As reported on Friday, there seems to be an explanation as to why the sudden increase in PED suspensions in the Dominican Summer League: They weren’t reported prior due to legal reasons. And, while The AP has reported that baseball didn't announce suspensions in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues because of legal issues, that’s really only half the truth.
As reported, in 2006 several players in the Venezuelan Summer League were suspended for PEDs – four players suspended on 7/24/06 (Carlos Fajardo, Reds - Alfredo Martin and Jonathan Requena of the Twins - Richard Rodriguez, Blue Jays) and two players on 8/2/06 (Marcos Chavez and Jonathan Gonzalez of the Cardinals).
According to MLB spokesman Rich Levin, it is the laws in the Dominican Republic that have prevented MLB from publishing the names of the players suspended for PEDs out the Dominican Summer League. As the suspensions in 2006 show, the Venezuelan Summer Leagues seem exempt from such protections.
All this aside, what does it ultimately mean for baseball and the historical record?
There seems little doubt that many players prior have tested positive for PEDs in the Dominican Summer Leagues; it’s just that it could not be announced. If testing has indeed slowed analytical positives for PEDs in the last two years at the MLB level, one might suggest that the same effect may have taken place in the Dominican Summer League.
And, that seems to be the case.
When initially asked about the increase in PED suspensions out of the Dominican Summer League in early August, MLB seemed to suggest that more players out of the DSL tested positive last year than this year.
“The percentage of players testing positive in the Dominican Republic, so far this summer, has decreased from last year,” said Levin at the time.
So, what is certain is that there have been many other players that have tested positive for PEDs within MLB’s development system than we now know.
Some will say it’s academic. “It's nothing. It's just minor league players."
It is certainly something.
MLB did not disclose this matter. It has only been until the recent releases after the All-Star break that questions were asked and the answer was simply, “Sometimes, they come in bunches.”
It’s far too easy to say that when you can’t disclose names due to legal matters. That doesn't mean MLB should have never addressed the issue.
The league should have been proactive and made the reason for the non-disclosures public. Instead, they simply started a parade of near daily suspension announcements. There should have been some warning. Instead it looks like some dirty little secret, especially against the backdrop of recent skimming issue facing the league that impacts players out of the Caribbean and South America.
So, from here forward, the number of PED suspensions should be measured against this shift. They're simply prospects, yes. They're not players within the union, no. It is, however, supposed to be part of MLB’s attempts to remove the shadow of PEDs from the sport. If MLB wants to be taken seriously about that effort, they should have been upfront, instead of keeping this major minor league secret.