I've been sitting all morning ruminating about the reports that up to 20 players could be suspended as a result of the Biogenesis scandal, perhaps as soon as after the All-Star break, and trying to think about what to write about it.
There's almost an air of sad resignation around this scandal, many years after players were rumored to use PEDs and some years after the first players were caught and suspended. Why? Because clearly, it's still going on, or at least, according to the reports about Biogenesis, it was happening during the time frame that Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, to name two of the players allegedly connected with that Miami clinic, were getting PEDs from there.
The details of this scandal, you can get anywhere; the details of the suspensions aren't official yet and you can spend time debating whether they should be now or later or how long they will be when they eventually are made public. To me, that misses the larger point.
Before I get to that larger point, I do want to say that it appears I was very, very wrong about Braun. You might remember that I was one of the few non-Brewers fans to defend him. It appears that not only was he doing PEDs, but lying about it and refusing to answer MLB's questions about any connection he had to the Biogenesis clinic.
So I apologize. I was wrong about Braun. Braun apparently was doing it, at least in 2011 when he was caught by the test that he eventually escaped suspension for, and possibly earlier. And, apparently, hasn't told the truth about this. Ever. And that's the larger point, as eloquently summed up by Yahoo's Jeff Passan in this article:
As much as MLB wants to rid the sport of PEDs, it understands the reality: That’s never happening, not with the money so big, the stakes so high, the incentive so great. In lieu of that, it wants the next-best thing: the truth. And it’s not naïve to seek that, because with regards to PEDs, it has proven the best tack. Think about who told the truth: Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi. Each used PEDs. Each eventually owned up to it. Pettitte, 41, is the oldest starting pitcher in the game. Giambi, 42, is the oldest position player. Not only did the game forgive them, it valued their experiences enough to welcome them back long past their best years. Baseball values the truth because it deserves it. Even if the rules are draconian – no professional sport has yet to have an honest discussion about PEDs, because it would go against so much of what the last decade-plus has established – they are rules the players themselves bargained through their union, rules by which they agree to adhere and rules with clear punishments for those who run afoul.
That's exactly right, in my view. Baseball players have been attempting to get an edge on each other for as long as baseball has existed. You can argue whether that's right or wrong, or whether the people who run the sport have the right to try to stop it -- they most certainly do, and the players have agreed to very tough testing. But no matter how rigorous or tough the testing is, players are going to seek a way around it. That's just human nature for human beings as competitive as professional athletes must be, in order to succeed.
Does that mean that we should allow players to do whatever they damn well please and say, "It's all right as long as you say you're sorry?"
Of course not. I'd like the sport to be clean, to have a level playing field, to think that each man on a baseball diamond is using his natural talents to their utmost without chemical enhancement. That's pretty idealistic, obviously, and just as obviously, that's not going to happen.
But it helps a lot if, when you get caught, you don't try to spin a web of denial. That never works, not in baseball, not in life in general. Just look at the way Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two players who were the best of their generations before either of them touched a PED -- allegedly, because neither has ever been definitively caught. The allegations and their denials have convicted them in the court of public opinion -- just as that same court has forgiven Pettitte and Giambi.
So the answer to the question posed in the headline to this post is, "You should care," but what you should care about is integrity. If you're going to break the rules, be prepared to man up and accept the penalty and tell the truth if you get caught. And it'd be better if you didn't break the rules in the first place.
It will be interesting to see, then, if these suspensions do come down and if they are upheld, and if that causes any change in behavior by future baseball stars. The way I look at it, this ought to.