Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Baseball steroid policy needs more bite

Why would you ever take steroids?

In a more innocent time, in a more decent and honorable day, that was a question that you would ask a baseball player.

The question today is: Why wouldn't you take steroids?

These days, it all seems worth it.

The health risks. The shame of being labeled a cheater. The temporary loss of employment.

It seems like no big deal.

Look around major-league baseball. Look at the players who have been busted. Look at how their careers have not only continued, but flourished.

Pop that pill. Push in that needle. Rub on that cream.

It's worth the gamble.

You might not even get caught. Even if you do, what happens?

You sit out 50 games and then come back and sign a big, fat contract with another team and you're treated like you never did anything wrong.

Look at some of the bums in the Biogenesis scandal.

Nelson Cruz. He sat out 50 games, then signed an $8 million deal with the Orioles. He is leading the majors in home runs and RBIs, and fans voted him a starter in next week's All-Star Game.

Jhonny Peralta. He sat out 50 games, then signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Cardinals. He's on a clip to hit 20 to 25 homers this season.

Bartolo Colon. The portly pitcher was suspended in 2012, but he is back with the Mets after signing a $20 million contract. The Yankees are thinking about trading for him.

Melky Cabrera. He was suspended and missed playing for the Giants when they won the World Series in 2012. Don't feel sorry for him. He's blasting homers for the Blue Jays in the second year of a two-year deal that will pay him $20 million.

And the poster child for what's absolutely messed up in this whole dirty business — Ryan Braun. He failed a drug test, blamed the guy who did the testing, defiantly called everyone a liar before finally admitting his guilt by accepting a 65-game suspension. Now he's back, treated like a hero on his homefield in Milwaukee and was among the leading vote-getters on the All-Star ballot for a spell this season.

Shall we continue?

The Rays have called up Alex Colome a couple of times this season. This after the pitcher served a 50-game suspension for a banned substance. Forget the young prospects who are doing things the right way. The Rays understood why some of their prospects might be miffed, but that didn't stop them from rewarding a cheater. Twice.

Manny Ramirez was recently hired to be a player-coach for the Cubs' Triple-A team. Apparently the Cubs have no issue with Manny Being Manny, even if that includes being suspended not once but twice.

On and on it goes with other players rumored or linked to steroids moving on as if nothing ever happened.

Mark McGwire is now a hitting coach for the Dodgers. Barry Bonds was a spring training instructor for the Giants. Brian Roberts is making $2 million with the Yankees. Marlon Byrd is making $8 million a year with the Phillies. Miguel Tejada is serving a 105-game suspension yet likely will join the Marlins when his time is up.

The list goes on. The names change, but the story doesn't. Take performance-enhancing drugs. Maybe get caught. Serve your time. Apologize. Go right back to hitting moon shots and cashing big checks.

Look at some of these guys and see the numbers they were putting up while taking the juice. Check out their numbers now that they are supposedly clean. They are the same, if not better. Fishy, eh?

Why would a player who has already been busted be stupid enough to try it again?

Because he might not get caught. And even if he does get caught, he takes another vacation — this time, 100 games — and then waits for another team to throw money at him.

That brings us back to this point: Why not take steroids?

The only real deterrent is the guilt and shame of getting caught. But it's apparent that making millions and being famous is enough salve to cover up such an ugly wound.

There is only one solution.

Forget this 50-game junk. It's not enough.

Forget the barking. It's time for Major League Baseball to bite.

Life suspensions.

Get busted and you're gone forever. If you think it's a mistake, you can appeal. But if it's not a mistake, you're done.

Harsh? You bet. That's the point.

Of course, banning someone for life for a first strike is never going to work. The players' union won't go for it. Major League Baseball probably would never even push for it.

But it has to be something stronger than 50 games — a mere slap on the wrist before returning to their fabulous lives.

Make using steroids hurt. Punish the cheaters. Put credibility back in the game.

Either that, or just give up and let everyone use the stuff.

     
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