Here’s the most naive statement you’ve ever heard: There’s belief from this correspondent that the latest Biogenesis clinic revelations and possible suspensions will take the biggest bite out of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. After stiff punishments are handed out, you may never see rampant cheating again.
Insert laughter, jokes, personal insults here.
Now, let’s move on.
After the Mitchell Report, we thought that might be the end of it. The report resulted in less PED use, and while some athletes have tested positive, the numbers at least appeared to be diminishing.
As one owner put it, “We’re never going to be 100 percent, but if these names are proven guilty, you’re going to see the minority of players who are doing it be reduced even further. One hundred percent? Probably never, but 99 percent . . . 99.5 . . . I think we’re going to get there.”
I buy this hook, line, and sinker.
After 30 years of being around them, I know some baseball players are stupid (as are some sportswriters), but you can’t be this stupid. There’s now enhanced testosterone testing. There’s blood testing for HGH.
Someone will be convinced that the substance can be masked. But two players, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon, thought they could mask it, and probably got away with it for a while, but eventually got caught.
There will always be the mad scientist who can foil the tests, but the ballplayer has to execute the right steps to avoid getting caught. The bottom line is it’s getting harder and harder to play that game with your career. The money is incredible in baseball and some use the stuff to get bigger stats and get paid more money. Others who use are at a crossroads in their careers and they don’t want the gravy train to end.
“I think the players are fed up with it,” Red Sox catcher David Ross said. “I think players want MLB to drop the hammer on these guys. I don’t know anyone who wants nothing but the worst possible consequences for the cheaters because they’re taking job from kids coming up from the minors who are doing it the right way.
“I think the league and our union is doing a great job with the program,” Ross said. “Sure, there might some guys doing it here and there, but if this investigation nabs 20 of them with some big names, I think that makes a huge statement to any ballplayer. The statement is, you’re gonna get caught so it’s not worth it.”
Daniel Nava, a self-made player, one who didn’t make his college team and who has had to fight and claw for everything he’s ever gotten, said, “I think there’s always going to be people trying to beat the system. I don’t think you’ll clean all of it up, but we’re going to clean a lot of it up. It’s always going to invite some to cheat.”
It appears the Red Sox might be immune to this round of investigations. The players named in the ESPN “Outside The Lines” investigation has not yielded any of Boston’s players, though there are some “coded” names that need to be revealed. Red Sox sources indicated they don’t believe any of their players will be implicated.
“The only thing you can say about it is it’s an ongoing investigation,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We are asked to abide and required to abide by testing and consequences that might come about as a result of it. I’m sure the course it will take will be to get to the bottom of it, rightfully so.’’
Farrell, asked if he was confident his players won’t be implicated said, “Confident, yes. I know there’s been some preliminary notice that none of our players are on it but knowing them first-hand as we do, I certainly would be shocked if anybody showed up on it based on how well we know them.”
Said Farrell, who was a pitcher in the majors for eight years, “It’s unfortunate that decisions [to take PEDs] have been made as often as they’ve been. Whether or not they’re proven guilty remains to be seen, but the one thing that has been so great about this game is whether it’s the steroid situation or work stoppages, it’s a resilient game and it’s come back from the temporary black eyes that it suffers.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association remains somewhat protective of its membership, though in the Michael Weiner era there has been a more accountability and there’s a genuine interest in getting players off PEDs.
After all, the testing program is a joint venture of the league and the players union.
“The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner’s Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation,” read a statement by the MLBPA. “They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association. The Commissioner’s Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations. The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner’s Office shares these interests.”
What should happen now is if MLB can make the information they get from Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch to stick, they should maximize the penalties. While most will get the first-time 50-game suspension, Milwaukee star Ryan Braun and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez could get up to 100 games. Braun, who had a 50-game suspension dropped after he won an appeal in 2012 because his evidence was contaminated, and Rodriguez, who has admitted using steroids when he played in Texas, could get the second-time offense of 100 games.
The Yankees are surviving and even thriving without A-Rod, whose problems off the field mounted Wednesday night. According to a report in the New York Daily News, Bosch went to MLB after Rodriguez refused to help him financially.
Meanwhile, if the Rangers lose Nelson Cruz, also implicated in the Biogenesis case, that could be devastating because Cruz is their top righthanded slugger.
Cabrera and Colon have already served 50-game suspensions. If charged, they could receive 100-game penalties.
This is a chance for MLB to throw down the hammer, as Ross puts it. In an instant, the PED issue could go the way of the cocaine problem baseball had in the 1970s.
Wishful thinking? Naive? Call it whatever you’d like.
I’ve got a feeling this may be the final chapter of the steroid story as we know it.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.