Pena: 'I can sleep at night.'
It's a sad but true fact about today's game that success breeds suspicion when it comes to unmasking those players who have used performance-enhancing drugs.
And even Rays 1B Carlos Pena isn't immune. In a recent New York newspaper column, Pena's comeback season was mentioned in the same breath as Cardinals OF Rick Ankiel and Blue Jays 3B Troy Glaus, who were both recently linked to receiving illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
In his column Sunday, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden said that Pena's season "evokes thoughts of two other monster seasons from out of the sky." Those seasons, Madden writes, are former Orioles OF Brady Anderson's 50-homer season in 1996, an accomplishment long suspected aided by steroids, and Norm Cash's AL batting title in 1961 (Cash later admitted he used a corked bat during his career).
"This scandal goes far beyond Barry Bonds," Madden writes. "Jose Canseco casually drops Alex Rodriguez's name and unfortunately it can no longer be dismissed. You want to believe that everything about A-Rod's MVP season is genuine, just as fans in Tampa Bay want to believe in Carlos Pena's out-of-nowhere career year. Pena, a player who only once hit more than 20 homers in a season and who was released by three different teams last year, had 37 homers and 105 RBI going into (Saturday)."
When asked his reaction to the column, Pena was quick to point out that he hit 27 homers in 2004, that he hit 30 between the majors and Triple-A in 2005 and even last season he hit 24 total. Pena, who came to the Rays with the reputation as a free-swinging pull hitter, has talked throughout the season about how his success is a biproduct of being more patient at the plate and going the opposite way with the pitch. His .275 average, which is 26 points higher than his career average, as well as his career-high 83 walks and .399 on-base percentage serve as proof.
"Power's never been an issue to me," Pena said. "I'd rather be oblivious to all the negative stuff. I'd rather focus on the positive, have fun and be thankful for all the blessings. Let's just leave it at that.
"I don't have any control over what people think," he added. "I know I can sleep at night."