Briefly* because so many others have spent so many words on the topic already. But with the second major 50-game suspension in the past week handed out today, and yes...Bartolo Colon's suspension is a big deal to the A's, I figured I would quickly mention how I feel about it all.
Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are two prime examples of why a player would consider using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their game. Cabrera was an under-performing 4th outfielder type who was looking to move his game up a notch. Colon was a pitcher coming back from years of injury and facing the end of his career. Neither one, as it turned out, made a very good decision when it came to steroids. A 50-game suspension for each. Many, many millions of lost future salary for the free agent-to-be Cabrera, and probably the end of the line for Colon.
Then again, maybe (probably) Cabrera wouldn't be in position to make uber-bucks in the free agent market had he not used some illegal supplements. Maybe Colon wouldn't have pitched at all this year, helping the A's to a surprising winning season that currently sees them a half-game back in the Wild Card standings. Hard to tell, but it seems fairly obvious to most that their performances this year were aided greatly by whatever it was that they were taking.
So the question on a lot of folks minds is "Is the punishment enough?" I think it is. 50 games for the first offense, 100 for the second and a lifetime ban for a third. I'd probably skip the middle step and make it a lifetime ban for a second failed test, but that's splitting hairs. The only player dumb enough to try to come back from a second failed test is Manny Ramirez. Not a brain surgeon, by anyone's standards.
I think most people have a problem with the severity of that first sentence. 50 games. Especially since that means that Melky Cabrera will be technically eligible for the SF Giants in the second round of the playoffs should they make it that far. I would question whether the Giants WOULD make that decision considering he was off for 50 games and how bad a public relations move it would be. But that's another story.
For me, 50 games is about right. Colon is the 5th MLB player suspended for a failed drug test in 2012. One of those 5, Guillermo Mota, failed his second test and was given a 100 game suspension. 50 (or 100) games is a long time for a player. A significant (nearly a third) portion of the season is missed along with a corresponding loss in salary. And just because the timing of the Cabrera suspension would allow him to play in some post-season games doesn't make it a light sentence. It is significant.
Now, certain folks like Victor Conte claim that up to 50% of MLB players are using some form of PED, and that MLB's testing policies aren't effective enough to catch them all. Especially those using masking agents. I don't necessarily agree with the percentage of players, but I would assume that there were more than 5 guys this year. That there are probably dozens of players who have gotten away with it. At least in my opinion. Hundreds though? I have a hard time believing that.
I do think that maybe MLB needs to work on the testing. More frequent, more stringent, I don't know. Something. Make the guys who are using sweat a bit more about getting caught. Because when they get caught? Well...it's pretty much over.
But still, some fans to say that 50 games isn't enough of a punishment to stop others from using PEDs. I think that's crazy talk. Just look at these two examples. Maybe Melky Cabrera will sign a qualifying offer someplace and try to re-kindle his career. Maybe on the re-kindling bit. But I highly doubt he can expect to earn as much as he would have had he not been suspended 50 games for a failed test. Maybe not even as much as a veteran journeyman 4th outfielder type would have made over the next 5 or 6 years. Those guys get paid more than you think. And Colon? He is done as a major-league pitcher. Done.
I think, especially in these two cases, the punishment and the lasting effects of those punishments fits the crimes.
*Sorry about the "briefly" warning. I obviously wasn't so brief here.