The 2012 season started with much hope for the Toronto Blue Jays. That hope has faded amid a blur of injuries, poor play and now Marcus Stroman.
He is a right-handed pitcher from Duke University, and was Toronto’s first-round draft pick (22nd overall) in the 2012 MLB draft. The fireballing 21-year-old notched a victory, compiled a 3.18 ERA and and struck out 15 batters in 11 innings during seven appearances for the short-season single-A Vancouver Canadians earlier this year. Later he was promoted to the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where he picked up two more wins and struck out eight more batters in eight appearances.
Instead of a being highly regarded prospect, though, Stroman now has a red mark by his name. He has been suspended 50 games for ingesting a stimulant called methylhexaneamine which was contained in an over-the-counter supplement. He claims it was inadvertent, and apologized in a statement issued by the club.
That mea culpa wasn’t enough for Dirk Hayhurst, a former major-league pitcher and author who is now an analyst for Rogers Sportsnet. On the TV program Baseball Central at Noon, Hayhurst sharply criticized Stroman, calling it a “bone-head mistake” and adding: “I’m so disappointed in this, disappointed in the tired excuse. It’s like reading a cue card. You know better than to do this.”
Hayhurst is correct. Stroman is paying a hefty price for swallowing the wrong thing. The testing policy is not something new, so it’s not sneaking up on players trying to entrap them. Because of the steroid scandals of the 1990s, this is now a regularly accepted part of playing baseball since January of 2004. Yet just in the last month, two high-profile players — San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon — received the same 50-game bans for putting things into their bodies that they shouldn’t have.
Why does the list keep growing? In some cases it’s stupidity, arrogance in others. Recklessness plays a role, too. Almost from the time it first became a sport played by professionals, players have sought an edge. Some probably don’t care if they get caught, while others likely think they can get away with it. The National League MVP in 2011, Ryan Braun, was able to successfully escape the consequences when he got caught by using technicalities in the process to “clear” his name.
There is also the diet factor. Athletes, especially those at a professional level, use all kinds of potions, lotions and notions on, and in, themselves. That doesn’t give them a free hand to put anything into their bodies, nor should it. Let’s hope Marcus Stroman understands that now.