Welcome to this week’s edition of Rich’s Rants. At the end of each page, there is a poll with a question regarding the topic discussed – please vote in each and comment as you see fit.
This week’s edition begins with MLB once again being at the forefront of the PED issue in sports. Earlier this week, the story broke about a clinic in MIami that has basically been funneling HGH and other PEDs to baseball players (many of which are Latin players).
MLB has the best PED testing program in American professional sports and it’s been made even stronger by the fact that blood testing during the season for HGH will begin this season. However, as the latest story shows, MLB players will continue to use PEDs, especially for players either at the ends of the careers like Alex Rodriguez and Bartolo Colon (Colon was suspended for 50 games last season for testing positive) or those hoping for a big pay day in upcoming free agency like Melky Cabrera (suspended for 50 games last season for testing positive). Cabrera and Colon both appear in the list of players who used the Miami clinic’s “services.” Alex Rodriguez was also named but of course he continues to deny the report.
MLB and other professional sports leagues will never be able to stay ahead of the doctors and scientists who can create undetectable PEDs, however, what they can do is make the punishment for using enough of a deterrent for the players not to use them. In baseball, a first positive test (or enough evidence that a player used which is what may be the case for ARod), results in a 50 game suspension. Yes, 50 games is a lot (about 1/3 of the entire season), however, for those players under a long-term guaranteed contract like ARod or those hoping for the big pay day like Melky, 50 games is worth the price.
For a player like ARod, who already admitted to using steroids from 2001-2003, getting caught again didn’t really hurt his legacy – it was already stained. Chances are he wasn’t going to make the Baseball Hall of Fame anyways (not unless there is a drastic change in the voters’ minds), so for him to try to “perform at a level worthy of his immense contract,” the risk of getting caught was worth it if he could improve his performance.
For a player like Melky Cabrera, a player that was never going to sniff the Hall of Fame, improving his performance to the point where he could maximize his next contract, it was worth using PEDs. Even with a positive test, he still signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2 years and $16 million. Yes, it’s much less than he would have gotten had he never tested positive, but it was still worth taking the PEDs in the first place and serving the 50-game suspension.
What MLB has to do is change the punishment for testing positive. Instead of a 50-game suspension for a first offence (which the player can serve while on the DL, so even if ARod is punished, he won’t miss any games because he wasn’t slated to come back until the Yankees were playing their 80th game or so), the first offence should result in a year-long suspension without pay. If you want to stop PED use, you need to hit the players where it hurts the most – their wallets.
This leads to the second thing MLB has to do – fix the contracts so teams can have an “out.” Right now, there is absolutley nothing the New York Yankees can do to void ARod’s contract. Yes, there are several things they are looking into, but there’s a good chance none of it will work. They didn’t try to void his contract in 2009 after he admitted to steroid use in the past, so his lawyer or the MLBPA can argue “Why are they trying to void it now? Because he’s not performing at the same level he was in 2009 so it’s in their best interest to do so.” What MLB can do (with some bargaining with the MLBPA) is provide provisions for teams to void contracts for those players that test positive for PED use.
Right now, the league and the MLBPA are worried about teams using this kind of precedent to void contracts of players with drug or alcohol abuse problems. Those are diseases and players shouldn’t be penalized for diseases. However, PED use is not a disease so provided the language is very specific, wording contracts so teams can get out of contracts for PED use shouldn’t be too difficult. If the MLBPA doesn’t want to end up on the wrong end of a PR nightmare, they won’t fight this issue to hard.
The MLBPA has been the bad guys since the beginning of the “Steroid Era.” They were the ones fighting tooth and nail anything and everything the league tried to do in regards to steroid use in baseball. They were the ones who made it seem like they didn’t care if the players were using steroids and other PEDs. Yes, the league benefitted greatly from the players using PEDs, however, they at least had been trying to get testing instituted for almost a decade now, only to be destroyed in negotiations by the MLBPA. The testing we have now is basically because the Commissioner, Bud Selig, had to put is foot down or face all kinds of legal challenges from Congress and the government in regards to baseball’s “anti-trust exemption” and even that came only after many negotiations with the MLBPA.
Until MLB and the players do everything they can to prevent and discourage PED use in their sport, players will continue to do everything and use everything they can to get an edge. it’s time for MLB to make it simply not worth the effort anymore.
Up next: Chris Culliver’s comments