Monday, August 5, 2013

Alex Rodriguez Should Have Received a Lifetime Ban a Long Time Ago

Major League Baseball has suspended Alex Rodriguez for over 200 games--the remainder of the 2013 regular season, the 2013 postseason, the entire 2014 regular season and the 2014 postseason--not only for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) but for actively obstructing MLB's investigation of his illegal conduct. Here is part of MLB's official statement regarding Rodriguez:

Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation. The suspension, which will become effective on Thursday, August 8th, will cover 211 Championship Season games and any 2013 Postseason games in which Rodriguez otherwise would have been eligible to play.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig broke his arm patting himself on the back: "Despite the challenges this situation has created during a great season on the field, we pursued this matter because it was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do." Feel free to print out that statement, shred the paper and spread it over your yard, because it will serve as excellent fertilizer; those words would have sounded great if they had been backed up by action more than a decade ago but this is a case of partially closing the barn door after the PED-using foxes stole hundreds of millions of dollars and rewrote the MLB record book. Rodriguez should have been banned for life at least four years ago, after he admitted that he used steroids from 2001-03. Rodriguez posted the three highest single season home run totals of his career during those seasons--52, 57, 47--after not hitting more than 42 home runs in any of his five previous full seasons. He subsequently hit 48 home runs in 2005 and 54 home runs in 2007. Rodriguez won the AL MVP award in 2003, 2005 and 2007. All of those accomplishments are permanently tainted by his repeated use of illegal PEDs. Even if he had "only" used PEDs from 2001-03, Rodriguez' post-2003 numbers and awards would still be fraudulent because there is good reason to believe that PED usage confers advantages that last long after such usage is discontinued. He and all other PED users should be banned for life not just to provide the strongest possible deterrent to potential future PED users but also because anyone who has used PEDs has a long term advantage over clean players.

Instead, not only did MLB decline to suspend Rodriguez for life but his suspension will not start immediately, nor will he likely serve the full 211 game duration; he intends to appeal the punishment and he will be permitted to play until a ruling is made about that appeal. If Rodriguez hits 13 more home runs to tie Willie Mays' career total of 660 then Rodriguez will receive a $6 million bonus on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars that he already has been paid under false/illegal pretenses. Selig and MLB are doing the "right thing" only if you believe that criminals who defiled the sport's record book should be permitted to keep their ill gotten financial gains and their fraudulently obtained awards. Selig and MLB ignored the PED scourge until a Congressional investigation prompted them to take belated, tentative steps to clean up the game. Rodriguez is near the end of his career; he has already safely banked his money and placed his MVP trophies on his mantle. The sport's Hall of Fame voters will be dealing with the aftermath of Selig's Steroid Era for several decades. Selig trumpeting his own virtues for doing "the right thing" should surpass the old definition of chutzpah--the child who kills both of his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan. MLB only knew about the Biogenesis PED users because a disgruntled Biogenesis employee released documentation to a small Miami newspaper; Selig is acting like he is Sherlock Holmes on the PED case but his investigative and policing acumen much more resembles that of Rosco P. Coltrane or Barney Fife.

As part of the same MLB investigation of Biogenesis that belatedly caught Rodriguez, 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun--who had repeatedly and aggressively denied being a PED user--accepted a 65 game suspension. Braun's suspension began immediately because he reached an agreement with MLB and thus will not file an appeal. Rodriguez and Braun are just the tip of MLB's most recent PED iceberg; most of the media attention will be focused on them because they are big names but today MLB also issued 50 game suspensions to the following players: Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Everth Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Jordany Valdespin, Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona. The latter five players are minor leaguers but Cruz and Peralta are each two-time All-Stars and Cabrera joined them on the 2013 All-Star team. Cruz was on pace to set career-highs in home runs and RBI this season. MLB statistics and records have about as much meaning and credibility as the statistics and records posted by the steroid-fueled East German Olympic swimming teams during the height of the Cold War.

Further Reading

MLB Should Ban Disgraced Braun for Life

Biogenesis Scandal Demonstrates that Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Still Have not Contained the PED Problem

Cabrera's Website is as Fake as His Artificially Enhanced Body 

Cabrera Suspension Yet Another Sign that MLB's "Steroid Era" is not Over

Two Sports Ilustrated Cover Stories Detail the Sordid Legacy of Baseball's "Steroid Era" 

The Baseball Hall of Fame Should Not Honor the Tainted Career of Ivan Rodriguez

The Ryan Braun MVP Fiasco Delivers Yet Another Black Eye to MLB

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