Robinson Cano’s senselessness calls for a revised MLB PED policy

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during a game at Citi Field on September 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during a game at Citi Field on September 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Robinson Cano breached the MLB PED policy for the second time in three years. How a tweak in the system would give him the punishment he deserves.

News broke two weeks ago that New York Mets’ second baseman Robinson Cano tested positive for performance-enhancing drug stanozolol. He now faces a 162-game suspension resulting from his second violation of the league’s drug policy. I say the punishment is not harsh enough.

Major League Baseball enforces the following penalties for PED offenders:

-1st Offense: 80-game suspension
-2nd Offense: 162-game suspension, loss of salary, and ineligible for postseason play
-3rd Offense: Lifetime ban from baseball

In certain instances, an arbitrator can reduce the punishment based on the player’s proven negligence. But what if an arbitrator, or group of arbitrators, had the power to intensify punishments as well, on a player-by-player basis?

Let’s bring the proposition to life, using Robinson Cano as the guinea pig. Allow me to play the arbitrator on his case. I’ll evaluate the facts and implications and determine whether Cano’s suspension is reasonable or if it should be more severe.

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Robinson Cano PED Violation Review: Arbitration Phase

The eight-time all-star first breached MLB’s anti-doping rules in 2018 when he tested positive for furosemide. He played naive to the occurrence, claiming he did not realize the substance was banned and that he should have been more careful.

“I would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game I love,” Cano said in response to his initial violation.

The quote ages poorly now that he’s cheated the rules of the game – TWICE. Did he not realize stanozolol is on the restricted list, just as he didn’t realize furosemide was? How does the saying go? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”?

I find it hard to believe one of the game’s premier talents and MLB’s 22nd highest-paid player doesn’t have a slew of representatives telling him which drugs are okay to take and which drugs are not. Chances are Cano did not run either medication by his advisory board prior to consumption because he feared the answers. In his mind, he needed them.

The timing of his 2018 transgression is curious. After posting some of the best numbers of his career in 2016 with the Seattle Mariners, he experienced notable statistical declines the following season. His batting average dropped from .298 to .280; he knocked 16 fewer home runs; he recorded the lowest RBI total of his career, and his OPS fell nearly 100 points.

Entering the 2018 campaign in the fifth year of his 10-year contract with Seattle, at age 35, Cano may have felt the pressure to perform more than ever. We don’t know what exactly was filtering through his mind, but one could surmise that he turned to PEDs to keep pace with his – and all of Seattle’s – lofty expectations.

Now, he’s done it again. Only this time, he tested positive two months after completing a regular season in which he hit .316 with a .896 OPS. Was he “using” during the season and therefore felt the need to continue into the offseason? Otherwise, why take a performance-enhancer at this time?

The reality is Robinson Cano should know better. He’s been a part of professional baseball since the early 2000s, a period when Major League Baseball was just grasping the immense influence of steroids in day-to-day gameplay. For nine seasons, he shared an infield with Alex Rodriguez, second only to Barry Bonds on the list of Infamous Steroid Users in MLB History. It was the year after Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees that A-Rod got hit with a 162-game suspension resulting from his second violation.

Cano knew the risks. He knew the reputations of past abusers, and he knew the impact performance-enhancing drugs had on those players’ legacies. Yet, he chose to take them. And worst of all, he chose to keep taking them. That’s why, as the arbitrator assigned to his case, I’d escalate his punishment to a lifetime ban from baseball.

Robinson Cano expressed to the media in 2013 after signing his mega-deal with the Seattle Mariners:

"“I was looking for a contract where I would just be able to play and focus on the game and wouldn’t wonder when I’m 37, 38 would I have a job one day. Would I be able to play?”"

His age 38 season is approaching; however, he won’t be able to play in it, and he won’t have a job – at least not on a baseball diamond. Cano’s faulty efforts to maintain his skill have cost him the 2021 season, his legacy, and likely a seat in the Hall of Fame.

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Robinson Cano’s selfish decisions should awaken the league to a drug policy amendment: Appoint arbitrators to evaluate violations individually, affording them the power to alleviate penalties or intensify penalties.