You probably have an opinion already on the drug suspension of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez, who was able to serve his 50-game penalty while on the disabled list. Don't get too comfortable with that opinion of yours. Don't get attached to it.
Because I'm about to change it.
|Edinson Volquez paid for his suspension, even on the disabled list. (Getty Images)|
Allowing Volquez to serve his suspension while on the disabled list, which baseball had done previously with the Yankees' Sergio Mitre and the Rockies' Rafael Betancourt, was literally one of the dumbest, most illogical things I'd ever heard of, and that's what I was going to write today.
But then the damndest thing happened.
I spent a few minutes thinking of this from the other side -- I do that with every story I write, trying to anticipate holes in my argument -- and stumbled onto a single nugget that made me realize I was wrong. Which means you're wrong, if you think like I used to think. And I'll convince you of that, I'm sure of it, because your opinion doesn't scare me. Neither does your level of stubbornness. You? Stubborn? Partner, you got nothing on me. I'm half-mule. See that picture in the dictionary, next to the word "jackass"? That's me. Proud of it, too.
But I'm not too proud to admit I was wrong.
And this has never happened to me, by the way. Well, I've been wrong before. That happens from time to time. But never in my life have I felt strongly enough about something that I sat down to write a story, but before writing the first word, decided I was wrong. This is historic, is what I'm saying. This is like LeBron to the Heat, only without Jim Gray. Besides, Gray's not a jackass -- he's a horse's ass. There's a difference.
And here's the factoid that changed my opinion 180 degrees:
The 50-game suspension is a player punishment -- only. It's not a team punishment, and it's not a player and team punishment. Nor should it be. The Reds weren't accountable for the fertility-drug action of Volquez. An athlete uses that kind of drug to restart his body's testosterone-making process after a round of steroids has shut it off, and since I'm assuming the Reds didn't plan to impregnate Volquez, I'm assuming Volquez was acting alone. And he got caught. So he got suspended. As it should be.
But Volquez was caught at a time when he was already missing games, and if there's some wiggle room here for the other side, it's right here. Baseball could avoid this argument in the future by waiting to "discover" the positive drug test until a player is off the DL. But that's not how baseball operates. Baseball announces these things immediately, and who am I to say baseball is wrong for being honest? As for Volquez, he was caught in April, months after he had undergone Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. His suspension would expire in mid-June, but Volquez already was on the 60-day disabled list, with no hope of returning until July. So to some, this was a toothless punishment. And to me, until a few days ago, this was a toothless punishment.
Was, I said. Was.
Not anymore. And not because I live in Cincinnati. I'm not Midwest version of Bill Simmons, carrying the water for my hometown teams. I have more pride than that, and in a few days I might just rip the Bengals' Chad Ochocinco to prove it. So don't go looking into the motivations of the messenger. Don't look at the messenger at all. This isn't about me. It's about my message.
And my message is this: Suspending Volquez for another 50 games -- waiting for him to come off the DL, and then nailing him -- wouldn't be aimed just at Volquez (which doesn't bother me a great deal). It would be aimed at Volquez and the Reds, which bothers me immensely.
The 50-game suspension is about the player, period. And the player got hit. He took a 50-game shot in the wallet, and that's not insignificant. That's a 31 percent pay cut that adds up to $137,346, in addition to being held up to worldwide ridicule not just as a drug cheat -- but as a drug cheat who took a female fertility pill. Volquez has been financially hammered, and he has been publically humiliated. He also has missed a whole lot of games, and while he didn't miss those games specifically for the drug offense, he would have done so if it weren't for Tommy John surgery. So if you want to look at Tommy John surgery for a young pitcher as a lucky break, have at it. And I thought I was cynical ...
Anyway, that was my revelation: Letting Volquez finish off his DL stint before sitting him down for 50 games would be a guarantee that the Reds pay for his sin ... and the Reds haven't done a damn thing wrong.
So did I change your mind? Or does the dictionary need a new picture of a jackass?