How to deal with steroids in baseball


With the news of Brewers’ outfield and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun testing positive for steroids which came this past weekend, we’ve been reminded once again of the rampant steroids problem that we have throughout baseball. On Monday I wrote about the potentiality of this affecting the market for Braun’s (former) teammate, Prince Fielder. Today I want to talk about what this does to the sport, and how it SHOULD be handled.  

Steroids are a black mark on the game, the likes of which we have not seen. From the early 90’s until 2005, steroids in baseball were sort of the secret that everyone knew. Nobody really doubted that it was in the game, and many people even speculated on which players used them. However aside from Jose Canseco’s admission of using steroids in his book, nobody had ever tested positive until Rafael Palmeiro in 2005. That started a chain of events that’s brought us through to today, in which baseball seems to be dealing with this issue in a much more productive manner than it was previously.

Yet the cases of Braun and Manny Ramirez prove that this is still a rampant problem in MLB clubhouses. I have no doubt that when the current punishments for steroids were put in place, the league and the player’s union felt that they would be a sufficient deterrent. I have news for them; it hasn’t been, nor will it ever be. Without taking into account the fact that the player’s union and the league would have to play Family Feud amongst each other in order to make this part of the collective bargaining agreement, the punishment for using banned substances such as steroids and HGH should be simple and straightforward:

  • First offense: The player is suspended for a full 162 games and barred from any formal team activities, workouts, etc. for that period of time. (The player would naturally be given the opportunity to appeal this suspension, as is his right in any disciplinary matter.)
  • Second offense: The player is banned for life from Major League Baseball. (The same right to appeal would certainly apply here as well.)

In my opinion, those should be the only two penalties for steroid use. If they were enacted, they’d be the only two needed. That original one-year suspension itself would be one heck of a deterrent; however the lifetime ban speaks louder than anything else. Odds are this wouldn’t totally get rid of the problem however, because you might find a guy who’s retiring at the end of the season anyways starting to use it. So with that in mind, I think that individual franchises should also be held accountable for this issue. By that, I mean that the team itself should have to pay a hefty fine if one of their players is found to be using these drugs.

So you might ask why the franchises should be held accountable. Obviously the owners and the management aren’t necessarily aware when a player such as Ryan Braun is juicing. However regardless of what guys say, not everyone is clueless in the clubhouse. Ultimately if the team itself was potentially on the hook for a hefty fine as a result of one guy’s selfish acts, don’t you think that owners and thus coaches and GM’s wouldn’t be inclined to do what they could to make sure it wasn’t going on in their clubhouse?

Unfortunately I suppose what I’m saying is that coaches and team mates need to turn guys in. (I would say the fine to the team could be waived in that case.) For the most part I’m no friend of “weasels” in the workplace (someone who tells on other people and so forth), and I do firmly believe that what happens in the confines of a locker room should stay there. However we’re talking about something that’s blatantly against the rules. If I find a co-worker playing solitaire on the computer during business hours, of course I’m not going to turn him in. But if I know he’s guilty of murder that might be a different story. There has to be a certain amount of enabling or turning a blind eye for this to be going on around the league, and that’s part of the problem.

This wouldn’t be unlike other workplaces; is your boss not accountable for what you do during business hours? Obviously steroids in baseball aren’t threatening anyone’s life or anything of the like. However they are threatening records by players such as Willie Mays (the “Say Hey” kid), Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio. Let’s even bring this a bit closer to home; Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 consecutive games. What if someone broke that record and later we found out he was using HGH? The integrity of the game’s present and future is very much at risk, and we as keepers of the flame owe it to baseball’s storied past to crack down on this kind of behavior lest we rip up the record books and start over. A serious act calls for a serious punishment, which is exactly what a one-year suspension and lifetime ban would be.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala