FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox players will hold their annual meeting with representatives of the Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday morning. If previous meetings at other camps are an indication, the topic of performance-enhancing drugs will be discussed at length.
Over the weekend, commissioner Bud Selig called for tougher penalties for drug cheats, saying a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders may not be enough of a deterrent.
Selig has trumpeted the gains baseball has made in testing, particularly the recent agreement that allows blood testing for human growth hormone. But the sport still has troubling issues.
Melky Cabrera was suspended last summer only a month after being named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and other players since have been tied to Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Miami that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.
During what has come to be known as the Steroids Era, players rarely spoke out against drug use. But that is changing. David Wright of the Mets and Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals are among the notable players who have criticized cheaters this spring.
On Sunday, Dustin Pedroia joined the chorus.
“I want all the young kids and everybody to see baseball as pure and everybody that they see, they can look up to them,” the Red Sox second baseman said. “I don’t want those kids looking down on their role models. It’s upsetting, man. You don’t want to see that.”
Pedroia, who has two young sons, isn’t sure whether stiffer penalties would work. But he supports the idea of baseball going after cheaters to a greater degree.
“I’m all for the most possible,” he said. “I understand the reasoning why, because we have so much information. There shouldn’t be any slip-ups unless people are trying to get an advantage and that’s not fair.”
Pedroia said one of the reasons he has great respect for Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is that he accomplished so much without taint.
“He does everything right,” Pedroia said. “You appreciate that. Just because I compete against him all the time doesn’t matter. I think everybody around the game wants the game to be like that.”
Pedroia said the excuse that a player didn’t realize he was using a performance-enhancing drug isn’t valid.
“In my opinion, no,” he said. “We have a lot of information. I know we have one of the best drug-testing policies in sports. They give us packets on what supplements you can or can’t take. We’re educated on what supplements you can take.”
Pedroia then showed reporters an application on his smartphone that lists approved supplements and nutritional products. He said he takes a second step by bringing products directly to the Red Sox to approve before he takes them.
“As players you’re responsible to know what you put into your body,” Pedroia said. “We have strength coaches, trainers, everybody gives us information on everything you can take and what’s good for you. We get our blood work and we deal with nutritionists.”
Pedroia’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of the New York-based ACES agency, were tied to the Cabrera scandal when it was revealed one of their former employees tried to engineer a coverup. The Levinsons have denied any connection to PEDs.
But at least four ACES clients — including Red Sox players Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes — left the agency in the wake of the reports.
Pedroia said he considered doing the same but did not after consulting with MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner and following the results of Major League Baseball’s investigation.
“It’s a difficult thing because those guys have done right by me,” Pedroia said. “But I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know what was going on. You have to be educated about things like that.”
Pedroia expects that Weiner and his staff will be asked plenty of other questions Monday.
“You want everybody to be on the same playing field. That’s all I’m asking and everybody else is asking,” he said.