When Is a Suspension Not a Suspension?

Benjamin AltsherContributor IJune 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 05:  Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers smiles during batting practice prior to the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on May 5, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The answer is when Manny Ramirez is involved.

Last night, Mannywood made its first excursion into Albuquerque.  He's not with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate rehabbing from an injury or because his production has declined.  Instead, he's making sure he's in game shape for when he returns from his 50 game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

I'm not going to pretend I'm one of these "crusaders" who just wants what's "best for the game," but let's be honest, this is a catastrophic oversight by Major League Baseball.

Under no other circumstances would anything like this be allowed.  Let's take A.J Burnett, who was recently suspended six games for throwing at the Rangers Nelson Cruz.  Let's say to make sure he didn't miss his usual spot in the rotation, the Yankees sent him down to pitch with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Any chance MLB would let that fly?

Not in a million years, yet when it comes to the suspension policy for PEDs, players are allowed to play in minor league games.  I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. 

The league allowed steroid use to go one for more than a decade, before even acknowledging its existence.  Then, under pressure from fans, the media and finally Congress, MLB instituted testing.  So it's shouldn't be a shock that they figured out a way to screw that up too.

This is not a money issue because Ramirez still isn't getting paid until July 3rd, when he's eligible to return.  This is an integrity issue.  MLB thought it could trumpet the Manny suspension as evidence that its testing policy works.

Unfortunately for them, it also brought to light a glaring loophole in the punishment for testing positive.  I don't know about you, but where I come from, 50 games means 50 games.  Paid, unpaid, major league, minor league, it shouldn't matter. 

If Major League Baseball wants to show that it's not the same bumbling group that let steroids happen in the first place, then this loophole is something that needs to be closed immediately.