Last week Casey wrote a piece called JENRRY MEJIA, THE STRUGGLE & THE MLB SHELL GAME. He brought up a few interesting points. Things that have been discussed, in passing mostly, but I feel like people aren't really discussing the meat of the problem. I want to try to address them.
"The Dominican Republic has been rumored to be a PEDs haven for a long time."
I've heard this line several times over. Casey is not the first, and will not be the last to make this statement. To Casey goes on to say that it is not all Dominican players, "but that is the perception." And he is right. Unfortunately, it is the perception. As Casey pointed out, even with players like New York's own Andy Pettitte having used at one point in his career, the arrows seem to always point towards Dominican-born players, or players born outside of the US. In fact, I've had this same conversation with a number of people, on numerous occasions.
There is a total of 45 major league players suspended for steroid usage since 2005. Wiki has the most up-to-date list available. Of the 45 players, nearly two-thirds were born outside of the 50 states. This includes players born in Puerto Rico, Latin America, Japan, Italy, Panama... literally any place outside of the 50 states of the US. As far which group is in the majority in regards to PEDs users, it's pretty evenly keeled between Dominican-born, and American-born players (18 and 16 respectively), with others making up a very small minority.
(In photo: Cody Stanley)
Yes, I understand that in recent years, a number of the name associated with PEDs have been Dominican-born players. But it is just as common for us to hear names like Jenrry Mejia and Bartolo Colon, as it is to hear names like Cody Stanley and Andrew McKirahan.
"Great players are made at a much younger age than American players"
The sad truth is that a great majority of the Dominican Republic lives in extreme poverty. There are approximately 2 million people living in the rural area's and 50% of them live in poverty (HERE). One-third of the country lives on just $1.25/day. Put that into perspective for a moment. Consider supporting yourself on just $1.25/day. How much are you sacrificing to make that happen? Now consider raising a family on that same amount. It's impossible.
So yes, players start playing in the Dominican Republic seemingly from birth. They know that baseball can save them and their families from a lifetime of poverty. This is the struggle that Casey mentions. It's harsh, and not something that you can fully grasp unless you have lived it yourself.
So they play, and many many talented players have come out of the Dominican Republic on their talent alone. But what happens to those players once they are here? How do they manage to stay on top? When you come from that kind of background, being number one is the only real option. Failing to perform, and being dismissed could mean that you would go back to the circumstances you escaped from. It means failure. This is what makes the lure to PEDs so much stronger. As Casey said, "It's about getting out of the struggle." But it's also about staying out of the struggle.
"It's very curious as to just how big this epidemic is."
And that is ultimately the conversation we need to have. This is not exclusive to players born outside of the 50 states either. This is true of all players who have been suspended for using PEDs.
The MLB Rules Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is very intricate. To sum up as best as I could, the MLB performs drug test at random throughout the year. Only if a player fails two consecutive drug test, will they face suspension. There are a ton of other loopholes in the Joint Drug agreement, including Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), which are essentially doctors notes that state the use of certain banned substances are acceptable due to whatever condition the player is claiming (ie. ADHD and baldness). Basically, a player could essentially find ways to use steroids repeatedly with no consequences to them or their career. Which makes the cases of players that have been suspended all that much more questionable, and disturbing.
Let's take the case of Mejia. He was suspended in July, and he knew that his next infraction would have him face a lifetime ban. Most people will argue that he was too stupid to care. The dummy who destroyed his career. The question that no one is asking is why didn't he care? There are signs of addictive behavior, particularly when it comes to players that are repeat offenders. Key characteristics of addiction are engaging in the behavior even though it is causing harm, and compulsively seeking out the addiction. Is this not in line with the perception of the repeat offenders? Particularly Mejia?
I believe that most of us could agree that using steroids is cheating. There is no denying that. But there is something deeper that needs to be addressed. The action itself is harmful to the player. The side effects of steroids are sometimes life threatening. This is common knowledge, and yet players do it anyway. Yes, there is the initial push to be at the top of the heap. But what continues to push these players towards that destructive behavior? Why isn't it being addressed?
My point was not to pick apart Casey's piece. In fact, I could agree with most of it. When it comes to steroids, there has been this narrative set up, and it is distracting from bigger issues. "Everyone knows this is happening including MLB, but the job is to just tamp it down... not truly fix it." And you have to really wonder why? Discussions about whether usage is more common amongst players born outside of the 50 states create a false plot line to pretty up the truth. The root issue is so much deeper than what most people are considering. Yes, it's about getting the edge, and getting a leg up on the competition, but that barely seems to scratch the surface, in my opinion.
I can appreciate the steps that the MLB has taken so far. But there is still such a long way to go. And there is still so much that needs to be addressed and acknowledged along the way.
--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer
Thank you for your loyalty to Bleeding Yankee Blue.
Please shop at the BYB store!
On Twitter: @BleednYankeeBlu
On Facebook, LIKE Bleeding Yankee Blue!
Don't forget to check out the BYB Hub.