In the wake of the 13 suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball in connection with the Biogenesis clinic investigation, baseball analysts–and sports reporters on the local and national level that cover a variety of sports–have used their soapboxes to voice their opinions either for or against how the league handled the situation. Many say Bud Selig and Co. did plenty as far as the lengths of the suspensions, but there are still more who say they aren’t nearly long enough.
He’s no analyst, but you can add Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis to the not-long-enough column. Markakis told the Baltimore Sun that the only way baseball will rid itself of its performance enhancing drug problem is by stiffening the penalties that it hands down. Asked if the penalty was changed to an automatic lifetime ban for first time offenders, Markakis said he’d fully support it. Here’s some of what he had to say:
“No ifs, ands or buts about it. These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here. … I’d give blood every day if I had to. ….
These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs are taking away from a lot of other people that are doing it the right way. They are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing. Stealing money away from owners because they are basically purchasing damaged products. It’s not a good situation all the way around. And all of us that have done it the right way, we are going to suffer and have to answer questions about this for a while now. I think that puts us in bad situations that we don’t deserve to be in. …
It’s not just only me doing it right; there are a lot of guys out there doing it right. I know how hard this game is, and to see some of these guys going out there and putting up these video game numbers, it’s mind-boggling. It’s disappointing; it’s frustrating. Because you know how hard you have to work just to get to this level.”
I’m 1,000% behind Markakis and his stance on this. The only way that things are going to change in baseball is if the penalty for being caught–even just once–is damning enough that it instills such a fear in players that they wouldn’t even dare find themselves in the same area code as someone with connections to steroids let alone put them in their own body.
Upping the ante with punishments is the only way, in my mind, that the league can show that it is serious about finding a solution to its steroid problem. Selig has made great strides since the unveiling of the Mitchell Report in 2007 by adding drug tests in the off season, adding blood tests on top of the standard urine sample, and actually suspending players that have tested positive for doping. But it’s clear that these 50 game suspensions haven’t done enough to keep steroids out of clubhouses. Let’s also not forget that these 13 players were suspended because of their connection to the clinic, not because they tested positive for PEDs. That means that they avoided at least one positive test at some point in the few years, so there’s certainly still work to be done on that front.
Even a multi-year ban, similar to (but maybe a year or two longer than) the one the league is pursuing with A-Rod, would be enough. Consider this: The age that the average professional baseball player reaches his peak is 27, according to Baseball Prospectus and general knowledge of the game; the average age of the players suspended in the Biogenesis case is 27.5–mutli-year suspensions for each player involved would’ve been enough to put nearly all of them past their prime. If the league weren’t willing to go all the way and banish players for life (which I would honestly prefer) than this would be the next best option. Kick ’em out for 2-5 years without pay, don’t let them sign contracts overseas or for other developmental-type leagues, and cut them off from all contact with anything associated with Major League Baseball–oh, and screw this bullshit where players can appeal the punishment and continue to play which that appeal is being heard.
Wishful thinking, though, because what are the chances that the MLB Players Association would ever go for something like that? Slim to nil at best. A lifetime ban would absolutely need to be taken off of the table, and they sure as hell would fight to keep the suspension lengths as short as possible. A major shift in attitude (leadership?) would have to occur for something like this to get passed. And a lot of convincing would have to be done with the players–though maybe that would help weed out the roiders. If a player’s clean, why would they object to excessively harsh consequences?
However it gets done, the bottom line is something needs to happen, and soon.