The players. The fans. The league. All three are essential to the summer spectacular that we call baseball. And all three are fed up with juicers.
It’s no secret that I’m a proponent of allowing steroid users into the hall of fame. Those drug users used before there were rules that actually punished them for taking performance enhancing drugs.
Now, both Major and Minor League baseball has implemented policies suspending steroid users. This hasn’t thwarted the efforts of every player who wants to gain an edge.
Already this season, two players with local links have been caught and suspended for (allegedly) using performance enhancing drugs. Both were handed 80 game suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Thomas Pannone, a former Hendricken Hawk, entered the season ranked as the 26th best prospect within the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. Being a highly valued prospect, the Cranston native was an important piece to a trade with the Indians last season. Finishing last season with a combined 2.36 ERA, Pannone looked to be on the fast track to success.
It is important to note that Thomas Pannone denies the steroid allegations, and released this statement.
Michael Chavis, the Red Sox first round pick in the 2014 draft, was the latest minor leaguer to find himself suspended. Ranked as the 80th best prospect in all of baseball, Chavis is seen as a player that could have a positive impact on Boston’s roster. A team who saw their largest need as a power bat, Chavis hit 31 home runs over only 126 games last season. Chavis also denies using a banned substance.
Despite seeing suspensions rise from fifty games to eighty, professional baseball has not seen players stop (allegedly) using performance enhancing drugs. Pannone- a local kid- and Chavis - who was likely to find himself in Pawtucket this season- are just some examples of recent suspensions. Starling Marte and Dee Gordon, two speedsters who aren’t known for home runs, found themselves without pay for violating the league’s drug policy. They aren’t alone. A few other major leaguers, and many minor leaguers, have also found themselves without a paycheck due to similar violations.
The league has tried to stop players from using PEDs. The increased suspensions, frequent drug tests, and overall crackdown has reduced the number of players who use and abuse, but their efforts haven’t been enough.
There will always be some players who try to gain an edge, and there will always be new ways to beat the system. What can major (and minor) league baseball do to even further prevent usage? I have a few ideas.
More financial penalties need to be applied. Major leaguers who violate the substance abuse policy should not only face the suspension. When a player is suspended, he loses his pay for that time. Being suspended for half of the season means a player loses half of his pay regularly for that season. I think financially, his contract should be reduced for the following season too. Violators should have the following season’s salary cut as well. They should be allowed to stay on the field during that time. Team salary cap space would still be reflective of if the player was getting paid his full salary. This would get a little tricky with players who are suspended in the final season of their contract expiring, but the league could figure out the details from there.
Minor leaguers, who already make next to nothing wouldn’t be subject to the same sort of restrictions under my new rules. Instead, they will lose a season of arbitration eligibility in the majors. If you are unfamiliar with arbitration, for the first few seasons of a player’s professional career, he makes the league minimum. When he’s arbitration eligible, he’s still under team control, but attempts to negotiate a pay raise. Most players do get raises, but it can be tricky. Substance abuse violators would have to take the league minimum salary for one extra season upon promotion to the major leagues, instead of being able to make a lot more money in year four.
Second time violators are currently suspended for one entire season. I’d ban them outright for not learning their lessons the first time, with an appeal allowed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Players who continue to use aren’t meant to be professional baseball players.
It’s a shame to hear that two players with local links have been linked with PEDs. Hopefully we don’t see more suspensions come for anyone.
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