MLB's biggest battle over PEDs still looms

Posted by Scott Wuerz on January 16, 2014 

It's going to be interesting to see the impact of the Biogenesis scandal on Major League Baseball's next collective bargaining agreement.

For the first time it seems some players are mad enough about having to compete with cheaters that they're willing to see tougher penalties put in place for their colleagues who test positive for performance enhancing drugs.

But yesterday MLB Players Association director Tony Clark drew a line in the sand and said players would definitely NOT support any effort by ownership to put a clause in the agreement that would allow contracts of players who test positive to be voided.

Basically, players want the financial benefits the steroid cheaters have brought to the marketplace. Ballparks are full of fans who want to see muscled up players hit balls 500 feet or nitro-burning pitchers crack the century mark on the radar gun. Television revenue is at record levels with no sign of ever coming back to earth. And that means that players can command more and more money. Why upset the apple cart?

Let's take Albert Pujols at his word that he has never used illegal substances to improve his performance. He's still making money off of PEDs because he negotiated his $254-million contract based on the precedent of Alex Rodriguez's two $250 million plus deals. If A-Rod, a proven and admitted cheater, hadn't set the bar so high, would Pujols have received anywhere near the kind of cash he ended up getting? No way. Inflation of salaries would have been taken down at least two huge notches.

Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Ryan Braun all moved the salary bar higher for their major league coworkers with record-setting deals, either in total value or average value. And they've all been linked to performance enhancing drugs.

I sure hope that the endless pursuit for money doesn't stand in the way of players doing whatever they can to get PEDs out of the game. After all, they're the ones who face the health and legal consequences of using illegal drugs.

They're also the ones who lose jobs and playing time by playing clean while competing against players who aren't.

Eliminating PEDs is an issue that ought to be common ground to both ownership and the players. But the way this is shaping up, it looks like it might be the biggest threat to professional baseball labor peace.

After the example of the Yankees nightmare with Rodriguez -- even including his year-long suspension, New York owes the diminished, injury-prone ballplayer who will be 39 when he is allowed to play again $61 million to be a shell of himself -- owners are going to dig in on this issue.

Players want to protect themselves from bungling their way out of multi-million paydays behind the argument that they're forced by the marketplace (that they created) to do things they wouldn't otherwise do to stay in the game.

Hopefully enough veteran players have had it with the PED issue, which has caused the guys who don't cheat to endure suspicion and have their legacy tainted just because they played in an era in which other guys cheated, and they'll take a stand to finally get illegal drugs out of the game.

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