- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

One of the components of baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig’s proposed tougher steroid policy that is not clear is whether the RFK grounds crew will be required to take steroids, starting immediately.

Really, after the beating the field took from both the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals (who won the game) in the aftermath of Saturday night’s rain-soaked debacle — and the difficulty in getting the tarp to cover the field — members of the ballpark grounds crew were walking around the stadium with that same shellshocked look Cadillac Bud had after testifying before Congress in March about baseball’s steroid testing program.

The difference? The members of the grounds crew simply were innocent bystanders who were forced to cover up not just the field but the mistake umpire crew chief Joe West (one of the umps fired, then reinstated in a lawsuit settlement) made by letting the game go on for so long before calling it in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Maybe he was waiting for the National Weather Service to issue a flash-flood warning.

Cadillac Bud neither was innocent nor a bystander when he took the brunt of the criticism from Congress because baseball waited so long to do anything about steroids and, when it finally did, took what was perceived as a weak first step to get rid of the performance-enhancing substances that have cast such a cloud over the game.

But Cadillac Bud appears to have kept his head above the puddles — for now — with his latest proposal to redo the testing policy, this time with pretty stiff sentences.

A first-time offender gets a 50-game suspension. Second time, 100 games. Third time, they’re playing beer league softball. In other words, out of the game for good.

The rules now require just a 10-day (not game) suspension, followed by 30 days for a second positive test, 60 days for a third and one year for a fourth. The fifth time, the punishment is at the commissioner’s discretion, and the sixth time, the offender is awarded the Golden Needle.

Cadillac Bud wasn’t the only conspirator in the crime with which Congress charged baseball. Players union boss Don Fehr — who, in a unprecedented move, agreed to reopen the bargaining agreement with management this winter to change the testing — was his partner, which made for the bizarre scene of both Cadillac Bud and Fehr joining forces in March to defend baseball’s steroid policy.

Usually, when the two of them are appearing together in Congress, Cadillac Bud is the sole pinata, and Fehr just keeps handing politicians another stick to take a swing.

That partnership, though, might be brief. Cadillac Bud — on the heels of the lovefest NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue received during his appearance before the House Government Reform Committee last week for his league’s stricter testing policies — took the offensive with the letter he wrote to Fehr.

The document, obtained by the Associated Press, puts the union boss on the spot — with Congress and all of America watching.

“Third offenders should be banned permanently,” he wrote to Fehr. “I recognize the need for progressive discipline, but a third-time offender has no place in the game. Steroid users cheat the game. After three offenses, they have no place in it.”

Fehr said the union will “respond in due course,” but before last night’s ESPN-televised game against the New York Mets at RFK, some of the Nationals players were surprised at the pressure to reform the testing policy again.

“I think this one we have is working pretty good,” Vinny Castilla said. “Let’s see how this works first.”

Brad Wilkerson said he wanted to get a look at the proposed changes before making any judgments.

“But it is crazy how they are making all these changes now and how they are getting some pressure put on them,” he said.

There’s pressure all right, baby. It’s raining on baseball, and Cadillac Bud is ready to put the tarp on the field. Now it’s up to the players to decide whether they want to keep the field playable — or Congress will do it for them.

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