Time for harsher PED penalties
In light of all the new information coming out of Miami over the last week or so, what do the commissioner and the players union need to do?
First, let me state that I don’t agree with “guilty until proven innocent.” That is not how the American judicial system works. The system can’t be different for athletes than it is for every other member of society.
So I am not passing judgment on these players who have been linked to the Biogenesis clinic until the investigation is complete. I never have changed my stance on that.
What I am going to change my stance on is this: I have stated over the last few years that baseball has the testing in place and the penalties in place and that we should move forward. What I am seeing is that the penalties are not harsh enough, as baseball still is having players test positive every year.
Players who have tested positive lose 50 games for the first positive test. The theme I am picking up from this is that players are willing to take the 50-game suspension, because it could end up making them more money in coming years. It is hard to single out just one player, but a perfect example of this is Melky Cabrera.
Last year he signed a one-year deal for $6 million with the Giants and was the MVP of the All-Star Game and well on his way to an MVP season. Then came the positive test. He was suspended 50 games and then was eligible to be reinstated by the Giants for the Postseason. But instead, the Giants made a decision that I think was one of the best decisions I have ever seen made by an organization: they elected to not activate him.
I was extremely critical of Giants GM Brian Sabean a couple of years ago when he came out and made the comments he made about Scott Cousins after Cousins ran over Buster Posey on a play at the plate. When Sabean said that he hoped he never saw Cousins in a big league uniform again, I felt that was a deplorable thing for anyone in his position to say about a player. I know it was an emotional statement, based on the fact that he had just lost his best player, but I was very outspoken about those comments.
So I will be very outspoken about how he handled the Cabrera decision last year. Would getting Cabrera back have given his team a better chance to win a World Series? I think anyone who knows this game would answer “yes” to that question. But Sabean chose to not use him, in what I consider one of the best decisions I have ever seen made.
Sabean and the Giants put the integrity of the game above what probably would have given them a better chance to win. As players, coaches and front office people around the game know, there is this thing we call “The Baseball Gods.” I believe The Baseball Gods were watching! And the Giants walked away with their second World Series championship in three years.
But what did that decision mean for Cabrera? He was, as I understand it, voted a full World Series share, and then signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jays for $16 million. So for testing positive he lost roughly a third of his $6 million contract (close to $2 million), of which he recouped close to $400,000 because of the full World Series share. Then he was awarded a contract twice as long as the one he had with the Giants, and got a $2 million-a-year raise.
So all that being said, what do I believe needs to be done to bring a screeching halt to PED usage in baseball?
I think it is simple. The first positive test, you lose a year. Any money you have made up to that point must be repaid to the organization. The second positive test, you are banned for life from the game. There are so many kids like myself who come out of high school or even college who, if they don’t have the game of baseball, will have no other means of supporting themselves. Speaking from personal experience, if I didn’t have baseball, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do with my life.
Once that threat of taking the game completely away from these players exists, that will be the last we ever hear about PEDs! There may be one or two who think they can beat the system, but once they are caught and every player in the game sits by and watches as the career they worked so hard for their whole life is snatched away from them, we won’t be starting every Spring Training with new stories about players testing positive for banned substances.
In conclusion, I don’t think athletes should have a different set of rules as far as the American judicial system, but what I do feel is incumbent upon all athletes is to make sure you are not associated with anything or anyone that could possibly raise a red flag. That, to me, is just common sense.