Any day when performance-enhancing drugs rule the headlines is a bad day for baseball. That was certainly the case on Wednesday, as four stories—all fitting in their own way under the PED umbrella—supplanted Prince Fielder’s blockbuster deal atop the news wire.
First, a Hardball Talk reader’s sleuthing unearthed a Dominican paper’s coverage of a banquet, during which Jose Bautista claimed that he has been tested for steroids 16 times during the past two years. Then, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio issued a statement informing fans that Ryan Braun will not be attending the team’s On Deck event this weekend, in the wake of his appeal of the 50-game suspension handed down in December. Later, Daryle Ward, who hasn’t seen a big-league at-bat since 2008, was caught using amphetamines and told he’d have to sit out 50 games, if he ever gets the chance to return. Finally, lefty reliever Dustin Richardson was slapped with an identical ban, after his tests came back positive for five different PEDs, according to Keith Law.
While the Braun, Richardson, and Ward stories are the most serious, Bautista’s revelations—if true—are the most disturbing. As Craig Calcaterra pointed out, 16 tests in a two-year span would be damning evidence that Major League Baseball’s random testing program is random in name only. That, in turn, would indicate that baseless accusations of steroid use are not limited to talk radio, but in fact still resonate at the highest levels of MLB management.
Selective testing for PEDs is neither efficient, nor productive. The league obviously wants to ensure that its best players attain their status on natural ability, but these days, at least as many fringe players like Richardson are caught juicing as stars like Braun. In the end, as Wednesday proved, all it does is keep stories MLB wants out of the headlines in them. And if the ultimate goal is to move firmly into the post-steroid era, days like Wednesday just can’t happen.