SBD/August 6, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB Suspensions: League Suspends 13 Players; A-Rod To Appeal Record Ban

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Rodriguez is able to play until there is a ruling on his appeal
MLB yesterday suspended 13 players for their ties to the Biogenesis clinic, the "biggest single-day drug action in the sport's history," according to a front-page piece by Steve Eder of the N.Y. TIMES. Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez received a ban of 211 games, "by far the longest levied by the league for a doping violation." MLB in explaining the suspension through the end of the '14 season cited Rodriguez' "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances" over many years. Rodriguez is the only player planning to appeal, and MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said Rodriguez' suspension was "way too harsh." He said, "We've never had a 200-plus penalty for a player who may have used drugs. ... I just think that is way out of line." But MLB Commissioner Bud Selig indicated that the suspension "was within the bounds of the league's antidoping rules" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes it was a "day of sweeping and dramatic punishment" handed out by MLB, "eclipsing the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal for throwing the World Series as the most players suspended at once for off-field activities." Weiner said that Rodriguez' appeal decision is "not expected to be rendered by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz until at least November." Rodriguez' attorney David Cornwell likely will argue Selig is "abusing his power." But Nightengale writes Selig in truth could have "gone for a harsher sentence." He "thought seriously about banning him for life, or at least invoking his power as commissioner and making sure Rodriguez didn't play until his appeal is heard and ruled on." Selig decided to "treat him just like any other player linked to performance-enhancing drugs, only extending the penalty because of the egregious charges" (USA TODAY, 8/6). MLB Network's Jon Heyman said MLB is "doing the prudent thing here in not invoking" the "best interest" clause "to get one player off the field" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 8/5). 

MAKING PROGRESS ON PEDS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa writes the suspensions "highlight MLB's evolution to a league that enforces its drug policy more aggressively than any other U.S. professional sports body." That is "in part because of increased cooperation from players" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/6). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes it "does appear Selig did not so overstep his bounds that he jeopardized the relationship management and players have to eliminate the performance-enhancing drugs" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/6). But in New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes Rodriguez and Selig should "use the next three days to cut through the fog of hate and make a deal." Selig has "overshot his mark with a 211-game suspension and could have trouble making it stick in front of an arbitrator." And Rodriguez, "drop-dead guilty of PED use, knows he’ll never get the penalty overturned outright." A "neat 150 games would give both sides what they’re looking for." Selig still gets to "levy the longest drug-related banishment in the game’s history, and in return offers A-Rod a chance to get back on the field before the 2014 playoffs" (Bergen RECORD, 8/6).

CBA COULD BE RE-OPENED: Weiner in a special to USA TODAY writes MLBers "want a clean game, and that's why they have taken the lead in establishing the toughest testing program in professional sports." However, the players also "know that cheating exists in every walk of life." And even the "toughest penalties imaginable will not be enough to discourage somebody intent on breaking the rules from doing so." Upon the "conclusion of every season, the bargaining parties meet to discuss ways to strengthen the program." Between now and early December, when the MLBPA "holds its annual executive board meeting, every active player will have a chance to offer his thoughts on the Joint Drug Agreement." Weiner: "We anticipate a lively dialogue and an informed discussion." The players will "determine the future direction of the agreement, and they will have every opportunity to discuss increasing penalties for infractions as well as increasing the number of tests, to name just a couple of ways the program can be adjusted" (USA TODAY, 8/6). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes Weiner said that among the union staff, there was "little support for imposing a lifetime ban after a second offense instead of a third." But he added that the players would "decide for themselves." Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay said that he "believed players would implement stricter penalties this off-season." Overbay: "When we first came out with the program, I thought 50 games was a lot of games. Obviously, it's not. It's not working. I mean, it's not stiff enough, just the way it's come out" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "We have reached a new phase in which a critical mass of players have sworn off silence and told their union representatives to protect due process but not drug cheats." Only a "vocal majority of clean players could have moved this union to make the 'Joint' part of the Joint Drug Agreement truly meaningful and powerful" (N.Y. POST, 8/6).

DIFFERENT THAN YEARS AGO: ESPN's Buster Olney noted the "sea change has been in how the players' attitudes have evolved" during the Steroid Era. Olney: "Now the players are speaking out loud how they want to clean up the sport. That's wasn't there … 10, 15, 20 years ago. The fact that players are now feeling that way gives you a better chance that the sport is going to get clean." ESPN's John Kruk said he has "more respect for the players" and the MLBPA than "I did when we played." Kruk: "We swept it under the rug. We allowed it to happen" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/5).

PLAYERS RALLY BEHIND SUSPENSIONS: USA TODAY's Paul White writes MLB players speaking out in support of suspensions is a "remarkable turnaround from the membership of a union that in the past went on strike in part because of its opposition to drug testing." Tigers P Max Scherzer said, "As players as a whole, we're tired of cheating. We're tired of guys who blatantly try to break the system. That's something that we have to find a way to shore up so this doesn't happen again." Weiner said, "We've heard from a lot of players who think increased penalties are called for. We've heard from other players who don't think increased penalties are called for" (USA TODAY, 8/6). Padres RF Will Venable: "I believe that if you cross over and decide that you are going to use the banned substance, you also should forfeit the support of the players' association. They are not worthy of the support of the players' association" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/5). Orioles RF Nick Markakis said that MLB needs to "stiffen its penalties, punishments that he believes should, at the least, include a five-year suspension for a first-time offender." Markakis: "These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 8/5). In Boston, Nick Carfardo notes there is a "newfound respect for the players who have been loud and vigilant in trying to nail those who have been cheating" by using PEDs. Cafardo: "Bravo to Bud Selig after he got 12 of 13 players to go along with 50-game suspensions without appeals." Selig was the "executor, but none of this would have been possible without a constituency of the Players Association that was sick of how a small percentage of their membership was acting" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/6).

PENALTIES SHOULD BE MORE HARSH: In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes Rodriguez and the other 12 MLBers "got off easy," as they all "should be suspended for life." The union should, "once in a while, look out for the ballplayers who don't cheat, the ballplayers who don't like it when others do" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/6). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote MLB's penalties "are not enough, except in the case" of Rodriguez. Fifty games for most players "is not enough." These guys "at the very least" should be "done for the year ... and that includes the playoffs." A first offense should equal a "100-game suspension," which "voids all the remaining years on the player's contract." A second suspension "is a lifetime ban" (CLEVELAND.com, 8/5). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes the "relatively soft punishment of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third should be replaced by the Olympic model: two years for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second" (USA TODAY, 8/6). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes it was "nice of baseball to once again throw a big sweeping roundhouse at its steroid problem." It would have "been nicer if that punch had actually landed." Once again, in "trying to clean up the game with the efficiency of an umpire trying to clean home plate, baseball has just kicked more dirt on itself." Plaschke: "If baseball is certain that a player is dirty ... then why is he still allowed to play again? Ever? And why is that player also allowed to appeal and continue playing like Rodriguez?" (L.A. TIMES, 8/6).
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