January 06, 2009
Since they usually involve faceless minor leaguers, it seems like it's been awhile since baseball has had a drug suspension that anyone talked about past an obligatory headline or mention. To date, only the suspensions of Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Grimsley have gained any traction and that was because one involved a would-have-been Hall of Famer (Raffy) while the other (Grimsley) had links to other superstars.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, we can add reliever JC Romero to the discussion list, though his inclusion can be attributed to the telephone-game-type circumstances (or complete lack thereof) surrounding the 50-game suspension for "negligence" that he and Yankees minor leaguer Sergio Mitre just received from Major League Baseball.
To try and sum up a complicated situation: Last July, Romero bought a supplement from GNC. The MLBPA had previously approved the supplement and Romero says he was under the belief he was doing nothing wrong. He had the supplement approved by two different nutritionists (though he failed to call the drug hotline). He was tested twice during the season and when one of the tests came up positive on Sept. 23, he immediately stopped taking the supplement. (The other test came back positive on Oct. 12). On Nov. 21, the MLPBA sent out a letter to players saying that it had made just a little bit of a mistake. Three substances in the previously "harmless" supplement would cause players to test positive.
The whole thing becomes even more controversial once you listen to Romero and his contention that there was an extended lag time between MLB knowing that the supplement was illegal and the league notifying the MLBPA (which would, in turn, notify the players).
Since he or the MLBPA don't plan to appeal the decision, Romero — the winner of Games 3 and 5 of the World Series — will miss the first two months of the season and will forfeit $1.25 million worth of salary. (He had the option of admitting his guilt back in October and taking a reduced sentence of 25 games, but declined in part because it would have caused him to miss part of the NLCS and then the World Series.)
• Says Chamo Davis of The Fightins': "Using tactics employed by shady, imperious organizations past and present, the powers that be in Major League Baseball ("Taking Substance Abuse 33% More Seriously!") have decided to suspend Phillies reliever JC Romero for fifty games next season."
• Says Tim Malcolm at Phillies Nation: "JC Romero is paying a price that he seemingly never deserved, or saw coming. There's no reason to doubt Romero's innocence here — the facts show he's been victimized. It's time the organizations to blame clean this up, and now, before they further taint the baseball's image."
• Says the Good Phight: "Romero has become a fan favorite for his terrific performance and emotive mound demeanor. I don't see him taking this lying down by any stretch of the imagination, particularly as it sounds like there were multiple failures of communication between the MLBPA and the Office of the Commissioner."
Then there's The 700 Level, which is trying to spark another Philly t-shirt craze with "Free JC" shirts bearing the above logo. Given the way this case was bungled by more than one party not named JC Romero, it seems like a cause worth sporting.
What do you think? Should Romero be held accountable for taking the supplement?