Baseball’s Juice Cleanse Has Been Ineffective; PEDs Remain – Hartford Courant
BOSTON — On the 30th anniversary of Roger Clemens‘ 20-strikeout game, on a Marlins team where Barry Bonds is the hitting coach, a decidedly non-power major leaguer reinforced a powerful message on Friday.
Performance-enhancing drugs aren’t only for the pitcher who used a 98 mph fastball to win a record seven Cy Young awards and strike out 4,672 batters.
PEDs aren’t only for the slugger who crushed a single-season record of 73 home runs and a career record of 762 homers.
PEDs are for the skinny guys like Dee Gordon, too. They are for a guy who broke into the majors at 5 feet 11, 144 pounds and who would go on to lead the National League in 2015 with 205 hits, 50 steals and win a batting title with a .333 average.
On a day when MLB announced the Marlins second baseman had been suspended 80 games without pay for testing positive for two banned substances, it was a reminder that you don’t have to be built like Mark McGwire in 1997 when he lit up the post-strike baseball world with 70 homers. If McGwire was Hercules, Gordon is the stick figure you drew on an Etch A Sketch.
Before Friday, we knew Gordon wasn’t guilty of eating too many doughnuts. We just didn’t know he was guilty of ingesting exogenous testosterone and clostebol.
Here’s the real skinny: The guilty hide under every rock, yet they also hide in plain sight. They aren’t necessarily ‘roid-raging bullies. They can be gregarious and well-liked as the son of former pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon. They come in all shapes and sizes, and conversely there is no one-size-fits-all way to catch and punish them.
The fact that some are good guys makes this issue all the harder. Yet it also must soften baseball’s management and baseball’s union to the cause. While it is laughable to think 100 percent of the cheaters will ever be caught, baseball can never stop chasing the ideal that the game be totally clean. It is the endless pursuit.
“There’s a clear-cut risk and reward,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday at Fenway Park. “Whatever the circumstances are for the individuals, those I can’t speak to. But if you’re going to roll the dice, there are examples that it’s going to be taken from you.
“I think the rewards are too great from a financial standpoint. And I think guys get caught up in being ultra-competitive.”
Over on the visitors’ side, Yankees manager Joe Girardi sounded a similar tone.
“In the game, in sports, where everyone’s always looking for an edge no matter what it is because they’re so competitive, things don’t shock you,” Girardi said. “It’s disappointing, but I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.”
PEDs will never go away entirely because human nature remains. A player decides the reward is greater than the risk. A player gets caught, and amazingly never seems to know how something illegal ended up in his blood stream.
“I have spent every waking moment trying to find an answer as to why or how,” Colabello said in a statement, later adding a trace amount of metabolite was found in his urine. “The only thing I know is that I would never compromise the integrity of the game.”
Colabello had been a terrific story. Born in Framingham, Mass., he was raised in Italy before returning to the state and playing ball at Assumption. Undrafted, he played in the Can-Am League, got into organized ball with the Twins and played for the Rock Cats before eventually making it to the big leagues with Minnesota. You root for guys like him. You want to believe him.
Then again, it’s a little like Red’s line in “The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy Dufresne said he didn’t kill his wife and her lover: “You’re going fit to right in. Everybody in here is innocent.”
Players and fans will always be critical of players on opposing teams. The other guys are guilty. Their guys are innocent and to be welcomed back. Good grief, if Alex Rodriguez can be accepted again in the Bronx, anybody can. Once previously busted players have served their time, teams also will sign ones they covet. Evidence Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Melky Cabrera, etc.
Look at Gordon. He signed a five-year, $50 million deal in January. This suspension will cost him about $1.5 million, but he’s guaranteed more than $48 million of it. We don’t know if he used banned substances to win the batting title that led to the big contract or if it was just in spring training, when he got caught. We do know he had fought for years through diet to get up to 171 pounds.
From Lance Armstrong to Marion Jones to Rafael Palmeiro, so many have lied it’s hard to give anybody the benefit of the doubt anymore. Yet at the same time, when someone like Stephen A. Smith of ESPN dances a little too close to calling Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta a juicer, we’ve also got to be careful of not convicting players who haven’t been accused of anything.