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Jose Bautista’s drug testing seems something less than random

Jan 25, 2012, 2:15 PM EDT

Jose Bautista Getty Images

Interesting story brought to my attention from reader Troy.  It’s from the Dominican newspaper Hoy. And because I forgot all that Spanish I knew 20 years ago, I’m using Google translate to read it.

But the upshot: Bautista spoke at a banquet the other night and noted that in the past two years — the two years which coincided with his tremendous uptick in homers — he has been given sixteen drug tests. In the two years before that he had three total. So I would guess that it’s safe to say that the random drug testing thing has been something less than random in his case.

Now, the real test: given how often Bautista has been tested, if he has 19 homers in late May, can random columnists resist the urge to write that “it’s impossible not to be suspicious” column once again? Or is there nothing that will stop that?

  1. yettyskills - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    To quote the majority of Tim Tebowists

    “Haters gonna hate”

  2. stlouis1baseball - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    I fully believe Jose is being truthful (assuming he did say this during his speech at the banquet).
    I saw Albert interviewed a couple of summers ago after a game. The reporter mentioned Steriods and people’s suspicisions that he couldn’t possibly be that good without a little “help.” Albert responded that he was tested over 30 times the previous two summers alone and he would give back his salary if he ever was found gulity of failing a drug sreen. Random? For some…not so much.

  3. btwicey - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Class act

  4. ultimatecardinalwarrior - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Nothing will stop it until a new generation of baseball writers grow up that aren’t babies.

    • paperlions - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      Or until there is a generation of sports writers that are willing to admit that current day player may actually be better than the heroes of their youth without the need to debase achievements of players to preserve the mythical (and often undeserved) status of old/dead guys.

      • ultimatecardinalwarrior - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        Yeah, the increase in offense and power pitching isn’t due exclusively to steroids. Training techniques and conditioning programs are totally different than they were back in the ’70s and before. Athletes are just bigger and stronger than they were before. The relentless forward push of progress.

      • nategearhart - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:46 PM

        Fully agree with paperlions. With the exception of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and maybe Frank Robinson (you know…the tops), most of the “golden era” greats are about a dime a dozen now. Athletes get better and better. These old farts need to figure that out.

      • paint771 - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:46 PM

        I think it’s also important to understand, as per ultimatecardinalwarrior, that “performance enhancing drugs” isn’t a light switch – which is to say it isn’t really on or off, a binary yes-no kind of thing.

        Rather, it’s a spectrum – a color wheel sort of thing, with an arbitrary, often-moving line where, on one side, we call it “dark” and on the other side “light”.

        What non-athletes I think don’t get is that pretty much EVERY professional athlete is taking a TON of performance-enhancing substances, for everything from injury recovery/prevention injections to just routine conditioning supplements. Go into any GNC store in the world and start reading ingredients and you’ll see what I mean. Ask any professional or even semi-professional athlete what they ingest besides food and booze, and you’ll often get a list a mile long.

        Most of that stuff we call legal, and some of it we call illegal, and some of the stuff legal today is illegal tomorrow, and some of the stuff that’s legal tomorrow will essentially do the same thing as the illegal stuff of today. There’s about a million ways, for instance, to bump your testosterone levels (as per Braun). Some are legal, some aren’t, and some guys have levels that baseline at a level that would be illegal for other guys. But the line is entirely arbitrary, and the basic idea – that there are some guys that succeed based on natural ability and talent, and then the f’ing cheaters – is entirely false.

        And, frankly, the other thing I think people understand is that illegal PEDs aren’t some kind of magic bullet that causes a .230/13/42 guy to go to a .296/54/101 guy in six months. You could dope me up with all the PEDs that I could tolerate without dying and it’s not like I’d become a major league all-star. It really only makes a difference in shades. All the major leaguers are taking stuff, and they’re all, for the most part, all taking the same stuff. And some of them are taking more of it, or certain varieties that cross the line by being slightly more illegal than the stuff that’s legal. But almost without exception, the difference is in degree, not kind. A tomato can is a tomato can, and a guy that can blast is a guy that can blast.

        That said, unlike the late 90s guys, I believe Bautista on his “random” testing, and I think his mechanics changes are undeniable – as somebody else mentioned, we don’t question pitchers much when they put it together, but we do for home run hitters. But for disbelievers, I’d point to his walk rate, his solid contact numbers, his baserunning skills, his defense. Dude’s just become a great ballplayer, not just a masher – hell, a guy that had Bautista’s OBP and other advantages without ANY extra base hits would still be incredible (and, I’ll add with only a hint of bitterness, if he played for New York or Boston they’d be erecting friggin’ statues in his honor and adding chapters to Ken Burns documentaries about one of the best stories in baseball in the new century and George Plimpton would be writing essays about how baseball continues to prove the American values of hard work and grit).

        If you can’t appreciate or respect Bautista’s rise, what the hell do you love baseball for?

      • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:20 AM

        paint, well said. Copy that down and just paste it every time someone starts the PEDs debate again.

  5. trevorb06 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Good job for Bautista for keeping his cool amid all the allegations. I know I couldn’t be that classy, I’d start yelling at every reporter who throws a mic in my face asking if I use.

  6. metalhead65 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    nothing will stop it until players stop cheating and get busted for it. maybe if they tested everybosy the same as bautista then there would be no more worries about it. if he has come up clean then why would anybody keep thinking that he does them?

    • paperlions - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      If players stop cheating next year, it will be the first year in baseball history in which players did not cheat in an attempt to win baseball games or make more money.

  7. deathmonkey41 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    No, because no one has anything but his word that he’s been tested that many times- and if you can’t help but be suspicious that he might be using PED’s, then why wouldn’t you also be suspicious that he’s lying? The only thing that would stop the steroid chatter would be transparent testing and we all know that’s never going to happen.

    • paperlions - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      There is no system design that will satisfy people. None. No matter how transparent or public, people will always be able to claim the results are dubious or that they don’t believe them.

  8. cur68 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    This is actually good news, IMO. The more tests he can say he passed, even if they process is definitively non-random now, means the more likely he remains in the lineup doing what he does with the minimum of fuss and bother from the ignorant.

  9. donniebb23 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I can’t claim to know everything about the drug testing policy, but wasn’t one of the reasons that people suspected ARod of testing positive the large number of subsequent tests he claimed to have taken? In other words one positive test leads to you having many more follow-up tests than somebody who hasn’t. This could very well not be the case any more so please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      People suspected him because his name was on that list of people in 2003 that tested positive.

    • dowhatifeellike - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      If he had tested positive within the last 2 years (which is when, he says, he began being tested much more often), he would have been suspended for 50 games. The current suspension policy was not in place in 2003 when Arod’s name was leaked from the Mitchell Report.

  10. somekat - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Just like A-Rod passed plenty of tests? The league knows that it only test for maybe half of the known “performance enhancers” (HGH test anyone?). People will stop being suspicious when they players agree (and owners insist), that they are tested for ALL drugs. Not just the ones on a certain list. They should be taking the same exact test that the IOC gives out.

    But they won’t do that because of “privacy” concerns (aka the concern that they will have to do it without any drugs)

    • byjiminy - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      Many designer drugs are undetectable, because they’ve been designed specifically to cirumvent tests. Remember, Bonds wasn’t caught until someone sent in a sample so they could figure out what to look for. There will never be a test that can catch every new drug, so there will always be suspicion.

      One thing that might help with this problem would be to archive test samples, so if designer drugs are discovered later, you could go back and test the old samples. That would provide at least some deterrent to using undetectable designer drugs. Right now, though, archiving test samples is specifically forbidden by the CBA. I don’t know why. Seems like a good idea to me.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:42 PM

      What about HGH? The fact that there’s no evidence that it enhances performance?

  11. thefalcon123 - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Think Bautista is doing ‘roids because of a huge increase in his power?

    How about a guy who hit 4 home runs in the first 1,327 plate appearances at the big league level (and just 13 in 996 minor league PAs). The has a whopping 675% one year increase, smashing 31 home runs his third year at age 26. Is Bautista’s increase really THAT much stranger than Kirby Puckett’s?

    Bautista became a 40-50 home run guy after average about 24 homers per 670 PA’s the previous two season (he just didn’t play full time). That’s huge uptick, but George Bell average 27 homers in the year’s surrounding his 47 homer 1987 season. George Foster hit 23 and 29 homer before smashing 52 and 40 at age 28 and 29. Andre Dawson was as 20-25 home run guy who hit 49 at the age of 32. Ted Kluszewski hit 25, 13, and 16 home runs then rattled off 40, 49 and 47 at age 28, 29 and 30. Bautista’s uptick isn’t totally unprecedented.

  12. vikesfansteve - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    If you really want to know who was in the Mitchell report & their link to PED’s read this by ESPN.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3153646

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      Re: Kevin Brown:

      He knows he now needs to do stuff before coming to spring training to be ready. Steroids speculated by GM.

      This is the sort of hard evidence damning players and their HoF chances?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:20 PM

        Holy crap that’s all they had on Brown and they had the nerve to report it? That’s terrible.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Interesting read. Thanks for sharing Steve.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    <>because pharmaceutical companies have never been known to be miles ahead of the testing capabilities…

    I’m not saying Bautista is dirty, but I will say that passing a drug test does not necessarily mean he is clean. Like Craig taught us all earlier this week re:Braun, “innocent” is different than “not guilty.” I would suggest “never been caught” is even differenter yet.

    • nategearhart - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:49 PM

      People who are still suspicious of anyone who hits home runs in spite of testing need to just give up and quit watching baseball. Obviously it’s been ruined for them, and I don’t want to hear their gripes anymore.
      sabathia, this is NOT directed at you; as far as I can tell, you’re just playing Devil’s advocate.

    • thefalcon123 - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      I’m not saying your murdered your wife, but having no proof of it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re clean. I mean, I don’t see your wife around anywhere…

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:04 PM

        Just like OJ. ;-)

        He was also not proven guilty.

  14. bobwsc - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    “given how often Bautista has been tested, if he has 19 homers in late May, can random columnists resist the urge to write that “it’s impossible not to be suspicious” column once again?”

    not until Murray Chass see’s his shirtless back.

  15. crisisjunky - Jan 25, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    I’m famisched a little, wasn’t it pretty well documented that he worked hard with staff to develop a new uppercut groove? No different than a pitcher discovering a new pitch. He found something that works really well for him, and it’s made him successful
    C’mon! Look at his body! It’s not like he’s Ferrigno. Let’s just drop this re-Don Q. Less-ness, and move on to the next post.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Again, I’m not saying Bautista is dirty, because I don’t know. But every guy who used ‘roids also claimed to have found some new technique or workout plan or diet. Javy Lopez claimed his wife started baking their chicken instead of frying it. He then went from 11 HR to 43.

      “Tweaked my swing” and “developed a new pitch” are right up there with “best shape of my life” for comments from players that really mean nothing.

  16. rooney24 - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    If the testing is truly statistically random, there would be some players that were hardly tested and some tested all the time. So, it could be possible (though maybe not likely) to get his number of tests from a random testing program.

    I don’t know how MLB determines “random”, but contrary to popular belief, statistically random does not mean that every player would end up tested the same number of times. I might guess that MLB is not using statistically random, though, as that could cause someone’s number to never get pulled, in the same way my wife has had her name pulled three times for jury duty in the last 4 years and I never have had mine pulled.

  17. 03dp - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:04 PM
  18. dirtyharry1971 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    bottom line, there is no 100% test out there for HGH, NExt!

    • raysfan1 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:13 AM

      http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/growth-hormone/HA00030

      From the Mayo Clinic:
      “Although it appears human growth hormone injections can increase muscle mass and reduce the amount of body fat in older adults, the increase in muscle doesn’t translate into increased strength.”

      No need to test for HGH, it isn’t an effective PED.

  19. raysfan1 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    I know 16 tests in 2 years sounds like a lot if the tests are random, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not.

    Taking the Air Force’s method as an example–they use random testing with the requirement that everyone gets tested at least once each year. However, every Airman is eligible for testing every test date. Thus, to ensure every single Airman gets hit up once, some get tested several times. There were years when I got tested several months in a row.

    I do not know if that’s the sort of process MLB is using, but it is one way that one person could get tested far more than the minimum and still have the testing be random.

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