Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Integrity of America's Pastime and the Dishonesty of Steriods

               Baseball is America’s pastime, something that is pure and hardly unchanging, which could be seen as a blessing or a curse.  The recent outbreak of players in both the minor and major leagues abusing substances banned by baseball has sparked a recent idea or a plan that should be embraced by everyone in baseball; the AIC Plan (Accountability, Integrity, and Creditability Plan).  It is a simple solution to a growing problem, holding everyone accountable while bringing integrity and creditability back to baseball!

                Currently, if a player gets caught using a substance banned by MLB he gets suspended for 50 games, which to me is a good start but the punishment does not go far enough!  The parties that seem to be getting off free and clear are the teams these cheaters are playing for.  Sure, the team does get hurt by losing that player but even if it is a superstar player it still does not seem like an adequate punishment.

                Why punish the team, you ask? Why punish them for a cheating player? Well, what are these  teams doing to insure they are holding up the integrity of the game?  In other words, are they doing anything to make sure these players are not cheating?  The answer is NO.  The drug test is put out by MLB, the suspensions are put out by MLB, and all the responsibility has been laid on MLB and the player.  All the while the team sits there with their hands dirty.  Each player is with their organization for 8 months or more out of the year and spends most of the days with players, coaches, trainers, etc., and you are telling me they don’t have any idea their players are possibly taking something they should not be taking?  If you believe that, then I got some swamp land to sell you!  Whether they know or don’t know if a player is abusing the fact is the teams themselves are not doing anything to prevent it.  MLB needs to take a page out of the NCAA’s playbook.  In the NCAA they do investigations on teams, players, coaches, etc.  The teams themselves also do an investigation if a player or coach is caught doing something they should not have been doing by the NCAA because the team could be penalized as well (i.e. Penn St., Michigan, Miami, etc.). But if a team catches its own player the punishment handed down by the NCAA is usually less severe. While this is not a perfect system I feel the guidelines could be used to improve the MLB illegal drug policy.

                Do you still need more reasoning why to penalize a team for a player doping?  Here’s a scenario to think about- Player A is a superstar.  His merchandise is the highest selling, he is the face of the franchise, the guy that puts butts in the seats, and just an iconic figure for that team.  With this player on the team, the team is gaining revenue hand over fist between merchandise sales, promotions, and of course, ticket sales.  Then the unthinkable happens and Player A gets busted for PEDs and is suspended for 50 games.  Those next 50 games will most definitely hurt the team but what about the previous games he played while on PEDs? The team made a TON of money on those games and probably won more games than they would have lost with him not on the team.  So what does the team do?  They just replace him on the roster with another player and go on about their business.  No punishment is handed down to this team except losing their superstar for the next 50 games.  No money is really lost except for maybe those other figures decreasing a little over the next 50 games or so.  But let’s not kid ourselves, the benefits the team acquired from him playing juiced is much more than the aftermath of him getting busted doing something illegal.  Not only that, but he gets to come back and play if the suspension happened early enough in the year.


                So what is the answer?  What are the details of the policy to make sure everyone is held accountable at every level?  I think the 3 strike rule for players is a good starting point with the first strike being 50 games, second strike 100 games, and the third strike a lifetime ban from baseball.  I also think each player should be fined 15% of their total salary for the year caught doping and that money should be donated evenly to the Taylor Hooton Foundation for Fighting Steroid Abuse, D.A.R.E, and B.A.D. (Baseball Against Drugs).   

                As for the team, the first thing they need to implement is a page taken from the NCAA.  Not only should MLB as a whole do testing but each team should be responsible to use their resources to hire an independent drug testing organizations approved by MLB.  By having both MLB and each team test its players the frequency of testing will increase which would decrease the odds of a player getting away with abusing drugs. 

Now as far as team punishment, it’s broken into two categories: Team Positive Test (TPT) and Major League Baseball Positive Test (MLBPT). 

TPT- All positive drug tests found by way of TPT will be omitted from punishment handed down from MLB to each individual team but the doping player’s punishment still falls under the 3 strike rule.  This is known as the “integrity rule”.  It allows a team to place judgment on a player and be held responsible by losing the player for X amount of games but MLB not pass punishment to the team because of the integrity shown.  

MLBPT- In the case that MLB finds a positive drug test from one of the team’s player and the corresponding team does not, a punishment will be handed down to the player under the 3 strike rule.  As for the team, they will be given the punishment of losing that player for X amount of games and the team will not be able to fill the doping player’s spot on the roster.  This means if Player A is a starting outfielder the ML team will only be able to carry 24 men on their active roster instead of the normal 25 for the amount of games he is suspended.  The same rule applies to all minor league affiliations.  For example: if Player A gets caught a second time for PEDs under MLBPT, Player A’s team will only be able to carry 24 players on their active roster.  If a life-time ban happens then the team is required to carry a 24 man roster for a full season.  The punishment for teams does not stop there.  If a team is hit with 3 or more positive tests found by MLB and not found by the team in a 5 year period they will be banned from the playoffs the year the third infraction occurred.  One stipulation is if the team does not make it to the playoffs the season the infraction occurred then it would carry over to the following season.  If the infraction happens during the offseason it will also take place the up and coming season.  Each team will also be fined a million dollars per doping player and that money will be spread out across MLB charities.  This punishment is only if the 3 positive tests come from the guilty team’s 40 man roster.  The guidelines apply to the other players off the 40 man roster but the punishment is different.  If a team is hit with 3 or more positive test from players not on the 40 man roster over a 5 year period then they will be fined five hundred thousand dollars per player and are banned from the First Year Player Draft for the following season. 

On a side note- Players, Teams, and MLB are subject to the appeal process. In extreme cases not settled through that process the subject will be put through a legal process.  Players, Teams, and MLB are not able to challenge or reduce the punishment handed down but are allowed to challenge the drug test.  All rules, regulations, and punishments are not subject to the appeal or legal process.

It’s time for this unchanging institute to take a step forward for the betterment of the sport.  There are so many players doing the right thing and not making it because roided players are taking their spots.  Those players are cheaters and ruining the integrity of the game but they are not the only guilty party.  The ML teams that make stacks and stacks of cash off of these players get to keep that money even though it’s dirty.  The team has no incentive to clean up baseball because there isn’t a devastating enough consequence, the player barely has any incentive to stop doping because that is how he made it and how he made his millions.  One of the main reasons baseball is becoming less and less relevant is because there is no incentive to improve it.  With the plan I outlined it brings accountability and credibility back to baseball.  The AIC plan is the way to bring back baseball to its former glory.  With that said, I leave you with these two quotes.

“Anything that harms the integrity of the game is terrible. We always thought we were immune to drugs in baseball, but we know that's not true anymore. “  Harmon Killebrew

“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”  Saul Steinberg