May 2, 2005

Juan Rincon's Suspension

I suspect everyone else was as completely shocked to hear this as I was yesterday afternoon, but Juan Rincon has been suspended by Major League Baseball for using what is assumed to be banned, performance-enhancing drugs. I say "assumed to be" because, according to the Associated Press, "Under baseball's drug rules, the sport doesn't announce the specific substance a player tested positive for."

I talked to and heard from a number of Twins fans about Rincon's situation yesterday and was surprised by how many of them are talking about things like booing Rincon every time he pitches, boycotting the Twins, and even wanting Rincon released from the team. I have to say that, try as I might to understand this point of view, I can't conjure up even a fraction of that sort of disgust over the situation.

As has long been my policy here, I don't talk about the ongoing steroid story in baseball. In fact, I wrote about steroids in a meaningful way just once since this blog debuted in August of 2002. In short, I don't care. I know from the last time that a lot of people get upset when someone says that, but it's how I feel and it's tough for me to change that. It is far more upsetting to me that the Twins will be without Rincon in their bullpen than it is that Rincon allegedly took performance-enhancing drugs. (My journalism teachers would be so proud to know that I used "allegedly" there.)

I am fine with a player being suspended for breaking the rules, because I am one of those guys who strongly believes that rules should be enforced strictly in almost every instance. So in that sense, I am upset at Rincon for knowing the rules and breaking them (although certainly it's possible that he thought he was taking something that was allowed by the rules; I suspect we may hear more about that angle in the coming days).

At the same time, I am not going to demonize Rincon or talk about how the Twins need to release him from the team in order to set an example. I am not going to get all high and mighty about how something like this shouldn't happen to "a team like the Twins." All I am willing to say is that Rincon took a substance meant to improve his ability to play baseball in some way, it was against the newly established rules of baseball, and he now must face the consequences.

Dozens of athletes do what I consider to be worse things every year, and millions of people in this country take "performance-enhancing" drugs every day. If there was some pill I could take that would make me a better writer while potentially taking five years off the end of my life, I would take it twice a day, just in case the first dose didn't work. Half the people reading this paragraph right now are probably "on" something, whether for job performance, sexual performance, or performance in life.

That doesn't make them bad people or disgusting human beings, of course, and it doesn't make Rincon that either. In his case, he unfortunately has a job that now bans and tests for whatever substance he was on. So that's that. He'll serve his suspension the same as he would if he'd have gotten it for starting a bench-clearing brawl with a beanball (or perhaps corking his bat, if he were a hitter), and in a couple weeks he'll be back setting up Joe Nathan.

Oh, and before I drop this subject (and trust me, it will be dropped after today), I want to comment on the mainstream media coverage of Rincon's situation. No, I am not going to criticize the media for how they are portraying him or his "crime." Instead, I want to comment on the actual wording of the stories.

Here's how the Associated Press (via worded it:

Rincon was hit Monday with a 10-game suspension after testing positive for an undisclosed substance.

Now, here's how the Minneapolis Star Tribune worded it:

Twins reliever Juan Rincon has become the highest-profile player yet to receive the mandatory 10-day suspension for first-time offenders of Major League Baseball's new steroid testing policy.

One story says it's a "10-day suspension," while the other says it's a "10-game suspension." I saw the same inconsistencies from other news outlets yesterday as well. For instance, and FOX Sports had it as 10 games, while Yahoo! News and the St. Paul Pioneer Press had it as 10 days. This may seem like me picking nits, but there is a difference and the fact that the story is being reported both ways is strange.

The Star Tribune reports that Rincon has a "10-game suspension" that "began Monday." Similarly, the Pioneer Press reports that Rincon "will be suspended for 10 calendar days starting [Monday] through May 11." If those reports are correct, Rincon would be eligible to return next Thursday, May 12, which would mean he'll miss nine games. But if the other wording is correct, he would miss 10 games and wouldn't be eligible to return until Saturday, May 14.

So which is it? Well, Ron Gardenhire seems to think the local papers have it correct, saying, "You feel bad for him, but you have to do the best you can until May 12 when he comes back." Of course, Gardenhire is the same guy who keeps giving Luis Rivas at-bats, so you never know.

UPDATE: David Ortiz speaks out with some interesting thoughts on Rincon's suspension.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Whither the Closer? Part One (by Steve Treder)
- Face Forward, Please (by Studes)

Today's Picks (26-17, +$1,055):
Boston (Halama) +115 over Detroit (Maroth)

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