Arizona Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler isn't a household name or even one of the best players on his own team. But Ziegler's comments in the wake of the St. Louis Cardinals signing of Jhonny Peralta, first reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, were desperately needed by the game.
The media, MLB and the fans can complain about PEDs and cheating in sports as much as they want, but real change will only come about if current and former players continue to speak out and be the long-term guardians of baseball.
That's why Ziegler's comments are so important to the game. After hearing of Peralta's signing, Ziegler sent out a tweet that read "It pays to cheat...Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use."
It was exactly what needed to be said. Peralta's contract sent a terrible signal through the sport, making it look like Peralta ended up being rewarded for cheating. Other players are going to see the money involved and think Peralta benefited from cheating the game.
It's telling that the 34-year-old Ziegler, a player who might be tempted to extend his career by using PEDs, is trying to protect the sport while other, more talented players are trying to squeeze the sport dry. Ziegler had to wait until he was 28 to get his chance at the majors. Wonder how many players jumped ahead of him by using PEDs.
We have already seen a huge shift from MLB and the players association in the past year, with both organizations working together to clean up the game and hold the players accountable. This past year's Biogenesis scandal was handled to the point where 13 of the players involved were presented with the facts and were given 50-game suspensions to begin serving last season.
The Biogenesis scandal was one of the first moments that players in the game were openly critical of other players who had been caught. This article from Chris Greenberg at the Huffington Post contained many strong comments from current and former players, including Ziegler, about the suspensions. In the past, it seemed like players were reluctant to comment on PED suspensions.
In another tweet, Ziegler acknowledges that the 50-game suspension is not enough of a deterrent and that it will need to be fixed. It will have to be bargained between the owners and players, but players need to face much stiffer penalties in the form of games lost and loss of income to make this a real deterrent. Trading 50 games worth of paychecks for a free-agent payday is an easy trade.
Hopefully MLB will continue what they have started by working with the players to rebuild the integrity of the sport. The recent suspensions have been a good start in that direction, but they are only the first step.
Peralta's new contract pays him more than $15.5 million next season, more than twice what Ziegler has made in his entire career over six seasons. If you are looking at real reasons why players cheat and why there is resentment in the game, it might come down to something as simple as that.
It's pays to cheat. Hopefully, Ziegler will look back on that phrase one day and think that baseball has changed.
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