Rays prospect Tim Beckham was suspended for 50 games yesterday for a second positive test for a “drug of abuse,” which is baseball’s parlance for a non-PED recreational drug of some kind. Marc Topkin hears it was marijuana. If so, this suspension — and more generally, the logic behind it — is really dumb.
Look, I’m not the guy handing out pamphlets at Hemp Fest or leading any legalization rallies because that’s really not my style, but the fact that we’re suspending guys for 50 games for weed is kind of silly. Partially because marijuana is demonstrably less dangerous than alcohol and — to beat this drum again — baseball doesn’t give a rip about alcohol.
But it’s also dumb because it demonstrates a pretty big double standard in how baseball treats minor leaguers and major leaguers. As Kevin Goldstein noted yesterday, it’s a shame that Beckham wasn’t on the Rays 40 man roster because guys on the 40 man — unlike common farm hands — are not subject to random testing for pot.
Now, personally, if I ran a baseball organization, I wouldn’t want my players smoking weed because, man, I’ve known a lot of pot smokers and they’re kind of lazy. This is high level athletics, son, so for god’s sake take care of yourself. Quit eating all of that Taco Bell, turn off that horrible jam band music and focus on the task at hand. But I don’t think that anyone smoking pot is an offense equivalent to that of cocaine use or, in the context of competitive sports, PED use.
Beyond my personal preferences, however, this does lead to a serious question about how marijuana fits into baseball’s drug anti-drug regime: specifically, does baseball consider marijuana use to be a serious transgression? If so, why aren’t big leaguers tested for it? If not, why are minor leaguers tested for it?
There are many absurdities when it comes to baseball and drugs. Maybe we need to start talking about them more.
The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.
In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.
On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.
Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.