Be sure to listen to the podcast, which is a slightly longer version of the story that I filed for KPFA.
Needless to say, this is not my last word on the subject.
Exactly a year ago today, Dec. 7, 2004, Eric Byrnes gave CBS a phone interview from which he was quoted the next day in a CBS News story about steroids in baseball. I just found the remarks. They are worth repeating.
Byrnes said, "The biggest thing is that the public knows it’s not as prominent as media and some outside sources are making it out to be.
"Do I think it’s right? No, absolutely not. In every walk of life, in every profession for hundreds of years, people have been looking to get an advantage. The kids, who are the most important part of this thing, need to know that this isn’t OK."
Thanks, Byrnesie. Thanks to you and all players who do not take steroids.
Comments to come soon on hot stove doings, salaries and Eric Byrnes’ batting stance. Some time next week, I hope. I’ve had some schedule disruptions that I will explain as relevant in later posts.
I will be on the mezzanine at the KPFA Crafts and Music Fair at 8th and Brannan in San Francisco on Sat. and Sun. Dec. 10 & 11. So if you are in the city that day, stop by and say hello. I’ll be wearing a shirt that says: "Down the Left Field Line: Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes."
You’ll find great holiday shopping, music, information and food there. And there’s a Katrina relief project in which you can participate while you are at the Fair. Details on how to get there and what the project is about are at this link.
(Photo of Byrnes by Daryl of Daryl’s Place).
August 27, 2005–Chronicle News Services reported today that an unnamed Florida Marlins batboy was suspended by the Marlins for accepting a dare from LA Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny. The dare was to drink a gallon of milk within an hour without vomiting. Penny offered him $500 to do it.
According to the article, Penny told the Miami Herald, "It’s kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk."
Perhaps it was really a 6-game suspension for willingness to perform an act some people might consider to be gambling. When you consider steroids in sports, or the dangerous alcoholic beverage games involved in some college fraternity pledge rituals, drinking milk is rather a tame dare, especially to this inveterate milk drinker.
If there was to be a sanction, perhaps it should have been on Penny for offering a minor money to perform a dare, even though it involved no illegal substance.
But Penny’s point should be well-taken. When I went to the third game of the Orioles-A’s series at the Coliseum, someone further down in my section had a cardboard sign that read "Sosa and Palmeiro cheated. Boo!" That started the steroids conversation among three guys behind me. They decided that somebody caught using steroids should get a 100-game suspension on the first offense, and a lifetime ban on the second.
Ten days for steroids, six days for milk. How serious is professional baseball about stamping out the use of performance-enhancing drugs? You make the call.
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On Monday, Texas Rangers All-Star pitcher Kenny Rogers took his case to have his suspension reduced to baseball independent arbitrator Shyam Das in Chicago. Rogers was suspended for 20 days and fined $50K for shoving two cameramen, injuring one, and breaking a camera. Rogers is also facing misdemeanor assault charges as a result of the incident.
The discipline was imposed by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The Commissioner also heard Rogers’ appeal of his discipline. Leaving the sentence intact, Selig said, "I heard nothing that would warrant either eliminating or reducing the discipline imposed."
Now, I’m not suggesting that an act of violence that resulted in personal injury and property damage warrants anything less than what Rogers got. But if Rogers gets 20 days for assault and property damage, why does Rafael Palmeiro and others who test positive for steroids get only 10 days?
The technical answer is that a ten-day suspension is the punishment for a first positive drug test. But what are the players’ union and the league saying when the drug suspension is only 10 days? It is illegal to use steroids in this manner. It is also cheating, setting a bad example for others, and harmful to the user’s body. And In Palmeiro’s case, it looks like it also involved perjury to Congress.
Broncos and Raiders football star Lyle Alzado died at 43 of a brain cancer he attributed to steriod use during his playing days. Rogers’ actions were wrong, but he didn’t kill anybody. C’mon, baseball, the proportionality of the punishment to the crime tells how serious you are about eliminating bad conduct. Don’t give illegal use of dangerous drugs a slap on the wrist. Amend the drug policy NOW. If conduct leading to charges of misdemeanor assault can draw a 20-day suspension and a $50K fine, then steroid use should draw at least that much.
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