Hank Aaron Gets Draconian

According to Hank Aaron, the baseball player who hit the second most home runs in the history of the game, the punishment for testing positive for a banned substance isn’t severe enough in today’s Major League Baseball.

I think it’s got to be a little bit more severe as far as penalties are concerned. I think 50 games is not enough. I’d like to see 100 games really. I think the second time, they need to just ban the player from baseball.

Whether or not you agree with the seriousness with which MLB treats its arbitrary list of banned substances, or the ferocious manner with which they screen players for use, it seems unreasonable to argue that punishment isn’t severe enough given the relatively minuscule number of players who are annually caught and end up facing suspension.

There were five players who were caught using performance enhancing drugs this year. Only one player was suspended last season. One player was punished the year before that, and two were caught and given a suspension back in 2009. If MLB’s testing is believed to be on point, it seems to be working as a deterrent. If it isn’t believed to be on point, and it’s though to be allowing many to slip through the cracks, then it’s a separate issue that isn’t relevant to the number of games one has to sit out and the amount of salary that one doesn’t get paid after testing positive. The solution to that problem would be about improving testing, not increasing punishment.

Given the rather strong and unreasoned stance from Mr. Aaron, I wonder how he feels about past use of performance enhancing drugs, given the effect they might have had on the records to which his now play second fiddle.

In 2009, Mr. Aaron, eschewing any need for a burden of proof, suggested that players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs during the “steroid era” should have an asterisk beside their name if they gained entrance into the Hall of Fame. For players who actually had actually been proven to have used performance enhancing drugs he held an even tougher stance.

There’s no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat. If it’s proven that you took any kind of drug or substance, then you shouldn’t be there. Like I said, the game has no place for cheaters.

Earlier, I used the term arbitrary to describe MLB’s list of banned substances, and I think the word applies to something else on the topic. There seems to be no reason behind the definition, at least in terms of acceptance in the world of baseball, of cheating.

Look at that quotation above, and then consider that Mr. Aaron admitted to “trying” amphetamines during his playing days. Why is that fact so easily glossed over while Barry Bonds’ use of human growth hormone is vilified long before rules were in place to actually ban the use of such substance? And that’s also not even beginning to question which chemical compound is likely to have more of an impact in enhancing performance.

I think that this level of hypocrisy and arbitrary finger pointing is what bothers me the most with this issue. Some substances are labelled as being bad and some, which stand to artificially enhance performance just as much, if not more, aren’t labelled at all. The arbitrariness of it all allows us to completely forgive a baseball player, like Marcus Stroman, who claims to have mistakenly taken one of those crazy and sciencey substances that can be found in nasal sprays, while tarring and feathering another player, like Melky Cabrera, who obviously injected testosterone created by the devil’s ball sweat into his blood while selling Beelzebub his soul in order to attain a bigger contract.

But again, even if you disagree with my opinion on the moral ambiguity that the arbitrary assigning of severity to random substances creates, I still don’t see how you can reasonably side with Mr. Aaron that punishments for getting caught need to be even more severe. In terms of the percentage of all the players who made Major League Baseball appearances this season, such a small amount actually test positive. It seems far more likely to me that Mr. Aaron hasn’t thought this threw and instead has merely taken a self-serving stance that further distances himself from those accused of and caught using, so as to make himself appear more clean than those whose legacies will compete with his.