Friday, March 27, 2015

David Rollins Suspended for Steroid Use

News recently broke that the Mariners Rule 5 Draft pick David Rollins - who is formerly from the Astros organisation - has tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol, and will be suspended 80 games.  The Mariners were looking carefully at offering the lefty Rollins a spot in the 'pen.

Statements out of the Mariners organisation seem supportive of Rollins' indiscretion.  Rollins himself - in a statement contained in the link above, and issued through the Players Association - also spoke of the support that the Mariners have extended.  Rollins' statement seems to indicate that he does not contest the positive test, and that he briefly dabbled in steroid use to help recover from the fatigue of Winter Ball.

I think I will fall off my chair the day that a Major League ballplayer announces that not only did he use, but he has been using for a long time, and gosh, steroids help performance.  Rollins' statement represents another data-point in the "man, I used once and got pinged" narrative that both the Players Association and MLB is wanting to promote, because it proves that their testing programme is thorough, and picks up even the little guys that "make mistakes" in trying to make an active roster.

David Ortiz also made news about steroids earlier in a piece penned for the Players' Tribune.  Read into that piece what you want - as I mentioned in my last post about Brady Aiken, the Tribune is simply there to publish the players' side of the story, and there is no sense that the articles need to be balanced or are in any way open to comment or critique from anyone else.  Trust one-sided publications at your peril.  Of course, the Tribune probably exists because players were upset about stuff written about them in the press that they felt lacked balance. But I would encourage you to read Ortiz's article, because it also speaks to the difficulties around false accusations of steroid users, and the significant encroachment into players' lives that result from stringent testing.  Regardless of whether you think Ortiz used or not.

But, regardless, testing is expensive, and players are less frequently tested than ballplayers and MLB would have you believe.  And, when David Ortiz says he has been tested 80 times, the confidential nature of the testing signed in the CBA means that MLB has no capacity to refute that.  But both MLB and the Players Association are likely to want you to believe that people are tested all the time, and little guys like David Rollins just happened to be unlucky, and were only wanting to recover from a busy winter.

In situations like this we are unlikely to ever find out the extent of a players' use.  The reason for that is because neither the Players Association nor MLB are particularly motivated to provide clarity, and are happy to promote the idea that people just make mistakes, and happen to get pinged for it.

There is a non-zero chance that Rollins' performance over a significant period of time has been assisted by performance enhancing drugs, and that his actual level of performance potentially sits below what he has demonstrated over the last year or two.  It is possible that the Astros knew something about that, and were happy to expose him in the Rule 5 draft, but organisations simply cannot be seen to turn a blind eye to the use of performance enhancing drugs, so the Astros would never, never admit this.

In terms of what this may mean for player transactions, the irony is that Rollins is less likely to be returned to the Astros because of this test - which makes no sense, really.  Rollins can sit on the restricted list for the length of his suspension, and is then entitled to pitch in the minors on a rehab assignment, which could potentially account for the first 100 games of the season.  Then he will arrive to assist the bullpen for a stretch run, and only have to be maintained on the 25 man for around 75 to 60-odd games.  The addition of a fresh, effective pitcher in the 'pen that late in the year seems like a tempting idea to me.

Which means that, unless he totally falls apart, the Astros can probably kiss him goodbye.