By now I am sure you have all heard non-stop talk about the PED suspensions that came out Monday. Much to my dismay, every at bat A-rod has taken has been tweeted, updated, and shown on ESPN. This, understandably has been a really big story. Not only have all told 14 players received suspensions, another 3 players were found to have taken the steroids, but had already served suspensions. I am going to hit on several parts of this whole story, so I apologize this might be a bit of a longer post.
Now, for those of you who haven't kept up with this story, none of the 13 players suspended Monday had failed a drug test. And despite the fact that none of them had failed the drug test, they all (minus A-Rod accepted the plea bargain of a 50 game suspension. First of all that shows you how much evidence that the league had against these players. The one guy who didn't take the plea bargain got dealt a 211 game suspension, the largest non-lifetime ban in the leagues history (over 100 years). The only reason A-rod chose to appeal the supsension, and EVERYONE in the league knows this, is because of the hefty amount of money he is owed. The league had enough evidence it felt safe suspending him for over 200 games(the commissioner considered the lifetime ban) without fear of the appeal getting overturned.
The first major issue I want to approach is the fact that the league, in this instance caught a grand total of 3 out of 16 guys using performance enhancing drugs. 3 out of 16. That is just pathetic. A whopping 19%. To all of the players calling for getting P.E.D.'s out of baseball... here's a good place to start. I can tell you as a chemist, and Benton I am sure would agree with me, the technology, equipment and procedures are there to be catching a much higher percentage of these guys. That is not to say the MLB isn't doing what it can to get the job done, but there is clearly a flaw in either the sampling system, or the limits of detection or something. What is the incentive not to cheat, when you have less than a 1 in 5 shot of getting caught? If baseball truly wants to crack down on P.E.D.'s this is where it begins.
Second of all, and I have to thank twitter and the ESPN baseball guys for bringing this to my attention, most of these guys were Hispanic players, mostly who came to the US solely to play baseball. Now I aware most of these guys will do anything to escape the poverty that they live in and see baseball as an easy way off the island. The problem with this is, there are people taking advantage of that, scouts and handlers down in Latin America, who are giving P.E.D.'s to these guys as 13 and 14 year olds in hopes of cashing in big on these young talents. The kids aren't fully aware of what they are doing to their bodies, but know that this is the way to get off of the island. Once they get to the minors, or even the majors, it becomes increasingly difficult to get off these drugs, for fear of their baseball dream coming to an end. One anonymous GM stated that the league may be going after certain Agencies here in the USA who were helping these Hispanic players get the P.E.D.'s. The agents were looking to cash in on these guys and helped them get the pills and injections they needed to get the big money. Again, the MLB needs to address this issue. More and more players are being brought stateside to play ball, and Major League Baseball needs to have a bigger presence down there helping these boys make better decisions and better control of the what is happening in the recruitment of these young players.
One thing that has been a common theme of guys who are playing the game clean, or appear to be at least, is that they feel the punishments for being caught should be more severe. I absolutely agree with this. Again, people aren't being caught right now, but when they are they get a 50 game suspension. The equals about a third of the season for these guys. Now that sounds like a big chunk of the season to go without pay, but let us look at what the punishment looks like in the case of Ryan Braun. This suspension will cost him about $3.5 million, which to you or me sounds like a fairly large chunk of cash, but he still has over $100 million left on his current contract. $3.5 million is like me getting a $35 ticket for parking in the wrong "zone" on campus. An annoyance, but at the end of the day, not enough to make me really rethink my ways. Some guys want an immediate 100 game suspension, which would probably deter more players than it does now, but with guys signing longer contracts at younger ages for more money, there isn't a huge loss in the grand scheme of things. Another thing many player, past and present have suggested, is that voiding a players contract, which would cut the income of money but the problem with that is that other teams don't fear signing a guy who has been mired in P.E.D. controversy. Just ask Melky Cabrera who got a $16 million contract after testing positive for P.E.D.'s last season. If you void the guys contract, someone else is willing to pay, well, for his services. And if no one will sign him? Well then it is collusion by the owners and we are possibly facing another sports lock out. I know this will never happen, but what I would love to see happen is not only a suspension, but a requirement that a player who had tested positive for Performance Enhancers could not earn over the league minimum for the remainder of his career and he would be required to serve out the remainder of his contract with his current team. Because that gets at the heart of the problem. Money. Most of these guys who were caught were not all-stars, or superstars, they were guys trying to make/ stay in the league. And the superstars who did it, they just wanted to be remembered as the greatest, and as is the case with A-rod, they are trying to milk that for as much as they can. It is ludicrous that despite the constant talk about getting rid of P.E.D.'s in the league that guys who have tested positive can still make more than a guy who is playing the game clean and the right way.