Is Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game a display of baseball’s greatest, or simply a lineup of players whose great statistics should make us suspect they’re using illegal form performance enhancing drugs? These days, it seems like a game played by juicers.
Baseball can’t find its way out of the steroid era. I’m sure there are a lot of clean, wholesome ball players left in the major leagues, but here we are again, at the All-Star break, and all we can do is talk about baseball’s problem with performance enhancing drugs.
The 2012 All Star game will forever be remembered as the Melky Cabrera debacle. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and walked away as one of baseball’s fan favorites. Not long after giving God credit for helping him do so well, Cabrera failed a drug test. As it turns out, God didn’t have a whole lot to do with his baseball success last year – it was all about juicing.
This year is no different. The 2013 All-Star game in New York is supposed to be a time of celebration. The best and brightest came together to play in the All-Star game, Tuesday evening, but the dark cloud of cheating is once again stealing the show.
That dark cloud is baseball’s Biogenesis investigation, which, according to a report in USA Today, could bring about suspensions for as many as 20 players sometime this week. The investigation aims to find out if the large group of players were administered performance-enhancing drugs at a clinic is South Florida. The two biggest players on that list are New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun. If suspensions are handed out to Rodriguez, Braun and 18 other players, it will be one of the biggest, most far-reaching efforts to curb PED use in baseball of all time.
Three of those players suspected of Biogenesis connections are on All-Star game rosters, including San Diego’s Everth Cabrera, Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Rangers’ right fielder Nelson Cruz.
And here we are, supposedly years after the end of the so-called steroid era. I thought baseball had all of this under control.
And as it happens, with the All-Star game in media-drenched New York City, there is no escaping questions the drug question, even for players never accused of juicing.
“It's too bad we have to be at the All-Star Game talking about this, it really is,” Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said Monday night, as reported in USA Today. “It's a shame it has to be a topic at all. I know a lot of the guys on that list, and some of them I consider friends. The only thing I hope for is that people don't rush to judgment in this case until all the facts come out.”
It’s hard not to rush to a judgment, unfortunately, given Major League Baseball’s past. Baseball first began drug testing in 2003, going on to ban amphetamines in 2006, and started blood testing last year. After the Barry Bonds asterisks in his home run count, Mark McGwire finally admitting to using. Roger Clemens is a liar and was a juicer. Baseball has some big names that have tainted the game with their cheating. And we are on the horizon of having some more big names tainting the game with their cheating as well.
Paradoxically, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press on Monday night that “this sport is cleaner than it’s ever been.” He went on to reiterate his argument that baseball has been on top PED ever since they began testing.
“People say, ‘Well, you were slow to react.’ We were not slow to react,” Selig said. “In fact, I heard that this morning, and it aggravated me all over again.”
For Selig to say the game is “cleaner than it’s ever been” seems ludicrous to me, especially because there’s a possibility that 20 players could receive suspensions by the end of this week. Clean as ever? Give me a break.
If Selig wants to rid baseball of the lying juicing cheaters once and for all, he needs to bring the hammer down even harder. Right now, the first offense for being busted for PEDs is a 50-game suspension. When that punishment was first instituted, many said 50 games was way over the top. Yet here we stand today with players still willing to risk that punishment for a dose of good PEDs. For a baseball player, sitting 50 games out may just be the vacation they needed.
So up the ante on the punishment? Would a 100-game first time offense work? Would players like A-Rod think twice if they stood to sit out 100 games if they got caught? Maybe, maybe not.
If Selig is going to do it, he should go all the way and do it. One-hundred game suspensions might do it, but why stop there? Selig should hand out lifetime bans for anyone caught using PEDs. That’s the one and only way to completely rid the sport of juicing cheaters. There are a lot of employers in the U.S. with a zero-tolerance drug policy. You get caught, you’re out. Baseball, even though it's a leisurely sport, could be the same way. You get caught, you’re out. Forever.
Selig must decide if baseball is a clean sport, where cheating is never tolerated, or if it is going to be a sport like NASCAR, where if you aren’t caught cheating then you really aren’t trying. As it is right now, baseball seems more like NASCAR.
For Selig to say that baseball is as clean as it’s ever been is a farce. Just look at what’s going on and you see something completely different. I believe the next round of suspensions is going to be far-reaching. It’s going to be big.
Baseball, it seems, is the same as it ever was.