So by the time spring training of 2006 rolled around, Larry Bigbie wasn't just an outfielder who "might be important if he stays healthy." He was already the most important player in all of baseball, the man who had heard the wolf howling at the door, thought it to be just the wind and made the mistake of opening up.

And really, wasn't this always the way it was going to be? The star players who did so much — the Barry Bondses and the Big Macs — they became the public face of the steroid epidemic in baseball, yet the player who best represents the era might just be the domino that fell first.

Larry Bigbie wasn't a star player trying to hit more home runs than anyone else ever had, or a future Hall of Fame pitcher trying to keep the edge he'd possessed his entire career. Larry Bigbie was a struggling major leaguer, a genuinely talented ballplayer who needed just that little bit extra to stick in the bigs. The guy who watched as the players around him took the opportunities that should have been his, if only he weren't stuck on the bench with a sore hammy.

Larry Bigbie during spring training of 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Matt May/US Presswire
Larry Bigbie during spring training of 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

For better or worse, the real face of the steroid era in baseball should be Larry Bigbie, and all the players like him. Not the face of a villain, or the face of pure, unabashed greed, but the face of a player desperate to live out his dream. The face of a guy with just a few hundred big-league at-bats and only marginal success in those. The face of a guy from rural Indiana. Not a big fish at all, just a guy who did what he thought he had to do to grab hold of the game he saw passing him by.

Hey, you guys remember Larry Bigbie? No? Well, he used to be the most important man in baseball, you know.

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