Callaghan: Let's assume they're all cheating; it's just easier that way

By Peter Callaghan, Columbian Syndicated Columnist

Published:

 
photoPeter Callaghan covers the state Legislature for The News Tribune in Tacoma. Blog: thenewstribune.com/politics; or Twitter: @CallaghanPeter. Reach him at peter.callaghan@thenewstribune.com.

I'm going to simplify things and assume that every Major League Baseball player doing well is using performance-enhancing drugs.

Then I'm going to assume that every Major League Baseball player doing poorly had been using performance-enhancing drugs but stopped.

Then I'm going to assume that those in between are considering using performance-enhancing drugs.

It's for the best, really, now that it is clear again that baseball is the Tour de France but with baggier clothing. Like that once-legitimate bicycle race, the risk analysis performed in the brains of the athletes assures they will use steroids, growth hormone or whatever the kids are using these days.

No amount of embarrassment, no amount of shame, no level of chagrin for disappointing teammates and fans is too much to outweigh a six-year contract worth $100 million or so. Minor suspensions don't cost enough to make the risk too risky.

This might seem unfair to the seven or eight guys who aren't using. But, as I said, assuming everyone is using saves time.

Not that I don't want to believe. It is just that so far the players who aren't cheating sound exactly like the players who are cheating. Both deny involvement with equal vigor, both say they are victims of guilt by association, both get equally resentful that anyone wouldn't believe their exploits are the result of God-given talent, hard work and broccoli.

The height of hypocrisy

If you look back at the statements of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, you'll see a classic illustration of this. Braun tested positive during the 2011 playoffs, but an arbitrator tossed out the test because his sample had not been properly handled. In the meantime, he was awarded the National League Most Valuable Player trophy.

He got off on a technicality, yet Braun treated it like redemption.

"I truly believe in my heart and would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point," he said at the beginning of spring training in 2012. "Today is all about everyone who has been wrongly accused and everybody who has had to step up for what is actually right."

Players, Braun complained, are considered guilty until proved innocent.

"I've tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with class, with integrity, with dignity, and with professionalism because that's who I am and that's how I've always lived my life."

Last week — not long before Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 15 months — we learned that Braun had it wrong. Actually, it turns out, he was considered guilty until he could be proved guilty. When confronted with evidence against him, Braun accepted a suspension for the rest of the season.

"I realize now that I have made some mistakes," he said. He will lose a few million of his five-year, $105 million contract and be back next spring.

So, yeah, I think I'm going to consider players guilty until proved innocent, because what are the odds of that? Again, unfair. But they do, at some level, bring it upon themselves.

The players union has resisted drug testing and punishments for years because that's what it does and that's what the players wanted it to do. Only when the public got sick of it and sided with the owners, only when the feds threatened to get involved, did the union begin to bend.

Now, only if the members of the union, the players, take the lead in cleaning up the sport will it happen.

Until then, I'll assume most players are using. And with each revelation (such as Monday's suspension of Rodriguez and 12 others), I will be proved right.

In the meantime, maybe baseball and the players union could just release the results of players who pass their drug tests. It'll save time and they can announce it to great fanfare shortly before these clean players are sent down to the minor leagues for failing to perform as well as everyone else.