Should Suspended Baseball Players Be Allowed to Rehab?

Chris GubataCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first against the Colorado Rockies during the game at Dodger Stadium on April 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Manny Ramirez is no stranger to controversy, and now is part of a new one that has gained popularity in recent days. Only this time, it is not his fault.

As everyone knows, Ramirez is currently serving a 50-game suspension for violating major league baseball's illegal substance policy. Ramirez's suspension will end on July 3, barring any rain-outs before then.

While the nature of Ramirez's absence from the Los Angeles Dodgers certainly has enough controversy alone, the situation has drawn the ire of baseball fans nationwide when it was announced that Ramirez would be sent this week to the Dodger's triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque.

Many fans and members of the media have voiced their opposition to this saying that the Dodger's slugger was banned from baseball for 50 games. He was not injured, so why should he be given, in essence, a few rehab starts to get "baseball ready?"

As stated this is not an issue that is Ramirez's fault, not is he receiving special treatment. Philadelphia Phillies' reliever J.C. Romero received a similar suspension during the off-season that forced him to sit out for the first 50 games of this season. Romero pitched for a few weeks in the Phillies minor league system sot that he could return on the 51st game of the season.

The Ramirez/Romero/et. al. issue comes down to a logic problem. On the one hand, the new drug policy says that a major league player like Ramirez will be suspended for 50 games, and 50 games is what he will miss. Can major league baseball suspend players from the minor leagues as well?

If Ramirez's suspension from baseball also held him out from minor league action, then it would not have been a 50-game suspension. It would be a 50-games-plus-however-many-games-it-takes-to-get-into-baseball-shape suspension.

With the current suspension, the Dodgers have been penalized and, by the suspension's end, will be at a disadvantage for 50 games (not that it mattered much to them in the standings). Likewise, Ramirez was penalized and will miss 50 games, not to mention 50 games' worth of salary.

It may seem like a loophole in MLB's policies, and it is just that. While the above arguments support Ramirez's and Romero's ability to go to the minors to get in some action before coming back, consider this argument:

If a player at the triple-A level of an organization violates the minor league baseball drug policy, they serve a 50-game suspension from baseball. They do not get to rehab at single-A or double-A before the 50 games is up.

Since it seems that players will continue to use illegal substances despite the chances of being caught, MLB must make a clearer stand on this issue. While it does not seem like suspended players like Ramirez should be allowed to go to the minors, what else is the purpose of the minor leagues to a major leaguer than to get back into major league shape?