SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has made inroads into eliminating performance-enhancing drugs from his sport, but he is pushing for more. Selig called Saturday for stiffer penalties for drug cheats for the good of the players, the teams and the game.
Selig did not offer any concrete proposals, saying he would leave that to league official Rob Manfred and players' union chief Michael Weiner, but he said he was encouraged by Weiners remarks last week that indicated the players are in favor of such a move.
"You can never rest, because certainly the chemists arent resting," Selig said during a Diamondbacks-Rangers exhibition game at Salt River Fields, where Team USA will train for the World Baseball Classic.
Selig said he wants to see a stiffer penalty for a first failed drug test, but he didn't go into specifics. Major League Baseballs current three strike plan calls for a 50-game suspension for first failed test, a 100-game suspension for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. He said does not have a timetable other than preferring to see it done as soon as possible, certainly at some point this season, although FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal has reported that the union would oppose an in-season change.
"I would change everything," Selig said. "This is in the best interests of this sport and everybody in it. Change is always inevitable. You see how a program works. It is working fine. But obviously there are some people, a small minority, who need to be taught a lesson. This is an adjustment you have to make as a result of what you see."
Baseball implemented an in-season testing program for human growth hormone in January. Selig said recent events, including Melky Cabreras 50-game suspension last season and the recent developments related to a clinic in South Florida have "driven my intensity. Several major leagues have been connected to Biogenics of America, a clinic in Miami that is alleged to have supplied them with performance-enhancing drugs.
"We have made meaningful adjustments to our testing. It is time to make meaningful adjustments to our penalties. Apparently the penalties havent deterred some people," Selig said.
Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average when he was suspended Aug. 15 and would have qualified for the batting title, was barred from receiving the award last year. Bartolo Colon, Freddy Galvis and Marlon Byrd also were suspended for 50 games, and Guillermo Mota was suspended for 100 games. Cabrera and Colon both were given sizable contracts for this season after serving their suspensions, Cabrera signing with Toronto and Colon with Oakland.
"I have been interested in stiffer penalties for some time. I have been pleased to see many players speaking out about how much they care and their concerns about recent events, Selig said.
Colorado outfielder Michael Cuddyer, among many others, is in favor of reform. Cuddyer recently told the Denver Post that he was in favor of a one-year ban for players on a first positive test and a lifetime ban for a second positive.
"I think, 100 percent, guys would be for it. I can't speak for everybody, but listening to certain guys' comments and talking to certain guys, I think guys would be all for stiffer penalties. That's a full year's pay and then you can never play again. If that's not a deterrent, I don't know what is," Cuddyer said.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, said he believed harsher penalties would play well with players and fans.
"We have to make sure we keep the game here," Torre said, raising his right hand above his head to indicate a higher standard.
"I think everybody involved is certainly concerned about the welfare of the game. What struck me, and always has, was the fact that once you started making significant inroads" in drug testing, "you realize there are still those people sitting in the stands when somebody hits a home run and poke each other and say, 'I wonder if hes on that.'
"I think the players would certainly like to have that cleared up, because it is easy to paint them all with the same brush. You have players who have conducted themselves proudly ... its just not fair to the major part of Major League Baseball to have players have to be questioned, even in peoples minds. Until we can gain back the total respect back of the fans and have them trust us again, we have work to do."
Former manager Tony La Russa, who managed three World Series teams, joined the commissioners office last year and said he has spoken with many players on the subject.
"From what happened last year, the players scratch their head and think these guys are clueless," La Russa said, referring to the failed drug tests.
"Wed already thought we got to the point where we thought the reward was not worth the risk. All of a sudden you have just a few that felt like it was. Without a doubt, people Ive talked to say you have to make that risk so punishing that we can eliminate this."