80 is a serious number

Larry Levin is the Jewish Light’s Publisher/CEO.

By Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO

Nu?  Miami Marlins’ star infielder Dee Gordon busted for steroids.

Hmmm…is that really worth a “nu”? Seems like more of an eyeroll is in order. 

Gordon’s the second player of import nailed in the last few weeks, Toronto’s Chris Colabello being the other. Both are going to serve 80-game suspensions, causing voids for two teams that are notably not in dump-and-rebuild mode. Gordon will lose about $1.3M in salary.
Gordon offered what’s become the most common line on the heels of the announcement – namely, that he takes full responsibility but didn’t “knowingly” ingest something that violates the rules.
And as is the case with most other violators, that appears to be a bunch of hooey. While I am always willing to consider other fact-patterns – for instance, that the player properly went to the team medical staff and they advised it was OK to take the substance in question – we’ve rarely if ever seen such an exculpation in the past.
And in this case, as the baseball writer Will Caroll points out, the chance of a lack of intentionality here are extremely minute:
“While Gordon issued a statement apologizing for being caught, he also used the common trope of saying he didn’t knowingly ingest the banned substances. There are cases where this has happened, but they are rare. In this case, it’s not plausible. Gordon tested for two banned substances, including one that has never been involved in a spiked supplement. Unless Gordon can provide a supplement he took, I simply can’t believe his story.”
The denials (read: Ryan Braun circa 2013) and the quasi-denials (“I did it but didn’t mean it”) are getting old. This is one of the reasons for the harsh punishment level of a half-season’s worth of games and salaries – it sends a message to the player that the fault is really in the ingestion, not in the explanation.
In other words: Don’t. Do. It. Period. Or Else.
It’s particularly interesting that Gordon was apparently doping. He’s known for his speed, his defense and his ability to get on base. He’s nowhere close to a slugger, so the chances that the “stack” of PEDs he appeared to be taking would result in a demonstrably different offensive element seems low indeed.
Unless Gordon was taking for one of the other two reasons that PEDs seem to creep into athlete’s lives. One is to run faster by building the requisite muscles for speed. Certainly the track and field world (not to mention cycling, Lance) has fallen prey to this forever. The other is to overcome the many aches and pains that befall a pro in what is a long and challenging 162-game season (though it oughta be pointed out we’re still in April). 
But it doesn’t really matter. The punishment is harsh for good reasons, namely, to prevent cheating and to drown out excuses.
Is the sentence for an offense draconian in nature? Well, if it were only the owners and sponsors who wanted to avoid a taint, perhaps that could be tendered as an argument. But these days, we see some awfully outspoken players (Matt Holliday being one of them) who don’t really want to be playing with cheaters and those holding unfair advantages.
In other words, it’s coming from within and not just from without.
Absent desperation (eg, fear of career end), and there’s no evidence that either Gordon or Colabello faced such an emotional wall, it is beyond me why any MLB player would even try to game the system in today’s world. The detection methods are strong, the tests random, and the punishments harsh. And if that’s not enough, the potential for causing one’s teammates a major void for half a season would seem a deterrent as well.
The Marlins might not have stayed apace of the Nationals and Mets in the NL East anyway, and the Jays have a lot of other bangers to weather Colabello’s loss. But at the end of the season, we’ll look back and see how these consequences affected their teams’ success or lack thereof. As to Gordon and Colabello, we’ll look back and just shake our heads with a lack of pity and utter confusion.