Reality Check

Sure a lot about drug abuse in today’s baseball news.  2008 No. 1 overall draft pick Tim Beckham was suspended for 50 games for testing positive a second time for marijuana use.

Oil Can Boyd said in a interview that he smoked crack in the clubhouse bathroom before a start in Oakland in 1986.  He put the crack under the bill in his cap and spilled it all over the field when his hat flew off during a pitch.

Meanwhile, the Twins designated Sean Burroughs for assignment.  I hadn’t heard his name for a while, but remembered he had been a hot prospect some years ago.  Turns out he was out of baseball entirely from 2008 through 2010 battling big-time substance abuse in Las Vegas.

Testing positive for marijuana doesn’t sound like a crime that deserves a 50-game suspension, but Beckham is still in the minors, so Organized Baseball could come down harder on him than it can on players at the major league level (under the joint drug agreement between the players’ association and MLB, major league players cannot be tested for “drugs of abuse,” including marijuana, unless there is “reasonable cause” to believe a player is using drugs – so long as they don’t come to the ballpark stoned or leave a pipe in their locker, there probably isn’t “reasonable cause” be believe they’re smoking pot).

Beckham has been something of a disappointment so far in his professional career, but he’s still only 22 this year and hit fairly well for a shortstop in 2011, playing 107 games at the AA level and 24 games at AAA (.271 batting average, .736 OPS).  At any rate, a 50 games suspension won’t do anything to aid his development into a major league player.

The lesson for you younger players is stay off drugs, at least until you’re a major leaguer like Tim Lincecum (a cheap shot at Tim, but it was just too easy).

Can’t say I’m surprised by Oil Can Boyd’s revelations, except to the extent that he says the Red Sox knew what he was up to but turned a blind eye because he was still pitching well (he went 16-10 in 1986 and the Red Sox went to the World Series).  It doesn’t entirely surprise me, except that I remember the Pittsburgh drug trials which happened in the Fall of 1985.

The drug trials, at which numerous players spilled their guts in exchange for immunity, gave MLB a huge black-eye.  Seven players were suspended by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth for a full season and four more players were suspended for 60 games.

Only not really — the seven suspended for a year were allowed to play if they donated 10% of their base salaries and 100 hours of their time to drug related community service and submit to random drug testing.  The guys suspended for 60 games were allowed to play if they donated 5% of their base salaries and 50 hours to drug related community service.  In that light, maybe it wasn’t so surprising that the Red Sox just looked the other way while Oil Can lit up in the clubhouse and lost 40 pounds over the course of the season.

Finally, the Sean Burroughs story is either a great story of redemption, as he got off drugs and worked his way back to the majors.  Or, a story of a young man wasting an enormous opportunity for wealth, fame and success.  Probably both.

Explore posts in the same categories: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburg Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays

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