It’s been a mind-numbing experience…
Since the Mitchell Report was released (and really, before that), I decided it might be interesting to look at all suspensions that have been doled out in what I am deeming to be the "Testing Era" – the time since MLB instituted mandatory testing for Drugs of Abuse, Performance-Enhancing Substances, and Stimulants that have become known as the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) between MLB and the MLBPA. These suspensions have been issued by way of the Major League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and Major League Baseball’s Venezuelan Summer League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The list that, I believe is now fully updated, shows that across these various areas of Major League Baseball, every team has had at least one player suspended for the aforementioned categories of drugs; some more than others. The pure listing of these clubs does not mean that I believe there is some conscious decision on the part of the clubs at the top to hire PED users, or moreover, that they are blindly turning an eye to it. I believe that this data is more complex than that.
An awful lot may depend on where they have selected to focus player development. If you happen to have a lot of high dollar free agents on your roster, there is a good chance that hGH, and not steroids, could be used by players.
Those caught at the minor league level are caught, in large part, due to economics. Steroids are cheaper than hGH, and therefore, more likely to be used, which leads to more positive tests.
(Select Read More to see the rest of this original article, including which team has the most violations, a break down by team, which players have multiple positive tests, what are the total number of players, and how many games have been served under suspension)
Looking at the numbers in the list of Drug Violations reveals the following:
- 171 suspensions have been doled out for a total of 2,435 games
- 23 at the Major League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program level
- 6 at the Venezuelan Summer League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
- 142 at the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
Substance break down:
- 3 positive tests for Stimulants
- 11 positive tests for Drug of Abuse
- 1 for failure to test
- 2 are unknown at this time
- 154 positive tests for PEDs
Peeling the onion further reveals how they were by team:
- Yankees - 4
- White Sox - 5
- Twins - 5
- Tigers - 4
- Royals - 6
- Rockies - 6
- Red Sox - 1
- Reds - 6
- Rangers - 10
- Pirates - 4
- Phillies - 3
- Padres - 7
- Orioles -6
- Nationals - 3
- Mets - 10
- Marlins - 2
- Mariners - 12
- Indians - 3
- Giants - 6
- Rays - 3
- Dodgers - 7
- Diamondbacks - 4
- Cubs - 8
- Cardinals - 5
- Brewers - 4
- Braves - 4
- Blue Jays - 8
- Athletics - 9
- Astros - 3
- Angels - 6
- Free Agents - 4
- * None – 3
* Player was not on a minor league roster, or in the case of Jason Grimsley, out of baseball all together.
- Biggest offenders: Seattle Mariners (12), followed by the Mets and the Rangers with 10 ea.
- Lowest offender: Red Sox (1)
What may be interesting is that a clubs that have seemed to be associated with “steroid users” have, for the most part, been pretty good in the Testing Era.
The Phillies (3) and Orioles (6) sit close to the middle of the pack.
What about players?
The following is a list of players that have tested positive more than once:
- Angel Rocha - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
- Neifi Perez - 2 Major league (Stimulants)
- Luis Ugueto - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
- Jorge Reyes - 2 Major league (PEDs)
- Sergio Garcia - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
- Wilson Delgado - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
- Ricardo Rodriguez - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
- Ramon Castro - 2 Minor league (PEDs)
Who has the biggest/longest suspension? Ramon Castro – 105 games and an undisclosed amount of cash for a suspension that encapsulated two offenses, neither of which my research could come up with in detail. With the staggering figures involved, one wonders if distribution may have been involved.
Most suspensions in one day? 38. These were positive tests that came out of Cactus League testing in ’05.
Back to looking at the list in total…
I wish I could say that I could have provided to the total monetary loss to the players. My research did not go that far. Someone with minor league salaries might wish to contact me at some stage, and we could pull it all together. I’m sure, much as the total suspension game figure, it would be a jarring figure.
Looking back at the research that I did start back in 2005, I pulled in more than a bit of detail around those first suspensions, tracked whether grievances were filed, whether they were upheld, and if financial figures were available, I tracked how much a player did lose through way of the given suspension.
Lastly, one has to address the complexities of this issue in the wake of the Mitchell Report.
I would suggest that not all agents with players that do not speak English have not done their job entirely in informing players to the best level that they could. I believe that the MLBPA have advisors, as should MLB. Players need to be educated about what is, and is not permitted and that substances could easily be within a wide array of supplements.
I have published the current Joint Drug Agreement, and pulled the substances that are tested for within. I think it is very possible for players to unknowingly consume substances that could lead to positives.
I am also not so naive to think that players have also knowingly done so in an effort to gain unfair advantage.
A recent USA Today study revealed that 25% of over the counter supplements had detectable levels of steroids within them. MLB should create a system by which only certain rigorously tested suppliers of supplements be approved for player use, and that players only be allowed to use this supplier. In defense of MLB, they use a Banned Substances Certification Program from NSF International. Certified supplements can be purchased by MLB teams to resell to players, but does not require them to purchase through this certified clearinghouse. I would wager that at more than one player may have tested positive due to this issue. More than a “suggested list”, players should go directly to this collectively bargained source for their supplements. At least that way, this part of the equation is removed.
And management does need to be held more accountable.
If there are levels by which a player is suspended for multiple positives, then sanctions at the club level should occur much the same. As mentioned prior, the flat numbers may not tell the whole story, but letting clubs simply move forward while they see more and more players within their systems coming up positive has to come with some system that shocks them into looking more closely at the “whys” and “hows”. A free pass isn’t going to jolt teams into action. Penalties will (sorry Mr. Reinsdorf, regardless of your comments about how this was the PA's doing, you have to be held accountable, as well).
Lastly, this article is just a snapshot. More suspensions will be coming. I purposely am publishing this now in advance of any possible suspensions from the allegations (and that’s all they are now… “allegations”) in the Mitchell Report. That will muddy the waters further. That will bring more questions than answers. That will add yet another chapter in the "Testing Era". After all, it would folly to think we beyond the "Steroid Era" at this stage, no?
(This article can be found in the future under BoB Documents > PEDs on The Biz of Baseball)
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.