Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Edinson Volquez…lest we forget

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 17, 2010

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez, with his original right arm (left). (photo from

Hey, Remember Him?

On April 21st, Cincinnati righty Edinson Volquez (aka Edison Volquez; aka Julio Reyes)  began serving his suspension of 50 games for violating MLB’s ban on performance enhancing drugs.  Today is officially Day 27 of his suspension.  I, for one, hope that he is feeling guilty about cheating the game, the Reds, and the fine people of Cincinnati, Ohio.  I hope he takes the proper level of responsibility for the trouble that he’s caused his team.  And I damn sure hope that, for the next 23 days of his life, he has a hard time looking at himself in the mirror.

And in 7 days, sixteen days before the end of his 50-game suspension from MLB, when he is allowed to return to the minor league affiliates of the Reds to continue his post-surgery rehabilitation that would have had him on track to make his return to the majors at the end of July, I hope that he understands that what he did was wrong.A lot of news cycles have come and gone since Volquez explained that he was using the drug for legitimate fertility purposes, and that he was very embarrassed about the whole thing.  Volquez fell off the radar.  Meanwhile, the Reds starting staff of Leake, Arroyo, Cueto, Bailey and Harang are keeping it together while the defense scoops up everything in sight.  Cincinnati just passed St. Louis in the Central, making it seem as though everything is right with the Reds.  The fact that everything is going rather well for the Reds, however, is evidence that something is significantly wrong with MLB’s policy on drug use.

In most cases of PED suspensions, the player is suspended from the team without pay, leaving the team physically lacking his presence for 50 games (or 25 for unauthorized amphetamine use).  But the case of Volquez does absolutely nothing to penalize the team.  Twenty-seven days into this suspension, the team is in first place.  There’s nothing wrong with the Reds succeeding.  But there is something wrong with there being, in this specific case, an MLB penalty imposed immediately on a player with absolutely no chance of being on an MLB roster by the end of the suspension.

MLB and the MLBPA need to find common ground to insert a clause for this specific type of situation.  It would make logical sense for a (predisposed to cheating) injured or rehabbing player to use a PED as an aide in his recovery.  This is doubly the case if he knows that he can take a suspension while rehabbing.  He won’t hurt the team.  He won’t get paid, but his improved health will increase future potential for earning.

MLB doesn’t want to get into medical diagnoses, but is not defining an anabolic steroid a performance-enhancing substance itself diagnostic to some extent?

If MLB is going to suspend players who aren’t playing, then they shouldn’t be allowed to withhold the player’s pay.  If a player is injured and rehabbing, a positive drug test should result in a suspension and forfeiture of pay, effective when the player is healthy.  The Joint Drug Agreement (JDA, the document establishing the guidelines for the policy) needs to provide for an independent medical office that can consult with team doctors and the doctors of a player in question.  A determination can be made on when he is healthy enough to return.

There also needs to be a change that eliminates what I call the “grace period,” the period at the end of a Major League Baseball player’s suspension during which he is allowed to play for his team’s MiLB affiliates.  First, this defeats the purpose of a stringent suspension.  If a player needs to get back into game shape post-suspension, let the club temporarily assign him to a MiLB affiliate then.  But to do so before the end of the suspension provides an unnecessary nicety.

Another issue not covered in the JDA is testing before removal from the restricted list.  The document states on page 18 of the publicly available pdf document that “a Player suspended under this Section 8 shall be reinstated from the Restricted List immediately at the conclusion of the specified period of ineligibility.”  Never does it specifically say that he has to pass a drug test before his activation.  Nor does it state that he has to have been clean for any specific period of time.

A modest proposal, rather than a wordy conclusion: amend the JDA to require a suspended player to sit until he has been clean for 50 games’ duration.  Keep the financial penalty at the forfeiture of fifty games.  But if a player tests positive, don’t allow him to be activated until he has shown a significant period of testing clean.


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