Red Sox: Another farm system drug suspension


The Boston Red Sox had another minor league player suspended for violating drug policy. He will not be the last and the Red Sox are certainly not alone.

The Red Sox farm system has has another new entry that coincides with the hoopla surrounding the promotion of uber-sensation Yoan Moncada. This entry is, however, joining an ever expanding list of players who cut corners in a desire to advance up the organizational ladder.

Batting leadoff for the latest hall of infamy is Chad Hardy a 33rd round selection this June. Hardy grabs a 60-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen. The slash line was simply not impressive for Hardy checking in at an abysmal .163/.191/.233 for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.

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Hardy is joined by two others who are no longer with their organizations and are free agents. Both are right-handed pitchers whose upsides were rather limited. The first, Adolfi Telleria, had spent four years with the Cincinnati Reds organization all in the Dominican Summer League before being released on August 18th. The next pitcher has a name that brings back memories – Julio Lugo. Lugo – just 19-years-old – was released by the Dodgers prior to his suspension being announced.

This is nothing new for the Red Sox or other teams.

Two player’s surface and the first is Miguel Pena – a left-handed pitcher, who managed to nab a 100 game suspension in 2014. What stands out for Pena is the fact that this was his third violation and that certainly points to a level of personal idiocy that is proof of the Darwin principle applied to humans. Pena is now playing in the Mexican League.

The second is one that was alarming when it happened and will certainly have some questioning impact as Michael Kopech blazes through the farm system. The 20-year-old highly touted prospect bagged a 50 game suspension in 2015 and quite naturally said all the right and wrong things. First the apology followed by the Sargent Shultz defense of his actions.

Baseball has a long and questionable history of players and even the manager’s attempting to circumvent the rules. A favorite of mine was Maury Wills – a truly incompetent manager – extending the batter’s box an extra foot at home games. End result: A fine and a two-game suspension.

The second is “Batgate” that happened in 1994 when Indians slugger Albert Belle was caught using a corked bat. The process is simple as you hollow out part of the bat and fill it with cork with the end result being (hopefully) the ability to generate some real power dynamics. Albert – you will forever be Joey to me.

The questionable hardware was confiscated by the umpires and put under house arrest in the umpire’s locker room. Later pitcher Jason Grimsley – a later PED user – attempted to slide through a window to retrieve the bat – Grimsley certainly was one whose future was not B & E and Albert received seven games on the do not play list.

Those are just some indiscretions as the others are well documented from sign stealing to watering down the area around home plate and even letting the grass grow, but the PED’s have created a whole new level and that needs no anecdotal references.

"“I would venture to say that across the game the drug policy is something that’s talked about routinely,” Farrell said. “So to have to give reminders, that’s part of ongoing education. And if you could see how often our guys are tested, I think we’ve been tested close to 10 times already. So that’s not say that’s a bad thing, but it’s that frequent. And the testing agents that are in here, those are the constant reminders.” – John Farrell"

So what gives with Boston?

As mentioned Boston is certainly not alone. John Farrell spoke about the issue at great length and the steps taken to alleviate any potential problems, especially on the major league level. The major league players association has not been reticent about testing protocols and the support for addressing the issue of substance abuse has the uniform support of the union and management.

The excuse.

Invariably few step up like Jason Giambi and openly admit their involvement and accept a level of accountability and responsibility. Usually, it is the “playing dumb” card that is offered with “I was unaware” and the use was for some ancillary issue such as Kopech claiming Wight gain – I would suggest massive helpings of cheesecake.

The reality at the minor league level – my area of focus – is most realize they need an edge simply because their talent level is lacking. Players are not the village idiots and can see their job competition and evaluate it. Pena, Telleria, and Lugo have no chance – none. Their ability level means that even advancing to Double-A is a chore and when and if they arrive they will undoubtedly be relegated to an also-ran.

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Faced with that less than promising outlook the options are quite clear – you take a chance or you don’t. What would I do? That is the proverbial million dollar integrity question. As a 20-year-old with dreams about to be shattered, I would give myself a 50/50 at dabbling. With my now rather ancient perspective of life I would absolutely never venture into that forbidden zone, but my other self? Don’t like to think about that.

With Kopech I just wonder. I assume the Red Sox give educational pointers of risk taking in behaviors and I am not limiting it to just PED’s as Chris Acosta or Jon Denney can certainly be examples of other behaviors. With Kopech I imagine he has the iron clad invincibility or arrogance of youth that gives him the aura of being somehow immune to being nabbed.

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The hope is that incidents like the latest reverberate within the system and have the positive impact of just avoiding issues that will certainly end or seriously jeopardize your career.

Sources: Baseball-Reference and links as noted.