Majority of players want tougher PED penalties
TAMPA, Fla. -- We are reminded today that the baseball players with ties to Biogenesis do not represent the vast majority of players. Baseball players want a clean sport. At least the overwhelming majority of them do. And they are angry about the players connected with a Miami anti-aging clinic with ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
No player should be doing business with such an outfit. Even if the player really is simply seeking information about performance-enhancing drugs, the perception is otherwise. When one player is stained by PEDs, every player is stained.
That's why many players want tougher penalties for first-time offenders. A 50-game penalty hasn't been enough of a deterrent, so by Opening Day 2014, that punishment probably will increase to 100 games, or more likely an entire season.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Players Association, told reporters on Monday he has begun discussions with Major League Baseball about toughening the penalties for first-time offenders.
This is no slam dunk. Many players hate what PEDs have done to their sport, but they're also sensitive to the players who really do take a banned substance by mistake.
They do not believe that a player should be thrown out of the game for a year for an honest screwup. This is the gray area of performance-enhancing drugs. While the alibis start to sound alike, some of them are legitimate.
But every player has access to information about what they can and can't take. They have reference materials and telephone numbers of medical personnel who can steer them in the right direction.
Let's be clear about why these changes seem likely to happen. It's not just because Weiner thinks it's the right thing to do, although he does. It's because the players -- his members -- want a clean sport. They're the reason baseball instituted in-season blood testing for human growth hormone, and they're the reason baseball will do a DNA profile of each player to detect subtle changes in testosterone.
It was striking last season how many players were angry when a series of high-profile players tested positive. They'd thought 50 games for a first-time offense would be enough.
"The players at this point have very little patience for players that are trying to cheat the system," Weiner said on Monday.
Melky Cabrera served his 50-game suspension last season and then got a $16 million deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, who clearly don't believe his game will suffer for having missed the final three months of last season.
Will 100 games or more make a difference? Can a player, especially one in his 30s, be expected to play at the same level after a year away? Those are discussions for another day. When Commissioner Bud Selig announced the in-season blood testing for HGH, he told the owners, "This is a proud day for baseball."
He meant that the science was closing in on the players who wanted to play outside the rules, and while it'll always be a cat-and-mouse game, it was a step in the right direction. He also meant that most players want a clean sport as much as he does.
Baseball has chosen to be transparent about performance-enhancing drugs. What other commissioner would order a report that attempted to lay out how bad the problem had gotten?
"I was warned not to do it," Selig said of the 2007 Mitchell Report. "But I thought it was the right thing to do."
Unlike the NFL, which does not test players for human growth hormone, baseball is working relentlessly to catch and punish players who don't believe the rules apply to them. It's also a proud day when players speak loudly about their sport. Blood testing? Do it. Tougher penalties? Do that, too. They've told the world they want to do the right thing, and in that way, their reaction to Biogenesis is also a proud day.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.