Dee Gordon got suspended by Major League Baseball recently for PED use, and after you go read Grant's piece on that for a second time – because you also read it when he posted it and it was very good and hopefully sycophancy will pay off for me – you can think about some of the other reaction pieces from national writers. Here's one from Jayson Stark. Here's most of one from Buster Olney, Insider status be damned. And here's Ken Rosenthal's contribution.
What did they have to say about possible responses? Here's a sampling!
It's unfair to paint all three article with a broad brush – Stark's in particular is more about the logic behind steroid use and how to address it than the other ones, which are racing to be the first off the "Just execute them all" cliff. But they all do treat the idea of stiffening penalties as something that will lead to fewer steroid users.
Harsher penalties will not lead to fewer steroid users. Harsher penalties will lead to better steroid users. Harsher penalties will lead to more money going into more methods to keep more drugs undetectable. Because remember, steroid use isn't about injecting something and then immediately getting better at baseball. Steroid use is about injecting something and then either:
1. Being able to maintain your level of baseball play during a season where the sport grinds your bones to make its bread
2. Going to the gym and working your ass off to get stronger so that you can hit the ball farther.
If you need an extra edge, if you think that the drugs are, rather than themselves making you better, letting you be you, then there are no more moral questions. If there are no more moral questions, then the inner monologue goes from "It's wrong to do this" to "It's wrong for them to not let me do this." After that, the question of whether to use PEDs is one whose answer you already know, and you'll get them from somebody who promises they're undetectable, super serious promise, serious as a heart attack pinky swear, man, and you'll believe him because you want to, and really, harsher penalties won't affect a single goddamn thing.
And then the harsher penalties they propose are really stupid.
Like, really stupid.
A lifetime ban? You want a lifetime ban for one failed test, Justin Verlander? Who does that help? Let's take a player who was suspended for PEDs. We'll call him, I don't know, Bartolo. Bartolo thinks he won't get caught. Bartolo gets caught. Now, instead of learning a lesson and being able to serve as a living example that testing works, instead of being around to caution his teammates not to touch that stuff that they want to touch, Bartolo is gone forever. Bye, Bartolo! It's too bad that Baseball Internet never had the chance to fall in love with you!
Or maybe you think that Bartolo is still using steroids and he's just hiding it better. Congratulations, you've admitted that testing only catches the stupid cheaters. Fantastic. Super helpful.
Aside from some form of "They have to not play the game for longer," the other punishment option being bandied around is the idea that teams should be able to void the contracts of players who test positive for steroids. The idea here is that if Dee Gordon knows he's going to lose his $50 million, then he won't do steroids. So let's address that.
1. Yes he will. Whatever his rationale was behind using PEDs, it won't change.
2. The next offseason, some team will have a hole at second base and sign him for $Still A Lot. The most extreme amount of potential money lost I can think of was Melky Cabrera, whose test and suspension in a contract year cost him quite a bit. But in the years after that, he's still going to make a ton. Unless he gets suspended again, from 2013 to 2017, he will make $58 million. He would have gotten a bigger contract after 2012 without the suspension, but that's still a ton of money, and it all happened to a player who started out with loads of question marks.
3. This idea is holding the players to a standard that teams and ownership are not held to. That is unfair. The basic idea is that a team shouldn't have to stand by and reward a player who's affecting the play of the game in order to gain an unfair advantage. Well, let's turn that around. Why should a player reward a team with his fantastic baseball skills when the team is acting inappropriately?
For example: last year, the Cubs spent 10 days without Kris Bryant on the roster. Kris Bryant was clearly the best third baseman in the organization, and they kept him in the minors for 10 games so that they could control his rights for another year. One could say that they were affecting the play of the game in order to gain an unfair advantage. Therefore, I think Kris Bryant should have been able to declare himself free of his contract with the Cubs. What they were doing was wrong. Organizations doing wrong things should be punished.
The practical reality is that until the commissioner's office does this, the incentive to cheat will far outweigh the risks of being caught. Whatever the intent, whatever the justification, service time manipulation in baseball pays well.
In conclusion, Dee Gordon's greatest crime was using steroids, but his second greatest crime was making some baseball writers write a bunch of stupid takes about how to stop people from using steroids.