A lot has been made about the success of Major League Baseball’s drug testing policy, but just because players are being caught, doesn’t mean it is working.
Since MLB instituted its drug testing policy back in 2005, 40 players have been suspended for taking banned substances. The most recent player to be caught was Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz was served with a 25 game suspension. The penalty will take place at the beginning of the 2013 season.
When testing was first started, penalties for being caught were 10 games for the first offense, 30 games for the second, 60 games for the third, a year for the fourth. If a player reached a fifth offense, his penalty was left to the discretion of the commissioner.
That first year, 12 players tested positive for banned substances. Among the players who tested positive were future St. Louis Cardinal closer Ryan Franklin and Baltimore slugger Rafael Palmeiro.
Those penalties lasted only one season. For the 2006 campaign, the penalties were reset to their current model of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second offense and lifetime banishment for a third offense.
In 2006 the number of suspensions dropped to three, but the number jumped back up to eight in 2007. Neifi Perez became the first two time offender, testing positive twice in the same season.
From 2008 through 2011, eight players tested positive with a high of four in 2009. In 2009, Manny Ramirez became one of the biggest high profile players to be caught.
Two years later, Ramirez tested positive again. Faced with a 100 game suspension, Ramirez decided to retire from baseball. That retirement was short lived though, as Ramirez signed with the Oakland A’s before the 2012 season. Having sat out virtually the entire 2011, Ramirez’s suspension was reduced to 50 games.
That brings us to 2012, the most recent season on hand. This past year, eight players have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The World Series champion Giants started the season off with pitcher Guillermo Mota testing positive for a second time. Mota was suspended for 100 games. Joining Mota on the suspension list was All Star game MVP Melky Cabrera, also of the Giants. A week later, Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon came up dirty. And yesterday, Ruiz became the second Phillie of the season to test for PEDs.
All of this does not take into account the number of minor leaguers who have tested positive for PEDs. During the 2012 season alone, 102 players tested positive.
What I am getting at is, even with testing, there is no real deterrent for players to not use PEDs. Baseball needs to really stiffen the penalties and start holding teams responsible. The current penalties are doing nothing to make players stop juicing.
Fresh off his PED season, Cabrera earned himself a $16 million two year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. With an annual average of $8 million, that is a $2 million increase over what he made last year. He was also voted a full share of postseason earnings, even though he did not play in the postseason because of his suspension.
Colon earned $2 million with the A’s in 2012. He still has five games remaining on his 50 game suspension when 2013 season starts. For his troubles, Colon resigned with the A’s for one year with a base salary of $3 million plus incentives. It looks to me like he is being rewarded for juicing.
If a player is caught using PEDs, they should be limited to making the major league minimum for the rest of their career. Teams should face some kind of penalty as well. Maybe take away draft picks or forfeit any shot at the postseason, but whatever it is, it has to be something that will make teams not want to have players using PEDs play for them.
As of right now, only three players have tested positive twice, Ramirez, Mota, and Perez. Supposedly a third test will have the player banned for life. But I am sure the players union will find some loophole to work around to prevent such an action.
The program is a joke right now. Players go out, using PEDs and then profit off them with big money contracts. What kind of deterrent is that? If baseball wants to have any kind of legitimacy behind their drug program and really stop players from using them, changes have to happen, and they have to happen now.