There’s so much made of the issue of performance enhancing drugs and their impact on Major League Baseball. The blame game runs deep, and it’s pointed in many different directions with many having very valid points. There are problems at many sources: the players, the suppliers, the rules, regulations and penalties that the MLB implements, the media’s impact and so on and so on. You could have as many arms as Goro and still probably miss a few sources of the problem at hand.
However, there is one very obvious source that has gotten off rather lightly over the course of the proceedings, and it is the players…as a group. If there ever is to be a sweeping change to the game, it would have to start with the Players Association initiating it. The MLBPA is core of the player’s power. It’s where all of the negotiation strength comes from and what unites player interests. It is responsible for the push for collective bargaining, keeps salary structure the free market that it is and more. It basically is the structure that provides for the way of life of a modern baseball player.
However, with this type of power, comes great responsibility…and it has not been very forthcoming in stepping to the plate and wielding its power when it comes to the battle on PEDs. The Players Association long denied the league the right to test for steroids in a random manner, citing that it was a violation of the privacy of the players. However, after the sweeping claims of the influence of drugs on the game, it yielded to these tests and the penalties that were instrumented from it. It was 2005 when this initiative was made, which allows for progressive 50 to 100 to lifetime bans for any player that tests positive for PEDs usage. But really, what has become of it? As last week’s discovery with the Florida clinic records showed, there is still good reason to believe the game is under the clutch of more advanced measures to add these illegal stimulants to the game.
So the question stands: why don’t the players step up their initiative against it? Well, there’s multiple reasons why that hasn’t happened, mainly because who calls the police on themselves? It’s ridiculous to think that every player in baseball is using an illegal substance, but it’s just as ridiculous to think there’s some small, limited community that is. Of course, there have been individuals who have been singled out and isolated for their usage, both high to low profile. But instead of submitting martyrs to the flames, and quite often ones that are out of the game already, why not step up and show the initiative to lend creditability to the game via the representatives that compromise the MLBPA, per team.
It’s not like the sentiment doesn’t exist. Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals, just last week stated that the punishments should be more severe. Even now, a player can be injured while suspended for a PED positive test and have his time on the disabled list run concurrent with his suspension time. Does that make sense?
It doesn’t and neither does having repeated chances at doing wrong while being able to gauge when you’ll run out of rope. In reality, the value on the Hall of Fame and other accolades very well not mean much to a guy that has over $500 million in the bank (see Rodriguez, Alex). He could forsake all of that glory and still live an amazingly capable life. However, what if the penalties fit the crime? What if on the second offense, you don’t only lose 100 games, your contract is automatically invalidated? The risk must fit the risk taker. You can’t make somebody that can afford to live above punishment sweat without putting what allows him do so under the cooker.
The MLB would be more than thrilled to do this, but the MLBPA would never agree to it, mostly because it puts far too many at risk as the game is shaped today. And that’s the real problem. By protecting all, they are providing a safe haven for the violators. The only way to see a real change is from within, and it’s going to take a break from ranks in the interest of the name of the game. There are completely legit players that are falling victim to an undeserved image. Any measure of success is taken with at least a double glance with the idea that it’s not homegrown. It’s impacting the perception of entire eras of the game to guilty until proven innocent. It’s going to take enough of these unjustly suspect players to decide that their pride and perception is more value than giving the rogue agents in their midst sanctuary.