Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Baseball cannot escape its drug problem

Major League Baseball just can’t get a break in its quest to rid itself of its drug problem.

Bartolo Colon becomes the latest baseball player to get caught cheating, earning a 50-game ban after testing positive for testosterone. It’s a major blow for a surprisingly competitive Oakland A’s team. But it’s not at all shocking that Colon was busted. There were suspicions about his turnaround performance going back to last year with the New York Yankees. (The suspension news is a vindication for the New York Times, which published an article last year that stopped short of accusing Colon of cheating, but investigated a questionable procedure that he had undergone without uncovering direct evidence of wrongdoing.)

Last week, it was Melky Cabrera being punished for using a banned substance. Both Colon and Cabrera are former members of the Yankees. It’s not a coincidence. To my great annoyance, the Yankees have become the poster child for performance-enhancing drug usage in baseball. It’s no surprise that two former Yankees have gotten busted. But it is a black mark, not just for these guys and the Yankees, but for all of Major League Baseball.

Neither player is as famous or infamous, as Roger Clemens, who is making a baseball comeback for an independent team. Clemens, who has already beaten government prosecutors trying to make an example out of him, could target MLB next by trying to return to the sport. A return to the big leagues could be a smart move on his part because it would restart the clock on his Hall of Fame candidacy, putting more distance between his alleged misdeeds and the time when the baseball writers have to cast their votes for or against him.

Not that I think many writers will forgive or forget the damage he has done. But a Clemens comeback would just rub MLB’s failure to control its drug problem right in the faces of Bud Selig & Co. Not that they need a reminder from Clemens. They’re getting plenty of reminders that their drug problem is not ancient history, no matter how much they wish it was, from the guys still trying to game their system.

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