Alex Rodriguez and 12 other baseball players were suspended Monday by Major League Baseball for using performance-enhancing drugs. They were unmasked not because of MLB’s drug testing, but because of a vendetta between two owners of Biogenesis, the Florida clinic that allegedly supplied the contraband.
Major League Baseball gets no credit for policing its own. That’s what makes all the self-congratulatory remarks about “cleaning up the game” so utterly fraudulent.
The graphic on ESPN said all you need to know about how seriously Major League Baseball takes its latest doping scandal. Under a photograph of Rodriguez the crawl noted he had been suspended for 211 games, or through the end of the 2014 season. The next sentence said he would be starting at third base and batting cleanup for the Yankees Monday night.
You can’t be suspended if you’re still playing, any more than you can be using drugs and still be clean. It’s one or the other. Allowing Rodriguez to continue to play and be paid while he appeals the suspension means he isn’t really suspended at all, is he? And although the suspension technically starts Thursday, there’s every indication ARod will be a regular in the Yankees’ lineup for the duration of the appeals process, which could last until the end of the 2013 season.
Note to Commissioner Bud Selig: If you are serious about a clean game, right and wrong cannot be subject to collective bargaining. The NBA and the NFL know this. When Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, an All-Star in 2009, tested positive for PEDs, he was suspended for the first 10 games of the following season. (The test results were in August.) When New England Patriot defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham violated the NFL’s drug agreement last November, he got suspended. Right away.
If Major League Baseball wants to preserve a player’s right to appeal, let him serve his suspension during the appeals process. If cleared, he would get his job and his money back. But there’s nothing so toothless as a suspension policy that pays a player to continue playing while he is under suspension.
It’s not just drugs. Major League Baseball is easily the most forgiving of the four major team sports in terms of discipline. A baseball player gets into a fight and gets a suspension? No problem. He appeals it and continues to play. In the NBA, if an individual throws a punch — even one that does not connect — he’s out for at least a game and that is that. If he even leaves the bench, he gets suspended.
Look at what David Ortiz did a couple weeks ago. Upset at a third-strike call, Ortiz went into the Boston dugout, took out a bat, and smashed a telephone to smithereens, scattering debris near the face of Dustin Pedroia. But all the talk about this juvenile williwaw was whether the umpire had blown the call. Ortiz got a pass.
Did he come out and apologize and offer to pay for the damage he caused? Did the Red Sox offer an apology and a check to cover the damage? Did Major League Baseball discipline Ortiz? The answers would be no, no and, as far as we know, no. (The Globe reported Ortiz has been fined by MLB, but there was nothing official from the league, which, you’d think, would want its fans to know that it doesn’t tolerate such behavior.)
Rodriguez and MLB deserve each other. They’re both deluding themselves. MLB this week is trumpeting the largest group of suspensions since the Black Sox cheating scandal in 1919, not because of any preventative measures it took, but because someone dropped a dime. The 12 players who took their punishment this week — 50 game suspensions each — at least accepted responsibility. Rodriguez talks a good game about being innocent until proven guilty, but this is not a court of law. This is about the rules. He broke them. He knows it. He knows we know it. But he’s out there channeling his inner Lance Armstrong, noting he never failed a drug test.
He is the proverbial skunk at the garden party — and everyone comes out smelling bad.