March 28, 2014

New MLB-players roiding agreement even better than I expected

When Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the MLB Players Union, first announced the idea of toughening sanctions to 100 games for a first offense and full season for the second, instead of the current 50 and 100 games, I was in semi-agreement; I liked that, but only without the loophole of just 25 games for an inadvertent test.

I worried about Barry Bonds, who alternated between saying he didn't know what was in the "clear" and the "cream" and that flaxseed oil did it? And Manny Ramirez claiming he had no idea how a woman's fertility drug got in his body? Or Ryan Braun and "chain-of-custody" claims on his first positive test. If a player sees a loophole, he's going to try to drive a Mack Truck through it.

The ESPN link provides two more such examples:
Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis was suspended for 50 games in June 2012 for a Clostebol Metabolite, which he later claimed was contained in a foot cream he used. Reliever Guillermo Mota, then with San Francisco, was suspended for 100 games in May 2012 after taking a cough syrup with Clenbuterol.
And, I'm sure we could get more with easy digging.

But ...

The new agreement is in, and it looks like we won't have to worry about "inadvertent" testing.
  • Random urine samplings will more than double;
  • HGH testing will increase;
  • First suspension will be 80 games, second one a full year.
As for the "inadvertent"?

Players will get a chance to appeal on grounds that they weren't seeking a competitive edge. I guess this would be something like Andy Pettitte's use of HGH for healing? Because, with him, what he said rang at least halfway true. That said, per discussion at the NBC link, we don't know that HGH does that much for healing, anyway. And, it looks like, instead of a 25-game ban, it's half of the original.

And there's this:
Additionally, the league and the union are creating a safe harbor of sorts: they have established a program in which players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result. This should reduce confusion on banned over-the-counter substances and reduce the use of the “I got this from GNC and thought it was OK” defense many have raised in the past.
Agreed. Let's hope the commissioner's office pushes this hard, especially in Spanish and outside the US, for Caribbean players to be clean, and to not have excuses.

At the same time, per the full agreement, there's this twist. Even if you don't have a full-year suspension, you're banned from the playoffs for that year. And, lose postseason money; you can get a partial share, but you can't get a full player's share of money. And, can't vote in distribution of postseason shares. (In other words, a suspended Roger Clemens couldn't vote Brian McNamee, or some late-year call-up player, etc., a full World Series share.)

Craig Calcaterra doesn't like it at all. I think it's great, and will make teams be more serious about what individual players are doing. In other words, managers and GMs ... that's you in the Oakland dugout, Tony LaRussa, and you in New York, Joe Torre, and you in Atlanta, Bobby Cox, have one less excuse now, too. Managers can't ignore Jose Canseco and the infamous Canseco milkshakes.

Maybe you can't patrol everywhere, but, if you think you need to tighten up dugout access, that's what you do.

David Schoenfield likes the idea, too.

Finally, new items may be added to the prohibited substances list next week. Stay tuned.

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