Skip to content

Report: Drug policy changes will bar players from postseason, even if they’ve served their suspensions

Mar 28, 2014, 7:07 AM EDT

syringe

Yesterday, when looking at reports of the changes to the Joint Drug Agreement, I said that the increased penalties and testing protocols didn’t seem draconian. The latest report on the changes could change my mind about that.

Christine Brennan reports that the policy — not yet finalized — will bar from the postseason any player who was disciplined for PED use during the regular season, even if the player has already served his suspension and has returned to action. Meaning that a first-time offender can receive an 80-game suspension in April, return to the team in late June, play for the team for the final three months of the season, and then still be ineligible for postseason play.

This, I feel, is extreme for two reasons. First, it crosses the line from a penalization of the player to a penalization of the team. Clean players’ chances to advance in the playoffs will potentially be harmed through no fault of their own and front offices, likewise blameless, will be forced to scramble to fill holes despite not having any ineligible players. This despite a drug violation that could be a year old or more.

Second, this penalty may serve as a defacto order that a player be released or hidden on the DL with fake injuries. Again, if the timing is just right, and a potential playoff team has a guy coming back from a first-time PED suspension, there will be a strong incentive to release the guy or trade him to non-contender or stash him on the disabled list in order to obtain roster space for players who won’t be ineligible for the playoffs. It’s a backdoor way to add uneven discipline (players on playoff teams will be punished more than players on losing teams), in the form of incentivizing roster chicanery.

If the players want this, well, no one can stop them. But by allowing drug discipline to bleed over into team construction issues is to surrender a good bit of power and job security. Two issues players fought for for decades separate and apart from the drug penalty context. It could serve as a Trojan Horse by which the owners can sneak into areas of labor relations long since settled by the union separate and apart from the drug penalty context. Why not add pension provisions to drug penalties? Have drug penalties affect service time and free agency? Maybe guys suspended for drugs will be forced to have different travel accommodations. All of that would certainly represent a get tough attitude on drug cheats.

And all of it, like this proposed playoff suspension, would serve to undermine decades of union gains for reasons that have almost nothing to do with labor relations.

  1. shyts7 - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    How about a 100 game suspension for first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. To go along with that first offense, the guilty party shall have to play for the league minimum for at least 5 years after testing positive. That hits the person where it hurts, the wallet, and not hurting the team. If he wants a chance to get a big contract in the future, he is going to have to try hard during those 5 years to prove that he can still play.

    • dnc6 - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      How about a testing system that actually catches users? And not one that can be circumvented by a shyster like Tony Bosch, and is more about putting money back in the owner’s pockets than anything else?

    • bobronnie19 - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      The best way is a 50 game suspension for 1st offense but you lose seniority and go back to rookie scale and minor league rights with no arbitration rights. the salaries would be capped for the next 5 years as long as they are clean. $500,000 year 1, $1,000,000 year 2 and additional $500,000 increase through 5 years. If the player has been clean for 5 years he have his seniority rights returned. If this were in place guys like Ryan Braun with $100 million on the line would probable have thought twice and Jhnonny Peralta would not have been rewarded with his ridiculous contract.

  2. raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I’ve posted many times that my line in the sand is 2004. Before then, there was no rule and no penalties for any PED use. Thus, I do not retroactively condemn players for using steroids, amphetamines, etc even though I do not approve of them.

    I have very little sympathy for those who have been caught since then, other than to point out the hypocrisy of turning some into pariahs and giving a pass to others. I have no big problems with the new penalties per se either. One of the users’ points has been that they were trying to help the team win; with the new penalties in place, if approved, users have to know they are gambling with the team’s haunches for success and not just their own. Thus, future positive tests will indeed indicate an even higher level of selfishness on the player’s part.

    I get your points, Craig, but feel the union conceding rights for these players does not mean they are in a weaker position from which to protect the members who are not caught using PEDs.

  3. metalhead65 - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    does your sympathy for cheaters know no end? the penalties they have now don’t work so it will take measures like this to stop them or other stronger ones until they do. you want to end it quick and easy then make it one and you are done! see how many cheat then. but I am sure you will have everybody makes mistakes excuse for that being to severe. make no mistake taking ped’s is a choice not a mistake and you deserve whatever happens to you.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      “…it will take measures like this to stop them or other stronger ones until they do…”

      Since when do stiffer penalties deter crime? If you want to affect behavior, then increase the likelihood of getting caught. Increase the frequency of the tests. Make the athlete liable for no-notice tests 24/7/365. Work continuously to develop tests for the “untestable” substances (my understanding is that MLB is expanding the testing to include better testing for synthetic testosterone, which I applaud).

  4. Len Mullen - Mar 28, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    If you want the problem to go away, have a team forfeit all games a positively tested player played in. Peer pressure and team vigilance will eliminate the problem quickly.

  5. mikhelb - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    They should also make those players who test positive inelegibles to win awards, while voiding any production clauses, like when Melky Cabrera tested positive and was leading the NL in batting average. A modern version of a scarlet letter (or rather: the scarlet asterisk).

    Any player whose suspension covers parts of two seasons, say 79 games in 2014 and 1 game in 2015 will not be elegible to go to the playoffs and for me, now players will be held accountables for their decisions (not “mistakes” like they label their choice to “roid”).

    Teams need to be also held accountables, we don’t really know how many teams turn a blind eye with PEDs, we know for example that it was something Theo Epstein knew about his players and inquired info on the subject when on the verge of acquiring Eric Gagné years ago to check if the guy was using (we would later learn about those reunions where MLB and Redsox personnel aided doctors to teach players on how to use steroids “safely”, though the ex-player had to backtrack and say he maybe missheard… he was risking losing his job). Teams now should subject their players to random tests to check if a player is using.

    On the downside: we could see vendettas carried out in the majors against disliked/uncommfortable players, lacing their beverages or food so they test positive. Wouldn’t that be viewed as a triumph for MLB if they suddenly next year test ARod after consuming food laced with a substance for which he could test positive and ends up banned for life since MLB decided that his 2014 suspension counted as two suspensions (albeit with no positive tests).

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

A managerial overanalysis epidemic
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (2932)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2727)
  3. J. Shields (2436)
  4. M. Morse (2321)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2043)
  1. T. Ishikawa (1683)
  2. U. Jimenez (1513)
  3. B. Roberts (1485)
  4. L. Cain (1458)
  5. H. Pence (1434)