In Case Of Colon And Cabrera, Cheaters Prospered

In an eight-day period in August, baseball was hit by two key players on postseason contenders being suspended for 50 games for violating the game's drug agreement.

First it was Melky Cabrera of the Giants. Then it was Bartolo Colon of the Athletics. Talk about a wake-up call for baseball and its battle against performance-enhancing drugs. Both tested positive for testosterone.

It is the ultimate betrayal of the game and its fans.

It was one thing for the sudden power surges of the 1990s, blamed on steroids, to have left the historical significance of records sullied. It is quite another to suddenly have pennant races impacted.

Stats can be put into a proper perspective by comparisons of eras of the games. But pennant races? The damage can't be undone.

Those two were factors for roughly 75 percent of the season, not only with their accomplishments but with the impact of their presence on the rosters of the Giants and the A's. They helped their teams win and caused their opponents to lose.

It is time for baseball to stiffen the penalties for violations. Teams need to be responsible for the actions of their players. And players need to be responsible for the gains they made thanks to the illegal substances.

A 50-game suspension? That's not much. Not compared to what the players have cost the fans. They betrayed the trust of the consumer. There is not a bigger sin for any business.

Worth The Gamble

This is a case where cheaters did prosper. What did Colon lose? He forfeited $469,945 of remaining salary. This season, however, he had already earned $1,530,055 in salary plus $900,000 in incentives. And the suspicion is that he wouldn't have earned anything had he not tried to sneak past baseball's drug testing.

Remember, this is a guy whose aching elbow and shoulder limited to seven games in 2008 and 12 in 2009, who didn't take the mound once in 2010 while having surgery in his native Dominican Republic during which stem cells were injected into his right shoulder and elbow.

Colon returned a year ago to pitch for the Yankees, showing enough durability that the A's signed him as a free agent, despite the fact he turned 39 in August.

The A's? They already earned the benefit of having him in the rotation for 24 starts without missing a turn, compiling a team-best 10-9, 3.43 record. The A's were 14-10 in games he started.

What did Cabrera lose? Roughly $1.5 million. But he was paid $4.5 million for the part of this season he played, which is roughly the total of his earnings the two previous seasons.

This is the same guy who in five seasons with the Yankees hit a combined .269, but a year ago exploded onto the scene with the Royals, hitting .305 with 18 home runs and 87 RBIs. This year he was hitting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs, and an All-Star Game MVP to his credit. He was a serious contender for NL MVP and could still win the batting title.

The Giants? They already earned the benefit of having him hit cleanup, providing some life to a dreary offense, and giving them the confidence to spend the summer battling with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

Both teams gambled, having to know deep down that something was probably askew given the recent success of the players. But they were able to whistle in the dark because they did not have any evidence to support suspicions. So they willingly ignored the warning signs.

Penalties Must Increase

The fans?

They have been slapped in the face. They have been misled. They have been cheated.

So even more has to be done to discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs. An increase in the severity of the suspensions, to say 100 games or even a full season for a first-time offender, might be beneficial, but even that misses the point.

Using performance-enhancing drugs provides earning opportunities for the athletes. Colon was physically at the end of his career. Cabrera was a role player.

They both hit the jackpot this season for their gamble with PEDs. While the payoff could have been greater if they hadn't been caught, they clearly benefited financially before that.

To make their gambles sting, the loss should be greater than taking away what they might have earned. Too bad there isn't a way to make them pay back what they illicitly earned.

Why allow them to financially benefit for their wrongdoing?

They can't give the fans back the faith and trust they have stolen with their misdeeds.

They have misshaped baseball's pennant races. They can't undo that wrong.

And that, more than creation of statistical aberrations, is the most damaging thing that can be done to the game and its fans.