Bill Plaschke: Baseball cheaters are still unbeaten

It's nice of baseball to finally nail drug scammer Alex Rodriguez, as officials announced Monday afternoon that they had suspended the highest-paid player in baseball history through the 2014 season.

It would have been nicer if, shortly after the announcement was made, he wasn't still putting on his New York Yankee uniform and preparing to play in his first game of this season.


It was also nice of baseball to suspend a dozen other players for 50 games -- essentially the rest of the regular season -- for their role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.

It would have been nicer if the two most prominent names on that list, Texas' Nelson Cruz and Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, didn't have a potentially rich free-agent winter awaiting them after they serve their time. By then, their bodies will be rested and the suitors will be knocking.

It was nice of baseball to once again throw a big sweeping roundhouse at its steroid problem. It would have been nicer if that punch had actually landed. Once again, in trying to clean up the game with the efficiency of an umpire trying to clean home plate, baseball has just kicked more dirt on itself.

So Rodriguez is gone, but not really. So Cruz and Peralta are gone, but they'll be back richer -- and maybe even bigger -- than ever. So what about this makes any sense to anyone except those in the shameful baseball player's union, whose fight to essentially keep drugs in the game has been its most notable achievement since the creation of free agency.

If baseball is certain that a player is dirty, whether through a positive test or overwhelming Biogenesis-like evidence, then why is he still allowed to play again? Ever? And why is that player also allowed to appeal and continue playing like Rodriguez?

If Pete Rose was banned for the life because it was determined that his gambling affected the integrity of the game, then why doesn't the use of PEDs fall in the same category? In fact, by all competitive definitions, steroid users are cheating the game far worse than Rose ever could. Rose never won a game from the dugout, but Cruz and Peralta have won games at the plate, while Rodriguez even won a world championship that way.

If baseball doesn't have the heart of a lifetime ban, then maybe it could institute a lifetime change. Allow a player to keep playing, but take away all of his service time. Therefore, guys like Cruz and Peralta can't turn their 50-game suspensions into a two-month courting sessions. Turn Cruz and Peralta into contractual rookies again, with rookie minimum salaries.

Not that the bad guys would go broke. Cruz's steroid use has helped him earn more than $20 million in his career. Peralta's juicing has squeezed nearly $30 million out of his employers. And, of course, Rodriguez has been the most highly paid fraud in sports history, making more than $300 million with the help of his supplemental friends.

In the end Monday,  Rodriguez became the perfect symbol for baseball's impossible drug enforcement policy. He has spent an entire career using steroids to rank fifth on baseball's home-run list, steal three MVP awards, sign the two biggest contracts in baseball history, and win one World Series. Yet now that baseball has finally caught him, it still can't get rid of him.