Tom Verducci: ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised If MLB PED Penalties Are Increased By Sunday Opener’

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(Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball and the players association have reopened the collective bargaining agreement and are currently negotiating stiffer penalties for violations of its drug program.

The updated policy is reportedly less than a week away from being unveiled.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened before the Sunday night opener in San Diego,” MLB on Fox and MLB Network analyst Tom Verducci said on The John Feinstein Show. “I’m expecting the first offense to be moved from 50 games to 80 games, and the second offense will be 162 games, which is good. It definitely puts more teeth into the penalty.”

More teeth, yes. But not necessarily a full-fledged bite.

“It’s just the way baseball operates – and I’ll throw replay and home-plate collisions in this now because it’s topical,” said Verducci, who also writes for Sports Illustrated. “Everything they do, they do incrementally. It’s not like (with) drug testing they’re reinventing the wheel here or starting from scratch. We know how it works, and we know that 50 games – when players do the risk/reward ratio – is not enough of a deterrent. I don’t know that moving it up 30 games is going to stop those guys who want to cheat. I really don’t.

“And now you obviously have something of an out where now you can say, ‘I took it accidentally.’ I’m not saying it doesn’t happen (where that is actually the case), but it’s going to happen a lot more if the penalties are less for so-called accidental tests than they are for (legitimately) positive (ones).

“So listen, I applaud the players for reopening, but the first offense, for me, should still be one year. Gone. If you’re really serious about getting PEDs out of the game – I mean, really serious – there’s no excuse for taking it, and by having only 80 games, it’s still excusing that choice.”

Feinstein agrees wholeheartedly.

Still, it’s a good sign that Tony Clark – executive director of the players association – is keeping the lines of communication open, just as his predecessor, the late Michael Weiner, did.

“Yes, Tony, like Michael, will really be listening to the rank and file,” Verducci said. “It’s a ground-up organization now. That’s why we’re having not just drug testing, but extended penalties, amphetamines getting pushed out of the game years ago – these are the players saying, ‘Listen, we want an even playing field. We want a clean game.’

“The union leadership is listening to these people,” Verducci continued. “It’s not a top-down organization; it’s a bottom-up organization, and I think that pattern will continue of listening to the players.”

What about contracts of players who use PEDs? Might the franchise have recourse to void or lessen the contract if it so chooses?

“It’s a great question,” Verducci said. “I’m sure it’s something owners have kicked around, but I can tell you among players (that) there is zero traction. We may get a salary cap before we get a voidable contract based on PEDs. I just don’t see that happening. I don’t think it’s even a point of negotiation.”

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