As you all know, Phillies left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo accepted a 50-game suspension today for his involvement with Biogenesis, a sports nutrition firm now known for producing and selling banned substances to Major League Baseball players. The series of suspensions are unprecedented: players were confronted with overwhelming evidence and accepted suspensions instead of being suspended for failing tests.
And as you all may also know, I went on record in the winter that the Phillies should have explored signing Alex Rodriguez in the event he would have had his contract with the New York Yankees voided and that I was very disappointed that no players from the supposed Steroid Era of baseball were elected to the Hall of Fame this year. I am not a steroid apologist or a defender of those who used steroids. I will never use the phrase “everyone was doing it” but I do believe the epidemic was and likely is too expansive to include or exclude players in the Hall of Fame.
What makes this all the more confounding is that my favorite team, the team I write about, and sometimes think about in my sleep, has had quite a few players in their Major and Minor League ranks suspended for violating MLB’s “Drug & Treatment Prevention” policy. Each suspension, admittedly, puts strain on my love for my favorite team, even though like so many other credentialed media, I often shrug and say “meh” when the topic arises.
My favorite Phillies team has always been the 2009 squad. The 2009 team was a World Series winner that wasn’t picked to repeat and, in some publications, wasn’t picked to win their own division. To begin the season, they had to replace a 2.3 fWAR outfielder and survived injuries to a closer who was perfect a season before. During the season, they were forced to go twelve starting pitchers and five catchers deep and won the National League pennant despite the fact that Eric Bruntlett played in 72 games. With Bastardo’s suspension today, he is now the fourth player from the 2009 Phillies to be suspended under MLB’s “Drug & Treatment Prevention” policy.
J.C. Romero and Carlos Ruiz were two from the 2009 squad to face suspension. Romero’s positive test came from 6-OXO Extreme, a product he purchased at GNC. Ruiz’s suspension came from a positive test for Adderall. Reliever Sergio Escalona has also been suspended under this policy. By joining those three players on the list of players who have been suspended under the “Drug & Treatment Prevention” policy, the 2009 NL pennant-winning Phillies now have an NL-record four suspended players from a pennant-winning team.
Let that sit in.
Those tongue-in-cheek comments about A-Rod cheating so bad that the Phillies should be given the 2009 World Series? You’ll have to think about taking them back, even if he and Francisco Cervelli joined that list today. With their suspensions, the 2009 Yankees only had four – the Phillies also had four. Even though Andy Pettite admitted taking performance enhancing drugs, he was never suspended for such. The 2000 Yankees read like a Who’s Who of the Mitchell Report and yet… the 2009 Phillies still are the reigning leader in NL pennant winners with three suspensions under the “Drug & Treatment Prevention” policy.
While each case has nuances that lead you to believe each player’s suspension may have been an isolated incident, including Romero suing the maker of 6-OXO and settling with them for an undisclosed sum out of court, the truth is, the Phillies have a longer track record than most teams in this early era of performance-enhancement testing. Bastardo is the seventh Phillie or Phillies’ minor leaguer since 2009 that has tested positive for a prohibited substance under the new policy, easily leading all of baseball. The others? Infielder Freddy Galvis last year and then-Phillies minor leaguers Kevin Frandsen and Zach Collier in 2011 and Pablo Ozuna in 2009. The next closest teams? The Giants and Yankees with three each. Until today’s suspensions, the Phillies accounted for 18.18% of Major League baseball’s suspensions since 2009.
So what does all of this mean? The Phillies, at best, need better communication with their players and athletic staff and a better understanding of prohibitive substances to prevent positive tests. They need to keep their players off prohibited substances and on the field, which helps the players stay healthier in the long term, keeps the fans happy, and prevents the embarrassment of positive tests.
I never realized what a large issue this may be within the Phillies organization until Bastardo’s suspension. Hopefully, this issue will open some eyes in the front office and they will come up with a better plan to keep their athletes on the field and off of the suspended list.