Congrats, Major League Baseball, you’ve turned NCAA on us.
Major League Baseball eschewed the 21st century by embracing human error over getting calls correct, but they’ve outdone themselves with the Biogenesis case.
MLB set off on a poorly cloaked witch hunt for two of the biggest name (rumored) steroid users: Ryan Braun, who avoided an earlier PED suspension on a technicality, and Alex Rodriguez, who is just universally hated. The league paid known sleazebag Anthony Bosch for information from his sketchy health clinic, although they previously identified him as having highly questionable information.
Finally, they settled on a 65-game suspension for Braun and nailed 12 more players with 50-game suspensions. Then they dropped a 211-game bomb on Alex Rodriguez.
They’ve mishandled this whole case so badly that they’ve made me a fan of the most hated player in sports.
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agreed on a Joint Drug Agreement, which states that any player who fails a test or has possession of a PED is to be suspended 50 games after his first offense, 100 games after his second offense, and given a lifetime suspension on the third offense.
MLB circumvented the JDA already when they slapped Braun with a 65-game suspension, but they mutually agreed to that ban. A-Rod’s 211-game suspension completely oversteps baseball’s jurisdiction according to the JDA and CBA.
Alex Rodriguez clearly didn’t do a good thing. He was the Chosen One. It was said that he would destroy steroids, not take them. Bring balance to the sport, not leave it in darkness.
But now Major League Baseball has found a way to make a cheater into a sympathetic villain, just like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.
So what makes whatever A-Rod did more than 4 times worse than what the other Biogenesis players did? If he did use HGH in recent years, what makes him so special that he’s given a suspension 146 games longer than any other previous one?
The short answer: there’s no reason.
MLB says that part of the reason for the excessive length is because he tampered with baseball’s investigation. Well Melky Cabrera did the same thing–and created a fake website in an attempted coverup–and only got 50 games. MLB clearly has a vested interest in getting Rodriguez away from the game.
The Yankees get out from under around $33.5 million in salary plus millions more in luxury tax–more money they can spend. MLB gets Rodriguez–who’s been nothing but bad press for the sport recently–away from baseball and momentarily away from the record books.
While it’s clear that Major League Baseball is overstepping its bounds–which leads to the MLBPA’s appeal that will last until November or December–this isn’t the real issue.
Alex Rodriguez breaking rules–and he hasn’t even failed a drug test–is a micro issue. MLB’s rules on PEDs is the macro issue.
What we need to be doing now is looking at why steroids are banned. A-Rod technically cheated because the rules said he wasn’t allowed to use a substance. Cheating by definition is breaking rules. So why are steroids illegal?
It’s easy to see why substances that are harmful to players’ health should be illegal. You’re asking players to sacrifice their own health to keep up with the Joneses. Furthermore, it creates a culture in which young, impressionable kids feel they have to renounce their future health to compete and earn a scholarship.
But what about non-harmful supplements? Protein shakes seem to be widely accepted because they have no known downside but help build muscle. Aspirin stops pain and similarly has no major side effects. No one thinks they should be illegal.
As Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan put it: “If one player is taking synthetic testosterone to heal faster and another player is getting his blood spun and reinjected into him to heal faster, why is the former banned and the latter welcomed? Because the government says so? The government also says marijuana is illegal, and baseball players on the 40-man roster can take bong rips galore without penalty.”
The core issue isn’t that steroids are bad because they’re banned. That’s begging the question. The real issue is that harmful performance enhancers create a bad culture, while non-harmful performance enhancers just, well, enhance your performance like drinking that protein shake or taking a dietary supplement do.
We know that athletes will do whatever they can to gain a competitive edge. Catchers frame pitches to get extra strikes. Ray Lewis sprayed deer antler velvet under his tongue. Bartolo Colon had bone marrow stem cells injected into his elbow. Hell, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays openly used amphetamines, and Gaylord Perry used a banned spitball, and they’re accepted with open arms into the Hall of Fame. Yet steroids are the spawn of the devil.
Nothing gets people up on their moral high horse like steroids, but it would be hard to turn down a pill that makes you 50% markedly at your job, especially if it means escaping poverty in a third-world country. Really, using modern medicine isn’t much different than any other type of cheating in the past, even if known cheater Perry would have you think otherwise.
You know what the real crime is, right? Babe Ruth never got to face Latino and black pitchers. Ask Daniel Tosh.
Baseball needs to re-evaluate what is banned and what isn’t based on potential health risks. Because if something like deer antler spray has no health risk, what’s the difference between it and a protein shake? It’s just a rose by another name.