Biggest Pros and Cons of Ian Desmond's New Idea for MLB PED Punishment
Desmond is fast becoming one of the elite shortstops in the game. It's also clear, with comments he made to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times, that he's fed up with the game that he loves being sullied by players who choose to cheat by using PEDs.
The MLB Players Association recently stopped by Nationals camp in Viera, Fla., for its annual spring meetings that they conduct with each team. During the meeting, players were encouraged to discuss different ways to help clean up the game and rid the sport of illicit drug use.
Nationals player representative Drew Storen pointed out that players are no longer content to be silent about what's going on in their sport.
“One thing that’s not really written about enough is that guys want this,” Storen told Comak.
Desmond made a proposal that is certainly eye-opening. He suggested that players be forced to not only lose their salary when they test positive for PED use, but that they continue playing during the 50-game suspension span.
“It’s the manager’s discretion, if he thinks the player is performing, then he plays. If not, he’s on the bench, but he’s around,” Desmond said. “Your face is in front of the camera, you have to deal with your teammates, and if you don’t play up to your potential, then if you hit free agency, people are going to see a true evaluation of you."
Desmond admitted the idea was unpolished.
In light of the recent Biogenesis scandal, the focus on PEDs is once again on the forefront. MLB and the MLBPA are certainly becoming more united in seeing that baseball is not only rid of performance-enhancing substances, but they're also intent on seeing just punishment for those that continue to try to cheat.
Desmond's idea is not without merit. But there are some flaws as well.
Here are some pros and cons to Desmond's PED punishment suggestion.
Pro: Punished PED Users Forced to Deal with Consequences in a Very Public Manner
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
If Ian Desmond's suggestion were to have been enforced last season, Cabrera would have been forced to deal with the consequences of his actions in a very public manner.
Cabrera would have been forced to see how his actions affected his teammates. By continuing to be on the active roster, he would have had to face his fellow Giants each and every day and deal with their disappointment and their wrath.
Cabrera would have had to explain why he took such a selfish step to medically enhance himself while his team was in the midst of a pennant race and doing everything they can in a legal fashion to prove they were the best team in baseball.
By going into hiding, Cabrera could easily shield himself from the public eye and not be exposed to the scrutiny that came with his actions.
Pro: Fans Would Have the Chance to Voice Their Own Displeasure
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
For players who are suspended for PED use, they don't have to be around to hear what fans think of their actions.
If what Ian Desmond suggested were enforced, punished PED users would hear what fans had to say loud and clear.
By being forced to play for free through suspension, those who were caught trying to enhance their bodies in any way would have to face their fans on a daily basis. They would have to endure the boos of baseball fans every time they came to the plate, or every time they took the field.
Obviously, security measures would have to be considered to ensure the player's safety, but think about how a suspended player would feel if he got an up-front taste of how the fans really think about their actions.
Last year, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were suspended when their teams were involved in tight pennant races. If they had been allowed to continue playing without pay, they would have been forced to contend with the selfishness of their actions.
Fans would let them know that they simply won't tolerate any player putting themselves above the success of their favorite team.
Con: Fellow Teammates Would Be Angry That a Cheater Is Allowed to Play Every Day
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
If Ian Desmond's suggestion that punished PED users be allowed to continue playing every day without pay were in place, teammates could be very jealous.
I know I would be.
Take a player who has worked every day of his life to finally reach the grand stage that is Major League Baseball. They're sitting on the bench behind a player who is considered more talented. Now, that more talented player is revealed to have used substances to gain an edge.
If I'm the player sitting on the bench behind him, I'm angry that player is still allowed to continue competing. That player sitting on the bench is now wondering why he can't display the skills that he gained and worked for in a legal manner, yet the substance abuser is still on the field.
Gregor Blanco got his chance to show his skills for the San Francisco Giants when Melky Cabrera was suspended. In fact, Blanco made several significant contributions for the Giants on their way to winning the World Series.
What if Blanco wasn't given that chance because Cabrera was allowed to play?
Con: MLBPA Wouldn't Be on Board with Playing for Free
Michael Weiner, MLBPA executive director. Photo courtesy nbcsports.com
Ian Desmond's idea of having PED users playing for free would definitely meet some legal roadblocks.
First and foremost, his own union—the MLBPA—would almost certainly balk at any suspended player being forced to play for free.
The MLB and MLBPA have been solidly united in working to clean up their sport for many months now. New policies have been approved unilaterally.
In fact, Democrats and Republicans should follow their lead, seeing how two sides who seem to be diametrically opposed can work together to achieve positive results.
But the MLBPA would absolutely be opposed to anyone playing for free. Legally speaking, there likely aren't very many precedents that could be used in support of the idea.
There's no question that the MLBPA wants the game cleaned up. They want to present their players as hard-working professionals who work diligently—and cleanly—to be the best they can be.
But playing for free will never be an agreeable option.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
In talking with the MLBPA during its annual meetings, Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond made a bold proposal to help further rid baseball of performance-enhancing drugs.
The fact that players are now becoming more vocal in the fight against PEDs is in itself a welcome sight. For far too many years, a blind eye was cast upon the use of illicit substances in MLB. The media, players, club executives and MLB management simply let it happen.
Now, all parties talk openly about the issue. It's allowed for fruitful and meaningful discussions that have led to some of the harshest penalties in all of sports whenever any player is found to have used illegal substances to gain an advantage.
Desmond's suggestion, however unpolished it may be, does go a bit too far overboard.
While the emotional side of me would love to see punished PED users be forced to deal with their actions in a public manner, I am opposed to playing for free.
My suggestion would be to force suspended players to continue being a member of their team without playing. Have them sit on the bench and subject them to daily scrutiny from fans and players alike.
Have them be forced to watch from the sidelines while players who worked hard via legal means get to play in front of them.
In a kindergarten class, a teacher might put a young student in timeout because they misbehaved in some fashion. They go and sit in a corner while the other children are in the same room playing and enjoying various activities.
Maybe it's time for cheaters to go into time out mode.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.