Whether you have any interest in sports or not, there is a 100% probability you have either seen or heard somewhere about Alex Rodriguez and the other 12 baseball players suspended by Major League Baseball (MLB) because of their use of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs). These 13 players were connected to the Biogenesis Scandal.
Before 2006, I have to believe if the players knew about the use of PEDs the baseball owners and their hand-picked commissioner also had to know. The home run hitting of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds increased the attendance and television ratings which led to increased money for the owners of baseball teams. As my friend Charlie said to me at my fitness center, MLB suffered from “The Three Monkeys” syndrome.” When former Major Leaguer Rico Brogna spent a day with me at Quinnipiac University, I asked him about the use of PEDS by his teammates. He told me that the use of PEDs was never discussed in the locker room but it was known that if you wanted them you knew how and where to get them. By the way Rico was in the majors in the late 90s when the use of PEDs was prevalent. Finally, in 2006, Major League Baseball along with the players’ union made an agreement to actively end the use of PEDs. This agreement included random drug testing and a new series of penalties which included a 50-game suspension for the first violation, a second 50-game suspension for the second violation, and a lifetime ban from baseball for the third violation. They claimed this agreement was the toughest attempt by any professional league to stop the use of PEDs.
I agree with the claim of MLB but the real question is: Has this agreement worked to stamp-out the use of illegal drugs? Has the fear of these suspensions without pay worked to stop the use of PEDs? My answer is no. One of the suspended 13 players was Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers. His yearly salary is $10,500,000 which translates to $64,815 per game. Since he is not paid for the 50-game suspension his net salary for this year will still be $7,259,250. He is eligible to become a free-agent at the end of this season. In 108 games this year, he has 27 HRs and 76 RBIs. I am confident that there will be teams including his current Rangers team willing to pay in excess of $10,000,000 per year to secure his services for at least the next three years. Assuming the use of PEDs was partially responsible for his baseball numbers, how did the 50-game suspension hurt him? Yes, he lost a few million dollars but in the long-run he could argue the use of PEDs was a good investment for his next contract. I believe several other players also believe the amount of money they can make is worth the risk of being caught.
I believe there are other clinics like Biogenesis still selling PEDs to players and there are many players willing to risk the 50-game suspension to enhance their numbers. This leads to my contrarian solution to the PEDs problem. I call for an amnesty program for all professional baseball players. I would set a period of time (arbitrarily two months) for players to come forth and admit their use of PEDs. There would be no penalties for these players. The list would not be released to the public. Once the amnesty period is over the penalty for the use of PEDs would be a LIFE-TIME BAN from baseball. You heard me, a life-time ban for the first offense. Of course, there would also be an appeal process in place. In an interview, Dan Meyer expressed his bitterness over losing his pitching spot for the 2011 Phillies to Antonio Bastardo, one of the 13 suspended players. Granted the players’ union would have to agree to this new harsher policy but I think Dan Meyer’s interview represents the mood of the majority of current players which is to eliminate cheating from baseball.
Please comment or email me to let me know what you think about my solution.
|Martin Cobern said…
Stan, I agree with the premise of your piece. The current scandal is a reflection of deeper problems with baseball and sports in general. Baseball was the “national pastime” and prided itself on the continuity of the game over its 150 year history. It is also a team game in which individual statistics are highly relevant (at least for pitchers and batters.) You and I are old enough to recall the “asterisk” controversy of ’61, Unfortunately, today’s game has little, if any resemblance to the game we loved as kids. With the designated hitter, artificial turf and juiced balls and athletes, there is no continuity in the record books. Baseball has evolved from a “game” to an entertainment to a big business, and in the process has lost fans such as myself. Today, my primary interest is in games that still rely on still and teamwork: women’s college basketball (Go Huskies!) and soccer. While I love your blog, I fear that baseball statistics will soon be rendered irrelevant, if not obsolete.
August 6, 2013 11:55:28