David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
In Major League Baseball, crime still does pay. More for some than others, and PED cheat Melky Cabrera did better after his bust than many had anticipated by getting a two-year, $16-million deal from the Blue Jays on Friday.
Cabrera not only tested positive for testosterone, for which he was suspended 50 games, but then was involved in trying to cover it up through a phony website -- a failed scam orchestrated by an "associate" of his representatives, Sam and Seth Levinson.
On top of that, the Giants deemed Cabrera so poisonous that despite his MVP trajectory before the suspension, they refused to welcome him back for the playoffs. Evidently, the World Series champs knew what they were doing.
The problem is this: With newer, more flexible techniques to administer testosterone, players may be getting more brazen about trying to beat the system.
Two weeks ago, during the general managers' meetings, it was announced that Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal had tested positive for testosterone and will be suspended for 50 games to start next season.
No appeal, no pleas of drinking the wrong protein shake or taking a banned cough medicine. Just "you got me," as though getting nabbed for PEDs is the cost of doing business these days.
The fortune that awaits a chemically enhanced player apparently is worth the risk, which the outlaw scientists apparently keep minimizing.
But if the bad guys remain one or two steps ahead of the white hats, what's baseball to do? Adding HGH to the testing program this year was a necessary measure, but blood tests are not administered during the season, only in spring training, which provides the cheats far too much leeway while games are played for six months.
Expanding HGH testing is under review, but another potential deterrent would be making the penalties more severe. As it stands now, a first-time positive merits a 50-game suspension, a second is 100 and a third results in a lifetime ban. Some have suggested that it's time to go to 100 for a first positive. The hard-liners favor a lifetime boot -- no second chances.
Bud Selig is not among the latter group, and given that he is someone who does have say on such matters, it doesn't sound as though harsher sentences are on the horizon. The commissioner is fine with the current system.
"I am," Selig said this past week at the owners' meetings in Rosemont, Ill. "I'm comfortable with it."
Even so, Selig knows what he's up against. Having Ryan Braun avoid suspension after he came up positive for testosterone infuriated MLB officials, who obviously want their biggest stars eligible to play but are more committed to fighting for a "clean" image for the game. But is that a battle they can win?
"We must be always ready to react," Selig said. "Life is changing, chemists come up with different things. But our testing program worked well this year. I'm always sort of amused by that, because if you catch a guy, they say, 'See, it's not working.' Well, we caught a guy. That's what we have a testing program for."
Selig said he plans to meet with team doctors and trainers when baseball's winter meetings convene in Nashville next month. They're the ones on the front lines of this particular drug war, but as it becomes increasingly difficult to uncover who's on which side, the skepticism will remain.
For those who test positive, does that just teach them how to better escape detection the next time?
The Blue Jays decided to give Cabrera a second chance, a $16-million leap of faith on their part. It will be interesting to see if he's worthy of it.