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Why the Melky Suspension Signals Progress

If you'll forgive the brief moment of self-reflection, we'd like to recall a brief section from our 2008 book God Save the Fan. It concerned how differently PED suspensions were covered in football than they were in baseball. At the risk of the people who hold the copyright to our own book suing us, here's the section:

Two years ago, San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, one of the top defensive players in the game, tested positive for an injectable steroid (typically, he said it was accidentally ingested from an over-the-counter supplement, which is like saying you "accidentally" had sex with your secretary) and was suspended for four games. Was there outrage and betrayal? Was the sports populace finally convinced of the NFL's epic steroid menace? Well, let's look at the reports and reactions to Merriman's positive test, and, say, Rafael Palmeiro's just more than a year earlier.

Michael Wilbon on Palmeiro (Washington Post, August 3, 2005):

"Oh yes, baseball is facing a crisis. In this current climate of suspicion, is it fair to start looking at any pitcher with biceps with increased skepticism, too? Well, maybe it isn't fair. But that won't stop anyone. And where, exactly, is the commissioner of baseball while such an obvious crisis breaks out? Apparently hiding under his desk."

John Clayton on Merriman (ESPN, October 23, 2006):

"The four-game steroid suspension of Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman really comes at a horrible time for the team. Linebacker Shaun Phillips is expected to be out four to six weeks with a calf injury. They've lost linebacker Steve Foley for the season. The only outside linebacker of note is Marques Harris or Nick Speegle, which might force the Chargers move Tim Dobbins or Donnie Edwards to the outside."

Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for ingesting testosterone. The angle on every single story we have read, across the board, has been, "What are the Giants going to do without him? This really hurts their playoff hopes."

There has been no "the great cancer at the heart of baseball is back!" No "back in my day, Mickey Mantle just needed Ovaltine!" columns. (Also: absinthe.) No "Bud Selig has his head stuck in the sand, what is happening to our great game?" wailings. Just one dumb guy making a dumb mistake that hurts his team. We do not think PEDs are completely out of baseball — or any sport — which is something that bothers us a lot less than we think people always want us to be bothered. But all one can ask is for baseball's PED incidents to be treated just like any other sport's: as an inconvenience and annoyance rather than some pandemic.

The only thing people really care about Melky Cabrera's PED use is that it hurts the Giants, and their fantasy teams.  This is progress. This is how everyone should have been acting all along.

Photo: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images