Union chief Michael Weiner has been making the rounds in Florida, and yesterday he said two things of note. First: stronger penalties may very well be in the offing:
There are certainly some players who have expressed [a desire for stronger penalties] … We’ve had discussions with the commissioner’s office. If it turns out that we have a different penalty structure because that’s what players are interested in, that’s what the owners are interested in, it will be for 2014 … more and more players are vocal about being willing to accept sacrifices in terms of testing in order to make sure we have a clean game.”
Second, even if that’s what the players want and what ultimately happens, he’s not certain that tougher penalties are the way to go. After noting that baseball’s first time penalty — 50 games — is proportionately harsher than that of the other sports, he opines that better policing, rather than sentencing, is the true deterrent to cheating:
“We have a very strong penalty. There is a reasonable debate you could have in this context and the criminal justice context as to whether increasing the likelihood of detection is the way to deter or increasing the penalty. There is a lot of serious study that says it doesn’t matter what the penalty is, it depends upon if you think you’re going to get caught.”
Weiner is not an ideologue, so if the players want tougher penalties, tougher penalties are going to happen.
I agree, however, with the idea that better policing is more effective than stronger punishment in deterring bad acts. We’ll see how the policing stuff works this year when increased testing — including the institution of a blood test for HGH and the cataloging of testosterone baselines for players — is implemented.
My guess, though: the necessarily greater number of suspensions from the enhanced testing will cause people to think that the drug problem is getting worse (as opposed to thinking that more existing cheaters are being caught), which will lead to more grandstanding and hand-wringing which will in turn lead to tougher penalties.