Ballplayers, Read Yourself Your Rights!There was a minor, even though one participant wished it became major, brouhaha the past week when Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe asked David Ortiz of the Red Sox if the latter's pizza-oven temperature start to the 2013 season had anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs. There needn't have been, and strange as it might seem, Ortiz is the one who could've kiboshed it but didn't.
As Shaughnessy hoped, Ortiz took umbrage, giving Dan a column out of it. Ortiz didn't take TOO much umbrage, but take it from one former columnist, it doesn't take more than the most cursory responses from the target of a "have you starting beating your wife again" piece like that to give the writer all the material needed for what he wanted to write in the first place.
Ortiz blew it. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association have given him and any other player whom the outside world wishes to suspect of PED use with a short, all-purpose answer that's a surefire dialogue killer.
"I am a participant in the MLB drug testing program. I have not been given any penalties under that program, which is why I'm still here playing ball. Ask MLB, not me. I don't have to discuss it."
There you are, Mr. Slugger, or Mr. .500 OPS turned Player of the Month. What is the sensation-seeking columnist or talk show host to make of that answer? They can write a column or go on a rant saying you're ducking the question, but you answered it. They can go on a rant about the inadequacy of MLB's testing and sanctions, but then they're talking about the organization, not you. And best of all, they are explicitly rejecting the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" that most Americans tend to think is one of our ideals (an oft-violated ideal by all of us, but an ideal nonetheless).
The presumption of innocence is the real benefit to baseball of its drug-testing program. Its stated goal, eliminating PED use, is actually a side effect. PED use has probably been reduced, but it'll never be eliminated. Cheaters gonna cheat, and with large sums of money at stake, there will be cheaters.
BUT, baseball has a system, and all the players live under the system. And until the system catches them, it's going to take one hell of a lot more evidence than an April batting streak to make allegations of drug use seem like anything more than throwing shit against the wall to earn a day's pay without a day's work.
Relax, players. Enjoy the true freedom the rule of law provides. Stand on your rights. This goes for you, too fans. If your favorite team's best player gets hit with PED rumors, ignore them. He'll get caught or he won't. It's out of your hands, and rumormongerers should be treated as the soreheads they almost always are.
Here's a revolutionary idea. It's May. It's getting nice out everywhere. Why don't we all go out to the ballgame and enjoy ourselves. That's our right, too, and rights unexercised are rights lost.