Suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs are not too surprising at this point, but news of Cleveland Indians outfielder Marlon Byrd‘s 162-game ban on Wednesday was still an eye-opener. As a second-time offender, after an 50-game ban in 2012, Byrd will now miss a full season worth of games.
The Indians signed Byrd to a minor league contract in mid-March, and injuries to Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall along with an 80-game PED suspension for Abraham Almonte put him on the Opening Day roster. The 38-old even produced well so far this season, with a .270/.326/.452 slash-line with five home runs and 19 RBI over 115 at-bats.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona said that Byrd stood up in front of the team on Wednesday morning, and acknowledged his career is over and “this is not how he wanted it to end.” Byrd will turn 39 in August, with games still to serve on his suspension heading into being available this winter, so if advanced age isn’t enough being a two-time PED offender with a third time bringing a lifetime ban no team should touch him.
Late career power surges have garnered plenty of suspicion, and rightfully so for the most part. Byrd was no different with more than 20 home runs and 70 RBI each season from 2013-2015, after reaching those respective marks once (20 home runs in 2009) and twice (89 RBI in 2009, 70 RBI in 2007) in his career prior to that.
Byrd was able to last 15 seasons in the big leagues, with a career salary (via Baseball Reference) of just over $38 million. He’s not the first to use performance-enhancing drugs as a path to a longer career and bigger contracts, and Byrd won’t be the last. From the 10,000 foot view, it’s easy for me or anyone else to say it’s not or won’t continue to be worth the risk of a tarnished reputation. When long-term financial security for your family is out there, literally nothing is out-of-bounds for some pro athletes.
With all the suspensions major league baseball has announced so far in 2016, the who’s next? element is definitely in play and it’s only a matter of time before a big-name star gets a PED ban. Then we can again shake our heads in fake shock that someone exhibited poor judgement, or outright stupidity, when it comes to what they put in their body.