Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension for steroids and subsequent cover-up has prompted many in baseball to criticize both Cabrera and his team, the San Francisco Giants. Many in the media have suggested that losing Cabrera at such a crucial point in the season is karma for the Giants' decision to ride Barry Bonds' steroid rampage to home run greatness and tremendous profits. However, if karmic revenge truly punished those who exploited steroids, Baseball as a whole should be suffering.
As wrong as Melky was for making his decision, what is actually more troubling is what is in store for Cabrera. While his team will suffer through the regular season without him, Cabrera will still earn millions in the offseason. Sure, he will earn a lot less than he could have, but he still gets to start fresh with a new team next year. Baseball will do what it has always done: wash its hands of the mess and continue reaping in the profits.
This is the moral state of baseball. Unfortunately, it is nothing new.
Major League Baseball took full advantage of the media attention built from the 1998 home run chase, fueled by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and sponsored by Androstenedione (McGwire's drug of choice). Three years later a steroid-using Barry Bonds beat the single season home run record with 73 home runs, generating even more excitement around baseball.
From this point Major League Baseball was not finished taking advantage of the amount of sluggers the steroid era had produced. The highest-profile teams in baseball took on their own loaded sluggers. The Yankees picked up Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and equally roided pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite. The Red Sox won several World Series titles based on the bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, both HGH users.
Even now, following the "steroid era," baseball has not done much to right the wrongs of steroids. David Ortiz still plays for the Red Sox. Both Pettite and Rodriguez still play for the Yankess, Rodriguez most recently signed another 200 million dollar contract after admitting to taking steroids. Even McGwire is still around baseball, currently serving as the hitting instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals, the same team with whom he set the home run record.
Baseball's track record with steroid continues to be laughable. It is true that the testing and the punishments for taking steroids are more rigorous than they have been in the past. Still, we live in an era where someone can deliberately cheat the game of baseball and come back next year and earn millions of dollars, as reigning MVP Ryan Braun of the Brewers is doing and Cabrera stands to do. Furthermore, the downside of taking steroids still appears to be far too little, as steroid users still do not seem to have trouble landing jobs despite taking drugs.
This is all because it is still profitable to employ former steroid users. Their market value following being caught is lowered, creating an opportunity to get a decent player for less and thus win for less. That's how Manny Ramirez landed a job this offseason with the A's and that is how Melky Cabrera will find a job this summer. And this will continue until baseball increases the punishments handed out for steroids and make it difficult to even consider taking steroids.
Baseball must up the level of discipline when players are caught taking steroids in order to truly deter players from taking steroids. If punishments are truly harsh, meaning longer suspensions coupled with large fines, players will not risk taking steroids because it will no longer be in their best interest. If baseball can truly deter players, there will be less and less steroid users to employ and the sport will ultimately cleanse itself of its prior sins.
In the meantime Cabrera will be "suffer" through next year with a multi-million dollar contract and continue to embarrass the sport. That is the true karmic punishment, and it is punishing baseball.