The white elephant in the room this week as the Baltimore Orioles took on New York was Alex Rodriguez. More specifically, it was his pending suspension for PED’s. For starters, I was a bit surprised to hear MASN analysts Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer saying that ARod wouldn’t be playing right now had the league not tried to go jugular on his suspension. However the more I think about it they do in a way have a point. Instead, ARod has the opportunity to make himself into the victim in that he’s technically never tested positive for PED’s (in a test that “counted” anyways), and thus he’s not being treated fairly under the collective bargaining agreement. The Orioles were the team that was made to pay for that…this past week at least.
That aside for a moment, each and every one of these PED situations is different. You have some people who might have rehabilitated an injury with a banned product here and there, and some guys who were more deliberate and severe users (this is where ARod would probably fall in). I applaud MLB for trying to universally render justice as blindly as possible. (I also agree that ARod should be treated more severely, given the misleading and equivocal nature of his comments about PED’s, and the pure sliminess with which he’s come across.) However are we becoming so caught up in the process that we’re inadvertently falling behind in the fight against PED’s?
Ryan Braun got off on a technicality in the testing process when a courier kept his specimen over the weekend. Alex Rodriguez is presumably going to tie up his case in litigation – which mind you could shake the very foundation of the game – because he’s not being treated fairly. (And bear in mind that on paper he is probably being treated unfairly…but it boils down to the rights of the individual over the better of the group or in this case the sport.) All of this is due to baseball being so obsessed with the process. And for the record, I agree with the process so to speak…but again, is it worth the hassle if it’s ultimately causing more heartache in the sport?
So am I proposing that MLB should scrap drug testing and allow anyone to use anything. Unequivocally, the answer to that question is a resounding NO! However, this is a huge problem in baseball as well as in other sports. I would submit that it’s a much bigger and wider problem than we’re even able to grasp. So I propose that in the immediacy of the coming off season, MLB should effectively give it’s players a temporary pass on PED’s. Basically, any player that’s ever used a PED at any point in their professional career would be able to come forward and admit it…without fear of MLB holding them accountable in any way. (I suppose players could be asked to pay a small fine in the form of a charitable donation or something along those lines, but no wide scale discipline.)
Why am I suggesting this? Because I would give this “grace period” up until the beginning of spring training, 2014. After that point if any player is found to be using PED’s, or were using PED’s at any point in the past (that was not disclosed during the grace period), they’d be subject to punishment. This would allow the Ryan Brauns and Alex Rodriguez’s of the world their opportunity to in effect skirt the system. I don’t feel that they should be allowed to skirt the system, but they’re doing it anyways. And when MLB’s trying to hold them accountable, the league itself is falling victim to it’s own process and rules. Of course if something like this were to go into affect you’d have the likes of Ryan Braun in court suing the league to get the game checks he would have collected while suspended, but you get the point.
I agree with MLB suspending players for these transgressions, and furthermore I agree with things such as Braun getting a harsher suspension for being rude to the courier. (And as I said at the time, make no mistake about the fact that MLB used that as an excuse to give Braun a harsher penalty after he grandstanded when he got off the first time around.) However when the “process” is turned upside down and the guilty party is actually coming across as the innocent, the process ceases to be effective.
I don’t feel that giving people a pass for doing the wrong thing is a great idea. However it might be the only uniformly “fair” way to bring the guilty to justice. If someone was found to have done PED’s and they had been given six months to come clean (and chose not to), there’d be very little wiggle room for them. Perhaps then people such as Alex Rodriguez won’t get the luxury of being able to affect pennant races.