Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello yesterday let his feelings be known about the MLB drug testing program this weekend in New York. To summarize, he flatly does not believe Major League Baseball has done enough to eradicate drugs from the game.
Although MLB has seemingly improved exponentially from its steroid era which occurred in the not-too-recent past, suspensions are still regularly handed out, Dee Gordon’s 80-game ban being one of the more recent and notable examples. However, Porcello was poignant in discussing disgraced ex-Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia’s lifetime ban — after three positive tests — as being one that should be given to players after their first positive test. The 27-year-old starter also does not believe players should be able to play while appealing these results.
Porcello’s former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander expressed a similar sentiment earlier this season. Some of Porcello’s direct comments were
“I’m all in favor for (stiffer penalties),” the Red Sox pitcher told media, including Christian Red of the New York Daily News. “Obviously, what’s going on right now is not preventing guys from doing it. This year, there’s a guy (Mejia) that literally tested positive three times. That’s obviously not effective. I’m all in favor for a much, much more severe punishment or a lifetime ban. At the end of the day, it’s looking like that’s the only thing that’s going to keep guys from doing it.”
The Major League Baseball labor agreement expires after the 2016 season, so a new policy needs to be in place soon. Currently, the penalties are more severe than in the NFL in terms of percentage of the regular season missed. Players receive an 80-game ban for their first positive test, with a second booking costing a full season. Lifetime bans occur on the third instance. Appeals also factor into this process.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated that proposals will be brought forward to the negotiating table with MLB and the Players Association will be “designed to improve or strengthen what we regards as the best performance-enhancing drug policy in professional sports.”
Manfred continues, “We’re in a bargaining year. I think it’s important that players (Porcello and Verlander) make sure their certified bargaining representative in the Major League baseball Players Association is aware of their opinions.” Manfred then reiterated, “In terms of the program, we constantly improve that program. One of the areas that you can approve is the science gets better. It is true windows of detection- the period of time in which you can detect a substance in somebody’s body- have been improved. It’s just science getting better.”
Currently analysis shows that the positive rate of tests is less than one half of one percent. While Porcello fully understands due process, he firmly believes that a player who tests positive for banned substance should be able to impact a game, or more importantly a pennant race.
Rick Porcello has arguably been the most consistent starter for the Red Sox, next to knuckleballer Steven Wright. Boston is currently in a battle with both the Orioles and Blue Jays for the American League East title and attempting to hold off several challengers in the wild card chase. It’s great that Porcello feels so strongly about something and has the courage to let everyone know, but let’s hope he can remained focused on the real task at hand.