Turn on any of the major sports networks, or make your way onto any sports website and one thing is sure to catch your attention before all else – Biogensis. With Ryan Braun‘s recent suspension and news getting ready to break about suspensions for more players linked to the Miami PED supplier, everyone seems to have an opinion as to whether or not this is good or bad for baseball. Yes, cleaning up the sport should be a major goal considering just how crazy things got at the peak of the steroids era, but at what point does it go from cleaning up the game to total witch hunt? Looking for answers, I decided to ask the staff here are Wahoo’s on First for their opinions on the matter for this week’s Wroundtable. Here’s what they had to say.
Merritt Rohlfing: In a sense, MLB is certainly taking the right course of action – they need to clean up the game, or at least put forward the image that they’re doing something about it. Personally, I have no real problem with steroids – if everyone has access to them it’s not really taking an unfair advantage is it? But that’s neither here nor there. They need to protect the reputation of baseball and if they have to use a heavy hand to do it, so be it. What I don’t like is that the Commissioners Office seems to be using the whole Biogenesis situation as a chance to eliminate from the game players they don’t like. To wit, Alex Rodriguez. Maybe he tampered with evidence, maybe he didn’t, all we have is the he said, she said to go on. But that doesn’t give MLB the right to just kick the guy out forever because he’s become a blemish to the otherwise “pure” face of the game. Going away from the CBA to punish A-Rod makes me think too much of all the other times the owners have screwed over the players and I simply won’t have it. If he tested positive, 50 games and there you go, same with all the other guys. Braun shouldn’t have been able to cut a deal, that was similarly shady. So yeah, in spirit, it’s the right thing, but the arbitrariness of it, the witch hunt vibe to it all, it’s very unsettling.
Steve Kinsella: MLB has not gone to far. It has not been a witch hunt. It has been refreshing to hear many former and current players wanting to clean the game up and lining up support for tougher actions in the future as well as what is going on now. It is absolutely the right course of action as this whole process is a litmus test for the next Biogenesis. The way the MLB Players Union and MLB have handled this will pay dividends in expediting the process in the future.
Ed Carroll: I find it hard to answer this question, because MLB isn’t really explaining why they’re choosing this course of action. If MLB really believes this clean up (for lack of a better term) is necessary to “preserve the integrity of the game,” then I look at it as a bit of a witch hunt. It’s not to say I don’t think PED use happens in baseball, or even that it has no effect on the game; I do think it still happens (guys are getting suspended still, right?) and it probably does have an effect on the game (although the idea that PED use takes you from a scrub to a superstar is likely misinformed). While I don’t think MLB should completely ignore the issue, I’m kind of amazed at the time and resources spent into hunting these players down. These suspensions don’t “fix” anything in regards to PED use in baseball; I’m sure some players might be deterred from using, but it will probably just make guys be a little more careful. I’ve said before on Twitter there are far larger issues facing the game, both in terms of integrity (the lack of quality and accountability in the game’s umpiring is concerning) and player health (the rise of drunk driving incidents by players, coaches and others in the game, a far greater crime to both the game and humanity). Yeah, PED use is still an issue for baseball to keep an eye on, but the amount of effort expended to vilify these players (and seemingly Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun in particular), seems incredibly petty, especially in July and August, the middle of the regular season. Maybe this investigation does lead to “cleaning the game up,” but personally I feel this is a lot of huffing and puffing and any houses to fall down will just be built right back up as soon as next year.
Kyle Downing: This has been a great course of action. MLB has cracked down on PED users in the past decade and has seen a positive change in the standards of the game because of it. Bringing the hammer down on those involved in the Biogenesis scandal will not only punish those who are cheating, but will also deter players from using PEDs in the future. But the biggest added benefit is that it will discourage such labs from developing and selling illegal PEDs for many years to come. As far as I’m concerned, the harsher the punishment, the better. Players who gain an unfair advantage in an illegal manner have no place in this game.
Evan Vogel: Baseball is a game that hasn’t progressed much over history. There are still nine players on a diamond, throwing a small round ball and hitting it with a long, round, wooden bat. Players are bigger, stronger, and faster in all sports today than they were twenty years ago, just compare Michael Jordan to LeBron James.
Players take care of their bodies differently, using vitamins, shakes, and many other dietary supplements to increase their strength and stamina. They are playing a game for 10 to 15 years and then moving on to autograph shows, families, and hitting or pitching coach jobs and can only earn at the highest level after their arbitration years are over and they reach free agency. This gives players about four to seven years to earn their top dollars, while producing enough to make them an asset for their team still. If that requires help, they should be entitled to it because, after all, it is their body, their future, and their side effects that they have to live with.
Let the players play, produce, and be exciting to watch. Protect them from pitches to the head, fans running onto the field, and from being taken advantage of by agents and scouts in Latin America, but don’t tell them how to take care of their bodies. Bud Selig needs his stars on the field and the stars need to be doing what they do best, and if they need a little help, they should have it. Every other era in the history of the game has had access to something, so why not these guys?
Ty Cobb was the “character” who was as idiotic as Riley Cooper, the n-word slinging Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver. Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth had battles with alcoholism. Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid. Name an era where someone wasn’t doing something illegal to gain an advantage…I bet you can’t. Move on and let the players play. The baseball writers will keep out the Hall of Famers that they don’t want in Cooperstown for their own vendettas, while glorifying the “heroes” who were full of character flaws. Don’t be caught up in their stupidity. They were probably the same people assisting in keeping MLB segregated for decades.
Michael Chaney: I think that baseball is taking a good course of action with Biogenesis, but not necessarily a great one. I don’t like that parts of the investigation have been leaked, because I think that this is best served to be solved privately. Even though I like the speculation that comes with the investigation, I feel that it’s been too much of the focus in baseball. I don’t want to say that it’s dominated the news, but it kind of has. If the investigation had been kept private among league personnel, there would not be public backlash. Nobody would be able to react until suspensions were handed out.
This backlash could also have an unfair effect on how teams have been operating. I’m sure the Tigers knew for a while that Jhonny Peralta faced a suspension, but without the investigation being leaked (and the public reacting), I’m not convinced they would have acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. It’s good that teams won’t be blindsided by news of a player potentially being suspended. However, I think that if the Tigers wouldn’t have added a shortstop to potentially replace Peralta, they would have been scrutinized, like how the Rangers were criticized for not acquiring a hitter at the Trade Deadline to replace Nelson Cruz (though they still need one anyway). I’m not saying that the media caused Dave Dombrowski to react and trade for a shortstop, but the possibility exists.
I like that the league is acting quickly, and I love that they are putting pressure on the players, like aiming for the moon with the threat of a lifetime ban for Alex Rodriguez. However, I don’t like that the fear of an appeal overturning the suspension has essentially given players extra leverage. Even though players like A-Rod deserve lifetime bans, they won’t get that because an arbitrator will never allow it. As a result, MLB is allowing these players to get “plea deals”, and they can get out easily with a fresh start next year. I don’t disagree with the investigation itself, and I don’t think of it as a “witch hunt” because I’m an adamant supporter in baseball being clean. I want anyone who has used PEDs to be severely punished, so as long as MLB is able to give players who took PEDs the appropriate punishment, that’s what matters to me.
Brian Heise: I like that Major League Baseball is making a concentrated effort to try to clean things up once and for all. While the steroid era was a blast (I loved the summer of ’98 and the great home run race), things got out of control. Bodies were bigger and bulkier than ever before, numbers just didn’t make any sense, and the sport had fundamentally changed. Almost any and all strategy was thrown out the window when you could rely on hitting 17 home runs per game. I like that things are getting back to basics and that teams have to be smarter and build for the future while also maintaining their present. It’s exciting and with things cleaned up and everyone on the same level playing field I think it makes that process more exciting. That said, I can’t help but feel like this is also a black eye on baseball and the players involved. I remember when Alex Rodriguez came up with the Mariners. He was fun and exciting and just so good at baseball. Now the whole thing seems like a lie and we’re sitting here debating whether or not one of the greatest players of a generation could be banned for life. No one wins in that situation.