How many strikes until you’re out?

opinion and commentary, Major League Baseball, MLB response, NY Yankees, suspensions, MLB doping, dirty bakers dozen

Pardon my rant. As yesterday drew to a close, the events of Major League Baseball (MLB) vs. ARod (Alex Rodriguez, Yankees’ third baseman) and others, didn’t sit well with me.

Quick summary: MLB has been deciding the fate of ARod based on evidence it claims to have on him for taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), and influencing and hindering its investigation. Twelve other players were also named for taking PEDs based on a paper trail from Biogenesis, a Florida clinic. Key point: None of these players has failed a drug test.

Of the Dirty Baker’s Dozen, 12 of the players accepted their 50-game suspension. Only ARod has chosen to appeal his much longer 211-game suspension. That would put him back in the game in 2015 when he will turn 40, and approximately $30 million dollars lighter.

MLB officially says:

“Rodriguez’s discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez’s discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”

My issues and queries:

1 > Those are some strong accusations. It would seem foolish for MLB to state them publicly if there weren’t some grounds for them. Yes, MLB is probably looking for a scapegoat in this whole steroids mess, and ARod is synonymous with a lightning rod when it comes to attracting controversy, but planting a false story is a long way to go. ARod presents publicly as an unlikeable and confrontational narcissist. Is his brand an easy target?

2 > After the ruling came down, ARod was asked if he had done what MLB’s accusations state. He deflected the question with “…what we’ve always fought for is the process and I think we have that. And, at some point, we’ll sit in front of an arbiter and give our case.”

Why tap dance around the subject? If you’re innocent, wouldn’t you strongly deny the charges? A response such as, ‘No I didn’t do it, and my legal team will prove it over the next few months’ seems reasonable. Never said.

3 > Are MLB and Bud Selig overreaching? Should ARod’s suspension have been the same 65 games that Ryan Braun received? Would Team ARod have accepted that, and would we be done with it?

4 > How do you get suspended from baseball in the morning, and play your first game of the season that night? And since the appeals process could take months, ARod could conceivably play out the remainder of the regular 2013 season (it’s unlikely that the Yankees will make it to the post.)

I realize – innocent until proven guilty – but wouldn’t you think, if innocent, the appeals gang would step up to the plate [pun intended] and get this over with? Or on MLB, If you want to set an example, and you believe you’ve got the goods to do so, why drag it out?

 5 > Is it fair to allow a player to play during the appeal process? Do his teammates want to win so badly that they simply accept ARod into the clubhouse with open arms? The Yankees have towed the teammate line, said the right things, but what kind of pressure and disruptance does this process place on teammates? This could drag on, and on, and on.

But many players from other teams have spoken up for change – loudly.

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria tweeted:


Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis believes MLB should stiffen penalties for PED users – he’s suggesting a whopping five years for first-time offenders. He says,

“These guys … are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing. Stealing money away from owners because they are basically purchasing damaged products.… And all of us that have done it the right way, we are going to suffer and have to answer questions about this for a while now. I think that puts us in bad situations that we don’t deserve to be in.”

Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said issuing a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders is not enough of a deterrent. And that HGH doping is still rampant and requires year-round testing.

“I don’t think the people that are taking a risk really care about it … They’re like, ‘Oh, what is 50 games?’ The risk-reward, the reward is way better than the penalty of the 50-game suspension.”

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson added:

“We all knew this day was coming. We’re all glad that it’s happened. If there are guys that have cheated and [MLB] thinks they legit cheated the game, they need to be suspended. I think it’s a great thing. Those guys made mistakes. They’re going to serve their penalty and hopefully the game is better for it in the long run.”

And what about the dozen non-A-list players given the 50-game suspension? Are they all guilty or do they not have enough money for a first class legal team? Francisco Cervelli denied wrongdoing vehemently back in February. The story seemed to die until a month or so ago when Cervelli’s name was attached to Biogenesis documents. No argument from his camp – sentence accepted. And for the other 11? Some of them, it should be noted, have admitted to bad judgement. But after 50 games out, will they dope again? Will these punishments serve as deterrents? Maybe, maybe not.

The message that I get is that money and winning trump doping. It’s clear because ARod gets suspended, but can still play until his appeal is settled, and probably after. It’s clear because we’ve been down this road before with him, and here we are again amidst a “conspiracy.” It’s clear because MLB didn’t go after the big fish. They’re treating a symptom, not the problem. It’s clear because, as players claim, random testing rarely happens, and doping still rages.

Some make the argument that doping doesn’t increase performance: Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Canseco, Clemens? Seriously? Bottom line, since 2006, MLB says it’s illegal to dope. If a player does it, it’s not only cheating, it’s a violation of MLB rules.

I agree with former Clinton administration drug policy spokesman Bob Weiner’s statement.

“The penalties are a joke. If these players were in the Olympics or USA Track and Field, for example – the gold standards of testing – each player’s first major finding like this would cause a two year ban – a real penalty. Fifty games is less than a third of a season. These guys will be back for the playoffs! Baseball is not serious.”

Baseball is not serious. The majority who play by the rules will always suffer for the the few narcissists who don’t. Game over. Rant over.

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