On Thursday, Biz of Baseball broke the story that MLB would begin unannounced industry-wide drug testing—including steroids—to all personnel—players (Major and Minor League), non-players (Major and Minor League), Umpires (MLB), executives (Club front office personnel, managers, coaches, trainers), and the Office of the Commissioner (all employees of the Office of the Commissioner), MLB Enterprises, MLB Properties, MLB International, MLB Productions, and MLB Advanced Media (read the memo here).
The question is, why?
The story has been picked up by other sources, with more most likely to follow. Here are some excerpts from others on the story.
We start with Tim Marchman of the NY Sun. Marchman writes in With Baseball, Congress Is Barking Up Wrong Tree Baseball:
In a time of high partisanship in Washington, one issue unites everyone: All can agree that Congress has better things to do than investigate baseball's latest shenanigans. Unfortunately, while Congress may have better things to be doing, that doesn't mean it's going to do them.
The reason this comes to mind is a bizarre scoop by Maury Brown, available at his invaluable Web site, bizofbaseball.com. Major League Baseball, according to a February 21 memo signed by Bud Selig and obtained by Brown, is about to start subjecting the precious bodily fluids of its employees — all of its employees — to the possibility of search and seizure. If you were afraid that Omar Minaya's secretary is obtaining an unfair competitive advantage by injecting Deca-Durabolin, have no further fears. Baseball is on the case, as now everyone from the lowliest clubhouse boy to the most powerful general manager is subject to random, unannounced testing, just like the players. Think about that the next time you plump for a Yankees ticket: Not only is your cash going into Carl Pavano's pocket, it could also be going toward testing to ensure that Joe Torre isn't abusing Ecstasy.
If this makes no sense to you, it's because you're not a madman. As Brown rightly points out, though, you can trace this right back to Congress and former Senator Mitchell's interminably ongoing investigation into drug use in the sport. Various threats in the last few years, including that of federal legislation to require certain sorts of drug testing, have baseball scared. Just listen to MLB flack Rich Levin, who told Brown, "In order to be consistent, the policy has to be applied to everyone in MLB, not just the players."
Adding to the story is King Kaufman of Salon Magazine. As Kaufman writes in The Yellowing of America:
Baseball fans worried that the woman who swipes their credit card at the box office might be juicing can rest easy. Worry not, good spectators, that the underassistant director of Caribbean scouting might be cycling roids.
Major League Baseball is going to randomly drug-test off-field employees too.
Maury Brown of the Web site the Biz of Baseball reports that commissioner Bud Selig issued a memo Feb. 21 titled "Major League Baseball's Drug Policy and Prevention Program," which outlines drug-testing procedures for all personnel, meaning major and minor league players; major and minor league "non-playing personnel"; umpires and employees of the commissioner's office.
It's not clear why secretaries and equipment managers have to be drug-free for Major League Baseball to operate as a safe and successful business, but the policy appears to be a defensive legal maneuver.
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Bloggers have also weighed in, with Matt Watson of AOL Sports writing in Bud Selig Wants to Look at Everyone's Urine:
Proving that he must be willing to walk the walk if he's going to talk the talk, Bud Selig has announced that everyone employed by Major League Baseball can expect at least one awkward moment this year where they're forced to hand over a Dixie cup of their own urine to a co-worker.
The Biz of Baseball has obtained a five-page memo from Bud Selig outlining the new testing guidelines, which state the following groups must be tested in addition to big league and minor league players.
Opinions are running high on the topic, and since reporting on the story I have waited to do so... until now.
As I said in my initial report, one might consider the Mitchell investigation in all of this. I think that the bolded and italicized portions of the memo point to pressure from the commissioner to the clubs to make sure and fully cooperate. Beyond that, it seems to me a PR move.
There's nothing mandatory within the mandate by Selig to his front office employees; "may be subjected to" simply isn't the same as saying it's required and random. I'm waiting to hear from any one at any of the MLB or Minor league clubs that they've actually taken a drug screen. I suspect it will be some time... it may never happen. However, it certainly plays well to the media and Congress, however ineffective the whole concept is. It's like forcing the guy that takes tickets at the airport to take a drug screen because pilots have to. I'm not worried if my ticket gets torn by someone with a possible drug problem, but you can bet I'm concerned about the person at the controls of the plane.