St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday called for "harsher" penalties for players caught with performance-enhancing drugs, saying that violators "cost the team," that "fans should feel like they are watching a clean game" and that kids should be able to look up to players who "are doing it the right way."
It's such a morally decent, strongly principled and highly idealistic stance that I want to agree with him. It's also presumptuous and naive. Presumptuous that fans will believe they're watching a "clean" game, or that they'll care. Naive that players really will be doing things "the right way" (whatever that means) or that the tests actually will catch most violators. Then again, if it makes baseball players feel like they're "doing something" to stop PED use, then Holliday's proposals probably will get support.
He wants two kinds of penalties: A full season for the first offense and a lifetime ban for repeaters. The agreement in place is 50 games for the first offense, 100 games for the second and a lifetime ban for the third. Seven major leaguers were suspended 50 games since the start of the 2012 season for failed drug tests.
That's too many players and too little of a penalty, Holliday told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio on Wednesday. Melky Cabrera of the Giants getting caught in August hurt their playoff chances, Holliday said, even though they won anyway. And then Cabrera got a big contract from the Blue Jays. That, along with recent allegations about a clinic in Miami distributing PEDs to Alex Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Yasmani Grandal and Cabrera, has swayed Holliday.
Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which received a transcript of the show, Holliday also said:
"There are guys getting caught and there’s a paper trail and all this stuff going on now. It’s clearly not enough to deter guys from trying to find ways around it, trying to find ways to beat the system or whatever they’re doing. So I’m all for making it harder.”
As reporter Derrick Gould of the P-D points out, it's rare for a high-profile athlete to take a public stance like this. Good for Holliday in speaking his mind. But ...
I'm just about talked out on steroids and such. I'm still not persuaded by arguments that call them unfair. I am in favor of letting adult ballplayers make decisions for themselves about what they want to put into their bodies, consequences be darned. I'm also in favor of making parents raise their kids. If Johnny is looking up to a sports figure who exhibits awful personal habits, it's up to the parent to point this out and, you know, do something about who Johnny is worshipping.
All in all, the witch hunts for PED users is a colossal waste of effort, time, attention, whatever. Getting an edge on the opponent has been a part of baseball ever since before Abner Doubleday claimed to have invented the game. We. Can't. Stop. It. Further, we don't really want to.
THAT said, if enough ballplayers in the union agree with Holliday, you guys go ahead and test for your drugs and suspend guys for life. But don't be surprised, even after the positive tests disappear, that you find the "cheating" has continued.
And bring back the spitball!
THAT said, if my kids want to grow up to be like Matt Holliday, as long as they use a little better critical thinking skills, that would be great. Except for the occasional overzealous slide into second base, he seems like a good guy.