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April 7 - Cheaters Never Win

2005 is supposed to be the year that baseball cleans up its act. The new steroid policy is supposed to
weed out all of the cheaters so everyone would be on a level playing field. Several questions were
asked about what effect this steroid policy would have on the 2005 season. One of the most frequently
asked was who will receive the first steroid suspension. We finally have our answer, and it’s an answer
that no one expected.

Light-hitting outfielder Alex Sanchez of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will go into the annals of baseball
history as the first player to be suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs. While this seems
like a surprise on par with Lou Holtz announcing that he played Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies, a
closer look at Sanchez’ career shows this isn’t the shock it seems.

Sanchez is a player who opened plenty of eyes with his speed. He was originally drafted by the Devil
Rays and claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. He racked up plenty of stolen bases and
posted a nice average, but was shipped off to the Detroit Tigers. The Brewers were in the midst of their
perpetual rebuilding process, so why would they give up on a young outfielder with great physical
ability? Let’s look at a quote from when Sanchez was traded.

"Alex has a lot of talent, but that only goes so far. We've got a lot of guys out there working hard.
Podsednik. (Brady) Clark. Wes (Helms). What you want to do is take Alex's natural ability and get him in
that hard-working mode. Then, all of a sudden, you've got something. Some players just don't have that
in their makeup. It's not really their fault. Coming into the season, we gave him an opportunity. It was
nothing that he really earned, I don't think. He got it because of what he did last year.”  – Brewers
Manager Ned Yost May 27, 2003

Well, maybe Sanchez just needed a change of scenery. He put up numbers that look nice on the surface
in Detroit, but was released in the middle of spring training. Sanchez hit .322 last season and used his
speed to lead the American League in bunt hits. Why would Detroit want to get rid of him so badly to
release him? Again, let’s look at a quote from when he was jettisoned.

"There comes a time when you shouldn't have to repeat things as many times as we did,” - Tigers
manager Alan Trammell

It’s pretty fair to say that Sanchez wasn’t receptive to coaching and has a work ethic that is reminiscent of
Shawn Kemp. From this, it seems like a fair assessment to say that Sanchez isn’t very smart, because
he hasn’t worked hard to improve certain skills that he needs to be an effective player.

My conclusion of stupidity might be a little premature. There might be a logical explanation for this
suspension. Maybe there was some type of misunderstanding. Let’s see what Sanchez has offered as
an explanation.

"I know I did nothing incorrect. I take stuff I buy over the counter. Multivitamins, protein shakes, muscle
relaxants. That kind of stuff,” - Alex Sanchez

That’s very interesting. Baseball allegedly isn’t testing for anything that can be bought over the counter,
so I’m not sure how that explains anything. What else jumped out when reading that quote?
Multivitamins and protein shakes are available over the counter, but muscle relaxants? What pharmacy
does Sanchez frequent? I’m sure several Americans without health insurance would like to know.

Now that you know a little bit about the dirty Mr. Sanchez, here is the biggest reason he was a dark horse
to get the first suspension. Sanchez has 1,351 career at-bats and only four career home runs. With that
little power, you wouldn’t think steroids would help his game much, if at all.

Sanchez’s past suggests he isn’t smart enough to avoid banned substances; the fact that he is being
held up as an example should be ample fodder for conspiracy theorists. The announcement of his
suspension came on Opening Day, the perfect time to show that the new steroid policy was
immediately successful and to alleviate some of the pressure congress has placed on Major League
Baseball. Sanchez is plankton in the pond that is baseball and no one except fantasy owners in search
of stolen bases will miss him if he finds his way out of the game. If baseball wanted to hold someone
up as an example, a rather anonymous player like Sanchez was the perfect choice.

After a quick look at his past, Sanchez isn’t a surprise on par with R. Kelly dating a woman that can
legally vote. He hasn’t shown the desire to work hard and has only coasted by on his natural ability. In
the end, not only is Sanchez not smart enough to figure out how to keep his employers happy, he’s not
smart enough to cheat correctly.