Everywhere you look in the news lately, the talk of the baseball world is steroids and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). You can't escape it and while many fans are tired of hearing about PEDs, they are not going to go away.
Part of the problem is Major League Baseball itself. Why you ask? Well, in the mid to late 1990s, MLB turned a blind eye to PEDs. Home runs were rocketing out of baseball stadiums across the country, fans were coming to the ballpark in droves and the owners were raking in the money. No-one wanted to stop the cash cow that was driving up profits for the owners.
MLB isn't the only responsible party though. Writers are just as guilty for what happened. We saw players getting bigger and bigger while supplements and more were in plain view in locker rooms.
The players are also to blame. The players saw what was going on, but they did nothing to step in and stop it. And why should they? The PEDs helped players not only recover from injuries quicker but also perform better and better performance led to bigger and richer contracts.
Then the United States Congress got involved and MLB's steroid pariah Jose Canseco wrote a tell all book about how, when and who was using PEDs. That was enough for MLB to be embarrassed and start its testing programs.
Last year Ryan Braun beat MLB's testing system on a technicality at arbitration. What happened next? MLB fired the arbitrator for clearing the player. Now, a couple of days ago, Braun was suspended for the rest of the season for being "associated" with PEDs. There was no positive test, instead a name in a book and after months of denials, the player agreed to the suspension.
More names are to follow, including some of the biggest names in the sport.
One thing that people are upset about now, is that Braun won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in a season in which he initially tested positive (and beat the test) for PEDs. There are several who think Braun should be striped of his MVP award.
In an interview Tuesday, the runner up to Braun, Matt Kemp, stated he felt the award should be revoked. But that is a slippery slope if one decides to cross it.
First off, all the MLB postseason awards belong to and are voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Therefore, they are the only people who can do anything about it. The odds of the BBWAA striping the award from Braun are slim to none.
In a separate interview on Monday, July 22, Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, said the award vote was final.
"The decision was already made. He won it," O'Connell said in an email Monday, July 22.
Braun isn't the only PED aided player to win a major postseason award. Jose Canseco won the 1988 American League MVP when he became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season. Canseco has admitted to being on PEDs during that season.
Alex Rodriguez is one of the big names currently facing a possible suspension similar to Braun's. Rodriguez won the AL MVP in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Rodriguez has already admitted to using PEDs while in Texas (2001 through 2003) and look, there he is with a similar major award.
I am not even going to get into the issues regarding MLB home run king Barry Bonds. The question I have though is why has no one spoken up about taking away the awards from these players?
As long as owners dole out huge contracts to players, PEDs are not going away. There will always be a player who thinks he can beat the test and with the way science works, the PEDs users normally are ahead of the testing curve.
I do have a couple of ideas, however, I doubt it will be well received by all the players. But, if the game is serious in its desire to clean up, something like this should be looked at.
1. Any player caught using PEDs is no longer eligible for any post season awards.
Last year, one year after winning the NL MVP, Braun finished runner up for the award. With this rule in place, he would not have been eligible.
2. Any player caught using PEDs must play for the major league minimum for the rest of their career.
Melky Caberea tested positive after the All Star break last season and he was suspended for 50 games. It also happened to be his free agent year. Did the positive test affect how he was viewed? No. Instead, Cabrera signed a two-year $16 million deal with Toronto, that's $8 million a year for a cheater. The major league minimum for this year, $490,000.
3. Any player caught using PEDs should be required to spend the summer going around and talking to kids about why using PEDs are bad.
Kids today idolize sports figures. Kids want to do what their idols do and to see these players using PEDs, kids are more likely to try and use as well. Luckily my seven year old loves David Freese and Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals, both who have no association to anything PED-related.
4. Any player caught using PEDs on a first offense would be suspended for one full calander year.
What is 50 games? A player can be suspended for 50 games and still be eligible for the postseason. Cabrera was eligible to play in the NLCS and World Series last year after his 50 game suspension was up following the Giants first round win in the the postseason, but the Giants chose not to activate him.
5. Any player caught using PEDs a second time is banned from MLB for life.
Manny Ramirez, Guillermo Mota, Eliezer Alfonzo and Neifi Perez have already proven that a second offense doesn't scare the players by being caught using PEDs a second time.
Players are starting to step up and demand PED users be punished. But until there are real consequences, change will not happen. The current penalties do NOTHING to convince players to stop using.