If it ever crosses a player's mind that Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug (PED) penalties are either too tough or tough enough, that guy should just be glad that the fans aren't running the show.
It's come out in recent months that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is all for tougher penalties, as are a fair number of players. The vast majority of fans feel the same way, as all they want to do is relax and watch baseball without having to worry about who's clean and who's not clean.
They also have some specific ideas for how MLB can get the job done, and they're pretty extreme.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it's a place where anyone and everyone can share their opinions with the world. Any random creeper can come along, grab a few relevant ideas and make an article out of them.
In this case, the random creeper is me and the article covers how baseball fans would change MLB's PED penalties if they had a say.
One and Done!
Fittingly, MLB uses a three-strikes-and-you're out policy with PEDs. It takes three positive tests to get banned for life, and so far nobody's been numb-skulled enough to get caught more than twice.
According to the fans, merely getting caught once should be enough. Instead of three-strikes-and-you're-out, the fans would have MLB adopt a one-strike-and-you're-out policy.
So says this guy:
Steroids should be a one and done punishment. There's no room for that in baseball.— Hayden Ostrich (@HaydenOstrich4) June 6, 2013
And this guy:
And this guy:
In order to get players to stop using PEDs they should be banned after a first offense— Chris Bucior (@MagicSchoolBuce) June 7, 2013
And this gal:
In regards to PEDs, I think offenders of MLB's drug policies should be banned. One and done. #BaseballConfessions— Katie Reynolds (@Katie92983) June 9, 2013
One guy took it a step further, saying that players should be banned under a one-and-done rule for even so much as lying about using PEDs:
These fans aren't alone. I'm guessing that some of you sitting there at home or at work are on board with a one-and-done system, and there's at least one writer who has pitched the idea.
Today’s rules call for a 50-game ban for the first positive test, a 100-game ban for the second and a lifetime ban for a third. Although such punishment is more than a slap on the wrist, clearly it isn’t enough to stop players from cheating.
What are the odds MLB actually adopts a one-and-done system?
Rough guess: zero.
Everyone deserves a second chance, as I'm sure the MLB Players Association would agree. Besides which, we know for a fact that not everyone who dabbles in PEDs is doomed to remain a villain forever. Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte used PEDs, for example, and both of them are widely beloved nowadays.
Baseball could, however, meet the fans halfway and implement a two-strikes-and-out rule. There's already some support for such a system among the players, with the two most notable advocates being Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer, according to The Denver Post and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Appeasing some of the fans' other demands, however, would be more difficult.
Hit Them Right in the Wallet!
Just in case there's any confusion, players are hurt financially when they get busted for PEDs. Per the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, all suspensions are without pay.
But afterwards? Nah, no financial damage . Not by rule, anyway.
Understandably, the fans think that should change. One guy is of the mind that getting busted for PEDs should mean a player has his contract automatically voided:
If you get caught using PEDs now your contract should be voided #ARoid— Tim Roggs (@tRabit16) June 6, 2013
Somewhere out there is New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman nodding his head in agreement.
When the Biogenesis news broke, there was Alex Rodriguez's name at the heart of it all. Shortly after that came word from ESPNNewYork.com that the Yankees were looking into how they might be able to void A-Rod's contract, which at the time had five years and over $100 million remaining on it.
Even if A-Rod does get busted, voiding his contract is going to be tricky. There's no precedent for it, and the Joint Drug Agreement prohibits teams from issuing additional punishments after penalties have been handed out by the league.
But in the future, we could see teams putting language in contracts that warn players that the deal could be off if they get mixed up in PEDs. Players with multi-year deals would know exactly what they would be risking with PEDs.
As for what would come next, I came across one guy who had an idea:
Here’s a PED penalty thought for @mlb if you get caught cheating you play for the major league minimum the rest of your career— Capt. Obvious(@CravenMorhead) August 15, 2012
The prospect of financial gain is one of the reasons, if not the biggest reason, why players turn to PEDs in the first place. Eliminating the financial incentive to juice could conceivably eliminate juicing, period.
But what would become of known PED users in free agency? Wouldn't all teams be able to offer the same terms?
There would have to be something that would allow teams to actually compete for free agents with PED drama in their past. One idea I came up with is that of allowing teams to compete by permitting them to offer performance incentives. A player could still choose the best deal, but he would have to perform while (conceivably) off the juice in order to get the extra money.
What are the odds of MLB actually implementing financial restrictions for PED users?
Probably pretty small, as it's another thing the union likely wouldn't take too kindly to. Second chances, you know. Also, no union ever wants any of its members making less money.
If there can't be long-term financial disincentives to discourage cheating, perhaps this next idea would do the trick.
No Hall of Fame for You!
Last week, former Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas made waves when he told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that Hall of Famers are very much opposed to sharing the Hall of Fame with players who have links to PEDs.
The voters made it abundantly clear this past January that they feel the same way. They're not even letting the suspected juicers in, because, you know, that's totally rational.
But if fans had their way, the voters wouldn't even have to make any judgment calls. They think there should be clearly-defined rules that bar juicers from the Hall of Fame.
This guy thinks that any players who get caught cheating should be automatically be banned from Cooperstown:
Smh at all the players who got caught using PEDs, MLB should ban all players who get cause using PEDs from the hall of fame#cheatersneverwin— Ryan Brooks (@ya_boy_brooksie) January 30, 2013
This person took things one step further, saying that even players who associate with PED distributors should be barred from the Hall of Fame:
If you are found guilty of using, or associated w/ companies that sell PEDs, you should auto. be disqualified from the HOF! #Legacy— Planner4Hire (@Planner4Hire) June 7, 2013
For now, fans who share either of these viewpoints don't have anything to worry about. Barring a mass change of heart, the voters are going to continue to be picky about who gets into the Hall of Fame. It'll last at least until there's some turnover in the ranks.
As for the down-the-road possibility of the Hall of Fame one day implementing a "NO JUICERS" policy, well, that's another thing I just so happen to have written about.
It would be problematic for the Steroid Era guys because of how hard it is to prove how many of them knowingly used PEDs, and the rule itself would be pointless because of how there's an extremely high likelihood that the Hall of Fame already houses a couple juicers.
But could it happen?
Yeah, I actually think it could. The Hall of Fame doesn't have to answer to MLB or the Players Association, and methinks the Baseball Writers Association of America would be in favor of a "NO JUICERS" rule both now and several years from now.
From here, it's on to the last idea we're going to discuss. For a change, it's one that doesn't involve the players.
And Your Team Shall Also Pay!
When a player gets busted for PEDs, his team has no choice but to shrug its shoulders and sally forth.
The fans don't think it should be that simple. Surely any team that harbors a PED user must also pay some sort of price.
So said this guy to Jim Rome:
One idea would be Gwen Knapp's solution. She wrote for Sports on Earth that teams should be fined when their players test positive for PEDs. That would get the attention of any teams that may be turning a blind eye to PED use, and it would also make teams think twice about bringing known users aboard.
But some fans have a different idea. Instead of taking money away from teams, maybe MLB should take away wins.
One guy pitched such an idea to Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated:
.@joe_sheehan Maybe time for MLB to take wins away retroactively for PED use--a penalty with teeth? Give competitors incentive to monitor.— Jake Russ (@JakeRuss) August 22, 2012
One guy even has an idea for how MLB could go about it:
Maybe MLB should use WAR in steroid cases. Deduct the PED users WAR from the teams total wins. #UseStatsWisely— Michael Smith (@prezmike25) September 22, 2012
To anybody who's ever mockingly asked what WAR is good for, how about that?
Taking wins away from teams is obviously not unprecedented in the sports world. Wins and titles are constantly being vacated in the college sports world, usually wherever John Calipari was last employed. Why can't it happen in MLB too?
Well, one complication would be this: Where would the vacated wins go? Would they go to other teams? Vanish into thin air? Put in an envelope for safe-keeping?
Another complication would be that it's really not so simple to determine how many games a team would have won or lost without or without a player. As much as I like WAR, there's no universally accepted way to calculate it. Also, it should always be remembered that the main currency of WAR is not wins. It's runs. The wins part is calculated only after the runs are added up.
Fines for teams harboring cheaters? That I can see.
Vacated wins? Not so much.
The One Idea Nobody Has Mentioned Yet
I spent hours creeping around Twitter hunting down fan suggestions for how MLB should alter its PED protocol. For all that searching, however, there was one suggestion I didn't come across.
Amazingly, I couldn't find anybody who played the "Death or Exile" card.
Somebody might as well have played this card. Judging from the ideas I stumbled upon, it would sufficiently sum up the general attitude that fans have toward this particular topic. Fans don't like PED users and want nothing to do with them. Probably never will.
And despite my various reservations about their ideas, it's a good thing that fans feel the way they do.
Fans are never going to have a say as to the specifics of MLB's PED protocols. But as long as they remain decidedly against PEDs in baseball, the league will be driven to do its utmost to do away with them once and for all.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.