Two years ago this past month, on July 22, 2013, Ryan Braun was the first of the professional baseball players to be suspended in connection with the Biogenesis investigation. In the following month, thirteen other players, six other Major Leaguers and seven Minor Leaguers, would be suspended as a result of the investigation.
The players were all accused of using Performance Enhancing Drugs they had allegedly gotten from a firm called Biogenesis, a health clinic in Coral Gables, Florida. The biggest names among the Big Leaguers suspended were Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Braun the left fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, which is 60 pages long, in Section 2. B. lists 74 substances which constitutes its ‘ non-exhaustive list of substances that shall be considered performance enhancing substances covered by the program ‘ and goes on, in Section 2. C. to name 56 other substances it classifies as stimulants banned by the program.
Many players have been disciplined for violating the MLB Drug Policy and, even after the Biogenesis scandal and the increased emphasis on prevention by MLB, many continue to risk punishment by using banned substances. Other star players, notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, had been suspected of using PED’s but the allegations against them were never proven.
Performance Enhancing Drugs are banned because they are believed to, as their name implies, enhance a player’s performance. With that in mind, two years after the suspensions, I decided to review the current and past records of the players suspended in the Biogenesis scandal. Assuming that Major League Baseball is doing its PED policing job and these players are PED free now, I compared their latest full season statistics before their suspension with their current season statistics.
In doing so, I made two assumptions. Number one was that, since the players were found to be using PED’s before their suspensions in 2013, they were probably using them in their last full year of play prior to the suspension. Number two was that, since they had been caught and punished and would be watched closely from then on, they were not using PED’s the first year after their suspensions.
The biggest name, of course, was Alex Rodriguez, who, before his suspension, had played 21 years, hit 654 home runs, driven in 1,969 runs, had 2,939 hits and had a lifetime .299 batting average. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season after playing only 44 games in 2013.
In his last full year before his suspension, 2012, he hit .272 with 18 homers and 57 RBI’s. He spent the 2014 season out of baseball and returned as the Yankees designated hitter to start the 2015 season at age 39.
As of today, in his first full year back after his suspension, he has a higher batting average, .281, and has more homers, 24, and more RBI’s, 63, than he did in all of 2012.
Nelson Cruz, an outfielder with the Texas Rangers, was suspended in August of 2013 for 50 games. In 2012, the year before his suspension, he batted .260 and had 24 home runs and 90 RBI’s. In 2014, the year after his suspension, as a member of the Seattle Mariners, he hit .271, led the Major Leagues with 40 homers and had 108 RBI’s. This year, to date, he is averaging .324 and already has 31 homers and 67 RBI’s.
Jhonny Peralta, a shortstop with the Detroit Tigers, was suspended for 50 games in August of 2013. In 2012, the year before his suspension, he batted
.239 and had 13 homers and 63 RBI’s.
In 2014, the first year after his suspension, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit .263 with 21 homers and 75 RBI’s. As of today, he is hitting .286 and already has more homers, 16, than he had the year before his suspension and already has 55 RBI’s.
Ryan Braun, left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, the first player suspended in the Biogenesis scandal, was suspended for 65 games. In the year before his suspension, he hit .319 with 41 homers and 112 RBI’s.
In the year following his suspension, he hit just .266 with 19 homers and 81 RBI’s. Through today, he is hitting just .273 but already has 19 homers and 63 RBI’s.
Antonio Bastardo, a left handed relief pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, was suspended for 50 games in 2013. In 2012, he won two games and lost five and had an ERA of 4.33. In 2014, he was 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA. This year, through today, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has won three and lost one and has a 3.73 ERA.
Francisco Cervelli, a catcher with the New York Yankees, was suspended for 50 games in 2013. In the two years before his suspension, he only played in a total of 46 games because of injury, and had played only 95 games in his most active prior year 2010. That year, he hit .271 with no homers and 38 RBI’s. In 2014, he only played in 49 games. In 2015, his first full year back after his suspension, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has played in 83 games, and is batting .284 with five homers and 33 RBI’s.
The seventh Major Leaguer to be suspended, Everth Cabrera, a shortstop with the San Diego Padres, was suspended for 50 games in 2013. He hit .246 in 115 games in 2012 and .232 in only 90 games in 2014 and was released as a member of the Orioles in June of this year and is no longer in the Major Leagues.
There have been, to my knowledge, no studies which prove that the use of PED’s can be shown to improve on field performance. Most definitions of PED I can find indicate that they are ‘thought to’ or ‘might’ enhance performance.
I agree that any player’s use of PED’s or other substances banned by Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program constitutes cheating and should be punished severely. The question, however, remains, does the use of PED’s or other substances actually improve any individual player’s performance on the field?
It would appear that, at least in the case of the players discussed here, with the exception of Braun, the answer to that question may be no.