MLB continues to ignore a non-COVID pandemic that has invaded its sport for more than a decade – the use of PEDS among Hispanic players…
Major League Baseball (MLB), much like its conscious decision to ignore the prevalence of steroids in the Seventies and Eighties, choosing instead to watch the sport grow at the same rate of users’ bodies, refuses again to pretend a similar pandemic among players of Hispanic descent doesn’t exist.
As far back as August 2013, NPR, as part of its Tell Me More series, aired a program that highlighted MLB suspensions due to peds’ misuse by players of Latin descent, particularly in, but not exclusive to the Dominican Republic.
MLB: The Genesis Of It All
The 12 other MLB players accepting a 50-game penalty for their ties to BioGenesis, Fox Sports reports were:
Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo, Houston Astros relief pitcher Sergio Escalona, New York Mets farmhands Jordany Valdespin and Cesar Puello, San Diego Padres players Everth Cabrera and Faustino De Los Santos, New York Yankees players Francisco Cervelli and Fernando Martinez, Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero and free-agent pitcher Jordan Norberto will all reportedly accept 50-game suspensions.
A member of MENSA, you need not be to note the preponderance of players of Hispanic descent on the list.
This should have been a shot fired across its bough for MLB, signaling the origins of a pandemic equal to a force that, if not met with due diligence, had the ability to destroy baseball and its ever-growing proportion of Hispanic players (now measured at 31.9%)
Five years later, the same trend remained with almost a clean sweep of Hispanic players suspended that year for ped use:
Patrick Madden, who has researched and reported on the problem since 2010, explained the lure of peds by these and other players with this observation to NPR:
“I think it gets back to the system; we’re talking about how players are sort of discovered and how they are recruited on the island. It’s at such a young age, and these street agents play such a role. Like, for example, they sometimes take a 40 percent cut of the signing bonus.”
“So there is a great incentive, not only just for the players and their families to sort of do whatever it takes to get signed – that sort of one-shot they have – but also these street agents who are the ones that can go in – and this is the guy I talked to, he went into the pharmacy, picked up the, you know, veterinary horse steroids, gave it to the players. So it’s not just the players; it’s the whole system.”
MLB: “Gotcha” Is Not An Answer
Ergo the problem – how can MLB correct a problem beyond its jurisdiction without resorting to the “Gotcha” policy prevalent yesterday and today?
The answer to the question (clearly) is MLB has no authority with existing governments and wannabe future Hall of Famers who, to a large extent, regale themselves with the celebrity and success of the players who “make it” in the United States.
Hence, the Washington Post story, for example, of Juan Soto, the Washington Nationals All-Star, who was relaxing in late January, at home in Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic, wasting time until baseball season when his cellphone rang.
As related by Soto, his reaction to the call reached the stratosphere:
“I didn’t recognize the number, and they were trying to FaceTime me,” said Soto, a huge smile on his face, by his locker at Nationals Park last week. “Then I swipe to answer, and it is Robinson Canó. He starts talking, and me? I am speechless. I didn’t know what to say.”
This, the same “hero” – Robinson Cano – twice convicted and suspended for ped use, and hopefully purged from baseball forever.
Much like the advantage of learning English as a second language by Hispanic players, Major League Baseball ultimately can only serve as an educator and facilitator for the 16 and 17-year-olds who sign with big-league clubs.
Together with the teams who invest in these players, MLB can’t afford to wait until the almost finished product reaches the big leagues. By then, habits and the “you can’t tell me” attitude is all too prevalent among those who have done the climb to “The Show.”
However, before then, MLB has leverage on players with its no-holds-barred testing policy of minor league ballplayers.
In essence, MLB, and preferably its hired Hispanic heritage representatives, can relay a simple but hopefully effective message.
“You’ve been noticed, and therefore you’ve been signed by a major league team. But if you are someone who persists in using peds – you will be caught – and the career you’ve fought so hard to achieve will be at risk and likely lost.”
MLB: Beyond The Initial Signing
Employing a strategy similar to the Scared Straight program that has proven moderately successful in inner-city schools, whereby high school students are taken into state prisons to meet and experience the lives of those whose life has gone wrong, MLB can (hopefully) negate the same outcome for these outstanding, but still easily influenced, athletes.
Punishment, after the fact, remains the go-to American strategy against crime in the United States. So be it.
But unless we remain satisfied with the status quo as seen in the table below for ped suspensions in 2020, the sport of baseball will continue to suffer as some of the best are taken from us.
At the moment, MLB suspensions for this calendar year are empty (table below). What are the chances that will persist as the season moves forward?
Moreover, what are the odds of Hispanic players’ preponderance, as a proportion of all players, not appearing on the table after the 2021 season?
The solution to any issue or problem is first to recognize the problem exists.
But hidden beneath the obvious is the ongoing reality that a pandemic lies breathing and waiting to find its next victim.
With one of three Hispanic players in uniform today, MLB, and specifically Rob Manfred, can no longer hide behind a shield that undermines the game itself.
Laying Down The All But Necessary Law
Acknowledge that these players are “victims” of an alien system to sports in the United States – but take all of the steps necessary to assimilate them into an alternate culture that will not tolerate continued peds abuse.
For instance, Edgar Santana (listed above) while not a star ballplayer, MLB cannot afford to cast him aside.
His performance in 2018, when he appeared in 69 games for the Pirates, going 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA. He struck out 74 in 66⅓ innings that season will not light up ESPN or MLB Tonight highlights.
But he is a person that might have been saved. Might have – maybe – that’s all we can say. But with that, what does MLB have to say?