Yesterday, I went after Commissioner Selig over his comments regarding cleaning up baseball’s PED issue. It seems that Selig isn’t willing to say that he’s responsible in any fashion for steroids and the like in the game, citing the MLBPA as the prohibitory factor in the issue.
Selig seems to be standing fast on this matter.
“If I sound frustrated it’s because you get into revisionism 15-20 years later and it’s the wrong set of facts you’re revising,” Selig said to The Associated Press. “My frustration is we started (minor league testing) in 1998. Where were we sleeping?”
First thing first. The AP is in error with how they framed this comment. They added in “minor league testing”, which is incorrect. The minor league drug testing policy has been in place since 2001, while the Mitchell Report cites steroid education in 1998. To be certain that there wasn’t some little known testing program prior to 2001, I contacted league and verified that indeed the story was in error (Note: The AP is addressing this error).
Secondly, I took Selig to task for this comment in an earlier AP article:
“What I could do unilaterally, I did almost immediately,” Selig said, pointing to a minor league testing program started in 2001.
Fewer than 1 percent of minor leaguers now test positive for banned drugs, down from 9.1 percent in 2001, he said.
The figures being cited by Selig regarding the minor league tests were what I examined and thought might not be fully accurate, based upon the sudden influx of players out of the Dominican Summer League that caused positive PED suspensions to rise of 128 percent from 2007 to 2008 in minor league suspensions.
Could the players in the DSL under the minor league testing program be included as part of Selig’s comments? Reached for comment, MLB spokesman Rich Levin confirmed that Selig’s comments were in regard to players in the minor leagues outside of the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues.
Based upon this, it is clear that MLB’s next frontier on eradicating PEDs from baseball centers on associated leagues in South America and the Caribbean. If not for the 49 players from the DSL and VSL suspensions, only 17 players stateside would have been reported as suspended for PEDs, a decline of 41 percent from 2007 to 2008, as opposed to the 128 percent increase.
Selig needs to address this in his talking points. Yet again, Selig needs to focus on the challenges as opposed to denying any culpability in the steroid culture in baseball. The commissioner should say that great strides have been made, but there are still areas of baseball that need addressing if it wishes to be viewed as having removed PEDs from the game.
The issue in South America should be viewed as more pressing than say, hGH. The culture in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues will transport itself to the States, if players of talent that are using are plucked from the Latin system. Otherwise, Selig’s claims of decreases in positive tests in minor league baseball since 2001 will only be half true. Commissioner Selig, you and the league are not yet done in your work on PEDs.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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