MLB Insider: Mixed messages on drug cheats (2024)

The good news? Yasmani Grandal, though suspended for basically the first one-third of the 2013 season, will be able to take part in spring training with the Padres.

So why is that such good news?

Good, because Grandal will get more time with Padres’ pitchers in Peoria? Well, there is that. But no. Good, because, with the knowledge that he can’t possibly have a major league at bat until May 28, Grandal can concentrate on the things he really needs to do to become a premier major league catcher?

Again, yes, that’s good. But also beside the point.

In the big picture – one ballplayers must not consider much before downing that dose of testosterone or clenbuterol or whatever birth-control agent that wacky Manny Ramirez was taking – the good part is that Grandal will have to do what Melky Cabrera didn’t.

From the day pitchers and catchers report, in the vernacular of the clubhouse, he’ll have to “wear it.”

If the long-fought institution of drug-testing and three-strike punishment at the major league level has helped clean up a game dragged through the mud by players with cartoon-like physiques and their many enablers, it’s also clear that the deterrent is not complete. Provided, of course, that that’s even possible in a world where it’s only cheating if you get caught.

Beyond the 70-plus minor-league players failing tests in 2012, Grandal was the seventh big-leaguer busted since May, each drawing suspensions of various lengths. One of Cabrera’s teammates in San Francisco, reliever Guillermo Mota, got zapped 100 games. Strike two.

The real difference with Grandal was his prized-rookie status. Most of the others – Bartolo Colon, Marlon Byrd, Cabrera and Mota – were long-toothed or underachieving veterans who seemed to be doing what they could to stay in the game. Though once a highly regarded prospect, Baltimore infielder Ryan Adams was a fringe minor leaguer who happened to be on the Orioles’ 40-man roster at the time of his drug test.

Grandal’s a brilliant young talent who’s really just arriving in The Show, a cornerstone of the Padres’ new foundation. Though already self-stigmatized at the start, he has an entire career to make people forgive and maybe even forget. Alas, his boiler-plate, press-released, no-questions-asked apology last week gave zero indication of why and when he took the illegal substance.

The Giants got considerable credit for surging back to win the division and the World Series after Cabrera’s failed test and co*ckamamie explanation. Some would tell you the Giants improvedbecauseof Cabrera’s absence, literally, that Cabrera alienated himself from teammates by vanishing from sight and all accountability.

See, I suspect that’s the tough part for players, the real punishment. It isn’t so much dealing with the public embarrassment or even the loss in pay as it is the peer pressure. Aside from the lifelong stigma and whatever humiliation falls on his family, the greatest crime to a player is that you somehow let down your teammates, that you weren’t there for them.

Ask almost any player the worst aspect of being on the disabled list. He’ll tell you it’s that walk into, then the walk out of, a locker room before a game that will have nothing to do with you. Also painful is the fact that somebody else, likely someone not as good, is doing your job.

The season’s been officially over for a couple weeks now, but these mixed messages keep on coming, and let’s not even get into Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa being on the Hall of Fame ballot that’s due to come out later this month.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ new hire as hitting coach is Mark McGwire, who at least has sounded contrite about his huge part in baseball’s steroid scandal, but will have a permanent stain on whatever uniform he wears.

Cabrera, by players association rules, was deemed eligible for a full postseason share estimated in the ballpark of $300,000. He may be in line for millions more. Cabrera’s a free agent, and after the really big contracts go to Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn, a team likely will sign the outfielder who cheated his way to a .346 batting average and MVP award from the 2012 All-Star Game.

Here’s the bad news. When it happens, wherever it happens, someone will considerthatgood news.

MLB Insider: Mixed messages on drug cheats (2024)
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