can argue in Griffey’s case is his slim physique. That’s it. But head over to Google Images and type in the names of these suspected users: Edinson Volquez, Paul Byrd, Gary Matthews Jr., Jose Guillen and Rick Ankiel.

All of them have been implicated as steroid users, but even with an extended look, none of them appear to be significantly bigger than Griffey, if they are bigger at all.

Physical appearance aside, Griffey posted far superior numbers to almost everyone in the Steroids Era.

He smacked 630 career homers, good enough for fifth all-time and placing him second to only one Steroids Era player: Barry Bonds. Griffey placed in the league’s top 10 in slugging percentage 10 times, including a stretch of nine years out of 10.

Not even the era’s poster children, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, can boast a matching résumé.

Don’t forget that Griffey posted these numbers against pitchers who appear to have been juicing as much as everyone else.

Throughout his illustrious career, Junior also made some of the most mesmerizing catches of all time. He robbed home runs while slamming into the outfield wall and stretched out his limbs to their last tendons to make diving grabs.

Griffey displayed elite athletic ability for the duration of his 21-year career.

So, Griffey’s numbers triumph those of almost every Steroids Era player, and the athleticism he displayed in the outfield is unmatched. Yet because the future Hall of Famer does not have muscles bulging from his neck and his biceps do not resemble something from a bodybuilding competition, he evades every performance-enhancing drug conversation.  

When he is included in one of the conversations, he is designated as “the one great player from the last 25 years who didn’t juice” (oftentimes alongside Derek Jeter).

Oddly enough, Lance Armstrong, who resembles a twig more than he resembles a PED abuser, has been under constant scrutiny and suspicion, long before the recent allegations of his former teammate Floyd Landis surfaced.

You might say, “Oh, but isn’t every rider in the Tour de France juicing?” Well, haven’t we been taught to suspect and more or less just assume every baseball player from the Steroids Era is guilty before proven innocent?

Some might point to Ken Griffey Sr.’s presence in the locker room during Junior’s early days in the majors as an explanation for his supposed steroid-free career, but Senior only shared the clubhouse with Junior for two seasons. Others might point to his lengthy list of injuries as evidence against any performance-enhancing drug use.

Now, in no way should we start looking at Griffey as a user simply because he posted great numbers (and in no way am I saying Griffey used steroids). After all, he never tested positive and was never named in any reports or connected to any shady doctors.

But the issue here is that Griffey played in the Steroids Era. He played right from its suspected beginning into its tail end. In that time, he posted not only the best numbers of the era, but of all time.

Griffey should not be exempt from steroids discussion merely because he is skinny.

Barry Bonds never tested positive, yet has emerged as the face of the Steroids Era. Of course, Bonds was connected to BALCO, and Griffey’s name remains clean, but he still should come under the same suspicion many other unconnected players from the era have.

It is time to celebrate the retirement of what may have been one of the greatest careers in baseball history, but when the dust settles, Griffey’s name should not sit alone as the only star who did not juice.

Especially when we have been trained to believe that every player from the Steroids Era did just that.

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