Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ortiz, Ramirez Latest to be Anonymously Outed; Time to Come Clean

When Major League Baseball enacted a drug-testing program in 2003 (or, about 44 years too late), the first year of testing was done for an evaluation.

The brass of the sport wanted to know how big of a problem they had on their hands, so an agreement was made. The tests would be conducted anonymously, and if a certain percentage of baseball players tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the sport would start punishing players for positive tests in the 2004 season.

Obviously, enough players tested positive. Actually, baseball still has no idea the scope of their drug problem, even five years after the start of a program that included punishments for PED use.

Even though those tests were to be anonymous, anyone with a brain had to think that the names would eventually leak, unless there were no meaningful names to leak. Let's face it, nobody gives a rip if David Segui or Jim Parque cheated. They care that pure, wholesome big guys like David Ortiz didn't.

Oh, wait. Sorry.

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.

I'd love to act shocked, outraged, or even upset about this. However, you probably figured something like this was on the way.

After all, Ortiz quickly went from injury-prone nice-guy slugger to always-healthy, extremely dangerous slugger who is setting career highs and becoming a star.

We rooted for the Red Sox, in part, because Ortiz was so lovable and fun to watch. The fact that he cheated doesn't change the fact that he was fun to watch, and it's not going to just erase the fun that Red Sox fans had watching him play.

If anything, this should serve again as a cautionary tale. The bottom line is that the sport of baseball had (and may still have) a serious problem. Those who are supposed to be protecting the game ignored obvious signs of trouble, and allowed things to spiral out of control. The first attempt to reel the game back in was completely half-assed, with the spineless commissioner agreeing to keep the first round of testing anonymous and without punishment.

It was supposed to "protect" the players. Of course, that was a farce. The names were going to be leaked at some point, no matter what agreement the players and owners made. Any player who allowed himself to be tested had to understand this.

We're six years past the anonymous testing. The game may be cleaner, or it may just appear to be cleaner because we're supposed to believe that drug testing will catch all the cheaters -- that no one can beat the tests. In those six years, baseball's image still hasn't improved much, and the only way to stop the steady leaking of names is to release them all.

The union and owners should come together on some sort of agreement. Obviously, the players won't be punished for their positive tests, and the release of names will not tarnish their ability to play or make money in the game. It will get us all on a level playing field. After all, there's a good chance that the guys who were caught in 2003 have simply figured out a way to outsmart the test, and they're still using.

Either that, or they're just as dumb as someone who would knowingly put something in their body that can be really bad for them is.

For now, I'm curious when Ortiz will start his vacation.

In February, shortly after (Yankee Alex) Rodriguez confessed to using banned substances, Ortiz said publicly that players who tested positive for a substance that was banned at the time should be suspended for an entire year.

I suppose I shouldn't be sarcastic, but I'm not.

Ortiz wants guys suspended for a year. The least he can do, as an outed cheater, is take some time off himself.

Or maybe that just applied to those caught after 2003. Funny the things you say when you don't think you're going to get caught having your hand in the cookie jar.

No comments: