First there was the news of WSBGM's favorite Pat "the Bat" Burrell signing a 2 year $16M deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. As if that wasn't enough of a gut-punch, right on its heels was the announcement that JC Romero will be receiving a 50 game suspension to begin 2009...that's a boot to the testicles and now I think I'm going to be sick.
First off, I'd like to wish Burrell the best of luck in the AL. Hope you enjoy DH duties, because it's doubtful you see the field much from now on. Of course Manuel was readying you for that by instituting the Burrell Rule this season, in which it was mandated that you be lifted for defense post 7th inning. I'll miss Burrell, but I'm not mad that he's no longer a Phillie, I'm just mad that he went for 1 year and $15.5M less than Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is an equally bad fielder and when it all boils down is pretty much equivalent to Burrell offensively. Using OPS as the measuring stick, Burrell has a career .858 OPS with better power and on base skills than Ibanez who has a career .818 OPS with a far better batting average than Burrell and more consistency month to month. It appears Amaro jumped the gun in signing Ibanez who could have likely gone for less years and money in what is clearly a depressed marker, but that's all hindsight now and we just have to deal with it.
Now on to the much bigger issue of Romero's suspension. Apparently if he admitted guilt the punishment would have been reduced to 25 games, but as it stands now he'll be paying a hefty fine of $1.25M and 50 games (1/3 of the season). There's two ways of looking at this- from the standpoint that JC is getting royally screwed and from the viewpoint of JC came too close to the "line" and half-stepped over it and now must pay the price. Reportedly 6-OXO Extreme is the product Romero purchased from GNC.
Romero said that he bought an unnamed supplement from a GNC store in Cherry Hill, N.J., on July 22. He had it checked by his personal nutritionist and there was no warning on the label. The Players Association had told players that the supplement was acceptable. Statement from Romero- "The season is a grind. When you're a middle reliever, you have to be ready to get up and down and pitch every day. Everyone takes something. Some guys drink coffee, others supplements. We try to make sure they're all legal. I certainly did. I still cannot see where I did something wrong. There is nothing that should take away from the rings of my teammates. I didn't cheat. I tried to follow the rules. I'm innocent of what they're accusing me of. I'm not perfect. What's happening now is not fair. I'm not afraid of the truth and the truth is going to be told." Truth be told, 50 games and and a $1.25M fine is ridiculously steep. So steep in fact that it appears that he is head sheep being lead to the slaughterhouse; as he will be the first player on the 25-man roster of the 30 Major League teams to be suspended under the auspices of the Joint Drug and Prevention Policy for testing positive during the 2008 season. If he took the supplement under the false pretense that it was "safe" as told to him by the Players Association then I simply do not understand the reason for such a harsh penalty. It seems unfair that he is getting this treatment and being pegged as the scapegoat for something he did with the understanding that it was completely legal. Free JC t-shirt courtesy of The 700 Level.
At the arbitration hearing it was revealed that in early July, the Center for Drug Free Support had notified MLB of questions about the supplement Romero had purchased. Romero said that somehow, MLB and the union never quite connected on that information at the time. The bottle of the supplement MLB presented at the hearing contained the warning: "Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations." Meanwhile, the bottle containing the same substance that Romero had purchased and brought to the hearing didn't offer a printed warning. On Nov. 21, the union sent a letter to the players stating, "We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true. We have recently learned of three substances which can be bought over the counter at stores in the United States that will cause you to test positive. These three supplements were purchased at a GNC and Vitamin Shoppe in the U.S." Romero tested positive twice for use of the supplement: on Aug. 26 before a Phillies-Mets game in Philadelphia and on Sept. 19 before a game in Miami. On Sept. 23, Players Association counsel Bob Lenaghan informed Romero he had failed the initial test. "I immediately stopped taking all supplements, although I had no idea it was the cause of the positive test," Romero said. So it seems Romero doesn't deny taking something, but "something" can always end up coming back to bite you in the ass, and this time it did. He thought he was within the rules, but he was flirting with disaster and now MLB is making an example out of him for nudging over that invisible line.
*Quotes and other information pulled from Romero to be Suspended 50 Games article on Phillies.com.
Here's a statement from MLB Players Association general counsel Michael Weiner on the 50-game suspensions for J.C. Romero:
"We strongly disagree with the commissioner's discipline and with the arbitrator's decision. Romero legally purchased nutritional supplements from national chain stores in the United States. Nothing on the labels of those supplements indicated that they contained a trace amount of a substance prohibited under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Romero did not intentionally ingest this prohibited substance, but the arbitrator nevertheless found, wrongly in our view, that his conduct violated the Program's "no fault or negligence" standard. The union respects the arbitration process and treats the decision as final. In our view, though, the resulting discipline imposed upon Romero is unfair. Romero should not be suspended. His unknowing actions plainly are distinguishable from those of a person who intentionally used an illegal performance-enhancing substance. The association and the commissioner's Office must now act to prevent future similar occurrences within baseball. The association remains committed to a strong Joint Drug Program, but will continue to advocate forcefully for fair treatment of our members."
In my honest opinion, I believe Romero was totally screwed over and should file a lawsuit.
What will Amaro do to fill the lefty's void? Go with one lefty in the 'pen until Romero's return (Eyre being that lefty). Convert Happ to a reliever. Hope that Mike Zagurski is healthy. Trade Chris Coste or Matt Stairs for a lefty reliever. Sign one of the remaining free agents- Joe Beimel, Ron Villone, Dennys Reyes, Will Ohman, Randy Flores, or Eddie Guardado. Too bad Aaron Fultz recently signed with the Reds (although I heard he too has a suspension looming for his excessive rosin bag usage).
Major questions heading into the season- can Moyer repeat success at elderly age, Utley and Feliz's health, Ibanez's ability to stabilize the order, Myers' head, and now the Romero suspension. Looks like the Phils and Amaro have some answering to do.