PHOENIX — On Friday, Major League Baseball and its players union announced changes in its joint drug prevention program, which now features harsher penalties for offenders and more frequent and advanced testing to catch them.
The revisions, which are thought to be the most substantial in the last eight years, were met with praise from the public, the media and many within the game alike — including Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.
“I was one of the first guys to speak out on stricter penalties and I think it’s encouraging to see that the commissioner’s office and the player’s association are working together on this,” he said before his team’s exhibition game versus the Chicago Cubs on Friday at Chase Field.
“I think we all know the purpose of this.”
Arizona relief pitcher Brad Ziegler, meanwhile, who maintains an active involvement with the union as a volunteer representative of the Diamondbacks to the players union’s executive sub-committee, was most excited about the increased testing expected in 2014. That, he said, would have the bigger effect on prevention.
“There are 32 states that have the death penalty for murder, and murders happen in those states every single day. It’s not going to stop people from committing the crime, even if you have a death penalty,” he said. “You’ve got to put things in place better to get them caught. That’s the thing. People do it when they think they can get away with it.”
Specifically, the penalties were raised from 50 games to 81 games for a first-time offense and from 100 to 162 games for a second-time offense while the lifetime ban for a third offense remains intact. Offenders will now also be banned from postseason and All-Star Game play in the year of their suspension.
The harsher suspensions were celebrated across baseball, but Ziegler was thorough in his point: Catching cheaters is more important at this stage of baseball’s performance-enhancing drug problem.
“There’s no question for us — the bigger deal is the increased testing, the quality of the testing, the randomness of it,” he said.
“Hopefully, the number of tests will scare enough guys off that it won’t be a problem and won’t be as big of a deal down the road.”
Indeed, the objective with the changes, according to Ziegler, was to purge baseball of cheating and hide the black eye that steroids have left over the past 15 years. And Friday’s action was a step in that direction.
“As a union, we’re excited,” he said. “The goal is a clean game and I think, you know, as many of those things that we got done, a lot of them were player-driven and I think that shows how much the players wanted the game clean.”