By Paul DiSclafani:
The new face of steroids in baseball is 170 pound Dee Gordon? If that isn’t the wakeup call that Major League Baseball – and other sports – needs, I don’t know what else they need.
Gordon is a Chris Rock looking, slap-hitting leadoff batter – not what you would typically think of as a steroid user. When you think steroids, you think Superman – Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, guys whose heads are too big for their hats with biceps that look more like they belong in the next Popeye movie.
How could someone like Dee Gordon do steroids? More importantly, why would someone like Dee Gordon even try steroids? He just signed a guaranteed $50 million contract and could have hit .200 and never stolen another base for the next five years and still made 50 million dollars.
This could change everything. Instead of using a players physique as a barometer to possible steroid use, now we have to consider – if it could be him, it could be anyone.
Since February 1, seven players have had PED suspensions, the same numbers that were suspended in all of 2015. With all the testing, with all the negative publicity, with all the stigma that has been attached to being caught as a steroid user and with the specter of an 80 game suspension hanging over their heads, why even try it?
Maybe the punishment just isn’t enough of a deterrent? If 80 games for a first time offender aren’t enough, how many are? 100? 200?
With the collective bargaining agreement expiring this December 1, maybe it’s time for baseball and the Players Association to up the ante. In the 90’s and 00’s, steroid use may have been a league wide problem and the detection program just wasn’t up to snuff. Besides, baseball may have turned a blind eye to what was going on until it just got out of control.
But today’s game is different, the players are different and the testing is much better. Today’s players are no longer putting up with their teammate’s steroid use. The players doing the right thing are fed up about it.
Steroid use in baseball (and all sports) has always been reactive – when a player gets caught (if they get caught), they are suspended. So how do you prevent steroid use?
How about making it so prohibitive and career threatening that a player wouldn’t even think of trying to get away with using it?
I’m not talking about suspending a player for life if they test positive. That might work on rookies or players early in their careers. But what about veterans who have already made millions of dollars, or have iron-clad, long-term contracts?
There are only two things that matter to any professional athlete; Fame and Fortune. That’s why they became professional athletes in the first place. That’s why they chose this profession. There are incredible amounts of money to be made and people love you. If they knew they could possible lose everything, maybe they wouldn’t even try. And I mean EVERYTHING.
I’d like to offer up the following seven-step program to help rid major league baseball of steroids forever.
#1 – Any player that tests positive for any banned substance should be banned for a year and placed on baseball’s permanently ineligible list (just like Pete Rose).
No appeals, no wiggle room. Every player is already advised what the banned substances are (they are all agreed to as part of the collectively bargained agreement) and all team medical personnel are available to review and approve any substance the player is considering using. If you are not taking advantage of that information, you should have no right to appeal. And don’t give me that “false positive” nonsense. Any positive test result can be reprocessed or the player can submit to another, more invasive test – like blood work.
#2 – Any player that tests positive gets his contract voided immediately and has to pay back any and all monies that he collected during the life of the contract.
How about that as a deterrent to your fortune? You future earnings and your past earnings are in jeopardy. Hit ‘em where it hurts the most, their wallet. You think any player making $15 million a year in the final year of a four-year contract wants to take a chance that he has to give all that back?
And why not require the player’s agent to return their percentage of the contract to the team also? Maybe then the agents would be a little more involved in what the players they are representing are doing with their careers.
#3 – Any statistics accumulated during his career to date are expunged from the record books – no asterisk, expunged.
And now their fame is in jeopardy. We go all George Bailey on them. They never existed. A player that tests positive for steroids brings all of his personal statistics into question because no one knows when in his career he started using, only when he got caught. Because of that, everything he did in his career up to that point is in question. Therefore, the clock is reset to zero. That just about eliminates them from ever making it into the Hall of Fame.
#4 – Any service time accumulated as a major league player is voided and they have to start from scratch to achieve Free Agent status and their pension level.
How often have you heard a player talk about putting up with the early years of their career until they are eligible for that big-ticket contract as a free agent? Now they have to go back and start all over again.
#5 – The player must petition the Commissioner to be removed from Baseball’s Permanently Ineligible list after their suspension has been served.
You just don’t get a free pass back into the league because your one-year suspension is up. That’s just the starting point. Being a major league baseball player is not a right, it’s a privilege and should be treated as such. The Commissioner will hear your appeal and make a decision that is in the best interest of baseball.
To remain eligible, the player must agree to be tested weekly for a year and then randomly once per month for the remainder of their baseball career. That is non-negotiable.
#6 – After being removed from the ineligible list, the player can negotiate a new Rookie Level contract with his former team or be released. If they are released, they are eligible for the next amateur draft.
Remember, all of their service time has been voided, so they are NOT considered Free Agents. They can’t just go to the highest bidder. Just like any amateur player, they are eligible to be drafted by every team in the order the draft is conducted. The player could end up anywhere and can only sign a contract with the team that drafted them.
#7 – If the player fails a second drug test, he will be permanently banned from the sport and must surrender his salary and records again. However, the team that signed the player and failed to prevent his repeated drug use will be stripped of all draft choices in the next amateur draft.
Granted baseball has always lived by the “Three strikes and you’re out” credo, but no more. Any player that has gone through the six steps outlined above and still tries to cheat the game is gone. No need for a third strike.
And what about a deterrent for a team that just wants to “take a chance” on a star player and get him cheap on a rookie salary? Maybe if the team also has a ton to lose if one of their players tests positive, they would take more pains to insure that their players are clean?
Until the punishment fits the crime, players will continue to weigh the risk vs the reward. We need to make the risk so abhorrent that any player that thinks it is worth it, deserves what they get.