Marlins All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon has been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a drug that has been deemed performance-enhancing. As with any high-profile PED bust, there are a lot of layers. Let's attempt to peel some of them back.
1. How this impacts the Marlins
SportsLine projections had the Marlins winning 76.8 games with a 1.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. With Gordon out for essentially half the season, those figures are now 75.2 and 0.8, respectively. It doesn't seem huge, but one player impacting almost two wins over the course of 80 games is a big deal.
If the Marlins happen to beat those odds and make the postseason, Gordon won't be eligible to play.
2. Barry Bonds is Gordon's hitting coach, but ...
... it's quite the leap to assume Bonds shows up in the spring training locker room and immediately starts getting guys suspended. I admire the willingness of people to jump through hoops in order to further a narrative they've been peddling for over a decade, but if Bonds were really going to do this, we'll see a lot more Marlins busted than Gordon. I wouldn't be holding my breath.
3. No, the testing program doesn't need to be changed
Dee Gordon has to miss 80 games now. He's one test away from missing an entire season and two away from his career being over. Hell, not even a test is necessary, just ask Alex Rodriguez, Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz and company.
Still, every time there's a high-profile player testing positive, we have to spend days discussing all the reasons the system needs to be changed. Among the stuff I've seen on Friday is possibly giving teams the power to void contracts of players who are suspended.
That sounds reasonable because PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES! All cheaters are the devil and should be purged!
Do we really need to step out onto the ledge and test this slippery slope, though?
First off, teams should be responsible for their own contracts that they dish out. Why give them an out? Secondly, giving teams the ability to void contracts after failed drug tests creates an incentive to frame players who are badly underperforming their deal.
Carl Crawford is set to make over $21 million both this season and next. A failed drug test and voided contract would look pretty nice for the Dodgers, no?
I'm not saying teams would frame players, but I am saying that a clause like this incentivizes this behavior. That can't happen.
4. There's some grandstanding going on.
Let's start with Justin Verlander! Here's what he tweeted right after the news came out:
"This PED [expletive] is killing me. If u test positive u need to not play. You shouldn't be allowed to effect games while appealing."
- Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) 1:33 a.m. ET - April 29, 2016
Nothing screams, "I'm clean and you guys should all love me!" like a strongly-worded tweet. Such macho bravado in this one, too.
What Verlander is referencing is the fact that appeals are heard before anything is made public. Players can play during the process. His beef seems to be that Gordon was playing even though he likely tested positive sometime in spring training.
It sounds fair enough to present, but let's use Mr. Verlander as an example. I assume him to be clean. Just look at his tweet!
Let's say Verlander tests positive by mistake and it's made public. He's immediately suspended and has to miss upwards of five starts during the appeals process. The Tigers miss the playoffs by just a few games. Meantime, it's found that Verlander was clean all along and missed that time. Not only that, but Verlander's reputation has now been publicly soiled for the rest of his career. You'd better believe there would be self-important Hall of Fame voters who would never vote for him, too, even if his numbers said he was a deserving player.
Is that fair?
No system will ever be 100 percent fair. It's a sad reality, but that also doesn't mean we should knee-jerk into changing the system. How it is right now is probably as good as it can be.
I should note that I believe Verlander is genuinely upset and I also think he's clean. He's also not alone, he's just the most high-profile player here with the strong wording. We'll see a lot more in the next few days.
Look, there's nothing wrong with being emotional in light of failed tests, but emotions shouldn't overrule logic. Oh, hey, speaking of which ...
5. False logic is here, part one
Why is it that when a player gets in trouble, some people start to act like the testing program isn't working? That's so backward it's insane to even be discussing. If no one were testing positive, wouldn't that be the program not working? Yes, yes it would. Someone getting caught isn't proof of the program not working. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or has an agenda.
Just be honest: If no player had been suspended since 2010, would there be a bunch of people yelling about how awesomely clean baseball is and never, ever accusing any player of juicing?
Does anyone believe that the answer would be yes?
6. False logic is here, part two
The annoying talk this past week has been Jake Arrieta and his lack of connection to actual evidence regarding PED use. Now that Dee Gordon has tested positive, it definitely means Arrieta is next, according to some people.
I don't even have the language at my disposal to describe how ridiculous that is.
What in the name of Babe Freaking Ruth do Dee Gordon and Jake Arrieta have to do with one another? They are both baseball players? OK, then that means every player in the league is juicing. If that's true and it bothers you, stop watching.
What this actually says is that the people who are accusing Arrieta are desperate to grasp at bit of "evidence" they can find, so another high profile -- lesser profile, of course -- player being caught red handed means the Arrieta shoe will be the next to drop. It doesn't make sense, but there's some kind of agenda in there and those people will reach for anything.
7. Not all PED abusers are bulky power hitters
One thing that does interest me here is that Gordon is one of baseball's most thin players and doesn't hit for power.
The common arguments for PED truthers when it comes to position players are finding pictures from five-plus years ago and comparing to pictures from this year in a side-by-side presentation. See, they'll cry, 'look how much bigger he is! He must be doing steroids!' Never mind that apparently none of these people grew between ages 20 and 30 nor have ever decided to get in shape after a period of being out of shape, but look at Gordon. He's pencil thin. Why isn't he all jacked up? Isn't that how we can tell?
Gordon also has zero home runs this year. He had four last year -- one of which was inside the park -- and two the year before that. The guy has eight (!) career home runs.
Conventional "wisdom" from the truthers is to find guys who got more muscular and saw a power spike. Dee Gordon blows that up. He's not alone, though.
8. Let's also keep Taylor Teagarden in mind
Who is that? Just a free agent catcher who is a career .202/.260/.376 hitter. Basically, he's a replacement-level player and he is currently serving a half-season PED suspension. Players who aren't very good are busted, too. We could go back to the Mitchell Report and throw out names like Marvin Benard, Bobby Estalella and Randy Velarde. We can talk about Cesar Puello, Sergio Escalona or Jordan Norberto from the Biogenesis scandal.
Users come in all shapes, sizes and forms.
Not only does this mean that it's ignorant to go around searching for only muscular power hitters and power pitchers, but it also means that no player should be immune from such whispers. Basically, if you're worried about Arrieta, you should be just as worried about players like Billy Hamilton.
One of the most ignorant things going around all week was the suggestion that whenever a player is having a great stretch he should expect to be questioned. These players made their own bed, the truthers proclaim -- even though the players who made this bed are all pretty much retired. Yet I couldn't find a single person anywhere who was questioning Dee Gordon. Let this serve as a reminder that we can't decode anything from our computers/TVs/seats in the crowd.