Suspensions most painful part of process
What happened with Major League Baseball on Monday represents short-term pain and long-term pain.
It is never pleasant when any player in the game is suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
This has already begun to occur as the result of MLB's investigation into Biogenesis, the now-defunct "anti-aging" clinic in south Florida accused of supplying banned substances to Major League players. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2011, has already been suspended for 65 games for his involvement with Biogenesis and PEDs.
Now comes a larger batch of suspensions, 13 in all, announced by Major League Baseball on Monday afternoon. With the suspensions in the past, MLB will be faced with disappointed fans and teams, as well as the usual sorts of corollary damage caused by the use of banned substances.
Enforcement of baseball's anti-drug policies cannot be accomplished in a matter that can always be categorized as painless. The 211-game suspension of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been accompanied by its own bizarre soundtrack. This has included Rodriguez essentially accusing the Yankees and baseball of conspiring to void his contract. The evidence for that claim is nowhere to be found.
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
On the other side of the issue is the good news. Major League Baseball has a suitably stringent anti-drug policy. And this program is made up of much more than rhetoric. No matter how tough the policy is, without a matching toughness in enforcement, it is a paper tiger.
Commissioner Bud Selig referred to that issue while characterizing baseball's investigation of the Biogenesis matter. "[The investigation] is thorough, it's comprehensive, and it's aggressive," Selig said. "I'm proud of that and it's a tribute to what we're trying to do.
"It's one thing to say you have a tough program, but we need to enforce it well. We have a tough program. We have left no stone unturned. I think it's consistent with everything we do."
Baseball has its own investigatory arm, as recommended in the groundbreaking Mitchell Report. Thus, the game is in a position it could not have been in previously -- having the capability to thoroughly investigate on its own a case such as the one Biogenesis presented.
And after the facts are accumulated, MLB has an obligation to follow through on the penalty phase. Braun's 65-game suspension was negotiated. He had not only violated baseball's drug policy but had subsequently made misleading comments regarding his innocence.
Rodriguez will appeal his suspension, which will take effect on Thursday, but his suspension is longer than those of other players, because of repeated violations of the drug policy and attempts to interfere with baseball's investigation of Biogenesis.
The notion that this is somehow a persecution aimed directly at Rodriguez requires more imagination than knowledge. If a suspension of Rodriguez through 2014 were upheld, Rodriguez would still have three years remaining on his current contract with the Yankees. Rodriguez, who has previously admitted that he used steroids for three seasons while playing for the Texas Rangers, would be owed $61 million for those final three years.
Thus, even if A-Rod is found guilty in this instance, he will be given what will amount to a third, and relatively lucrative, chance.
There is nothing like a lifetime ban arising out of the Biogenesis case, but a point will still be made. The "non-analytic positive," a finding of PED guilt without a positive drug test, is now part of the enforcement equation. As a result, there is one fewer place for PED users to hide.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.