Dee Gordon’s Single Could Help Put the Marlins Into a Postseason He’s Ineligible to Play
When you have a game started by Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard, you can expect a pitcher’s duel, and the game on April 12, 2016 did not disappoint. Fernandez would pitch five shutout innings allowing only three hits and one run while striking out five. Syndergaard was better lasting seven innings allowing one run while striking out 12. With the game deadlocked at one apiece, it officially became a battle of the bullpens in the eighth innings. The Mets sent Jim Henderson to the mound to face the Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon.
It was an epic 16 pitch battle that eventually saw Gordon hit an opposite field single to start the game winning rally. He would eventually come around to score on a Martin Prado sacrifice fly off of Jerry Blevins. As it would turn out Gordon played that game while he was in the midst of appealing an 80 game suspension for his use of exogenous testosterone and clostebol. About two weeks later, he would drop his appeal begin serving his steroids suspension.
It should be noted that through the first 92 games of the season, this game is the one game that separates the Mets and the Marlins in the standings. This is the one game that stands as the difference between the Mets being in playoff position and being on the outside looking in.
It’s ironic when you think about it. Pursuant to Major League Baseball’s new steroid policy, players who test positive for banned PED substances are barred from postseason play. As the MLBPA Union President Tony Clark stated, the players themselves wanted to make sure “a player is not coming back and affecting a change in the postseason as a result of the decision that particular player made earlier in the year.” (ESPN). It is quite understandable why baseball would not want a dirty player to possibly be the difference between a team winning or losing a World Series. No one wants to question if the World Series was acquired through ill gotten means like the Athletics with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the Yankees with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, or J.C. Romero, who got big out after big out en route to the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series.
Still, the way the rules are set up, the very same player can have a profound impact on whether or not that team even makes the postseason. We see that Gordon had an at bat that helps serve to separates the Mets and the Marlins in the standings. His suspension is scheduled to come to an end on July 28th. At that point, there will be 61 more games left on the schedule that Gordon can have a profound impact. Sixty-one more games in which he will be able to be the difference between winning and lose, between making the postseason or not. He can be the difference between making the postseason or not despite his being disqualified from making the postseason.
Even more ponderous is the fact that Gordon is going to play in his first minor league game tonight for the New Orleans Zephyrs. He’s playing for a AAA team despite being suspended from playing major league baseball for taking PEDs. Of course, baseball wants to have a player like Gordon banned from postseason play, but they’ll permit him to not only affect a pennant race, but also be in the best possible position to affect that pennant race once the suspension is over.
This isn’t to say that Gordon should forever be banned from playing baseball again. Players make mistakes. There can be false positives. No one wants to see a player forever lose their livelihood under these circumstances. However, it is contradictory for baseball to have a policy barring a player like Gordon from the postseason because they want to preserve the sanctity of that World Series title while also allowing Gordon to play games in that very same seasons thereby having an impact upon which teams do or do not qualify to play in that very same postseason.
Ultimately, if baseball’s goal is to preserve the sanctity of the World Series, the solution might be that if a player tests positive in a season, they are barred from playing in the regular season once the appeal process has been exhausted so that they tainted player will have no further impact upon the pennant race. If the player is not eligible for the postseason, that same player should have no impact upon which teams can play in the postseason. The player can still make their money once the suspension is over, and they can play games in the minors, but they will not be eligible to return to the majors until each and every team has clinched a postseason berth.
This is just one possible answer to the conundrum. It might be one that neither the owners or the players accept for various and sundry reasons. Hopefully, whatever it is, all of baseball needs to figure out a solution that makes sense for everyone as no one wants to be able to say that the difference between the Mets and Marlins in the 2016 season was a tainted player starting a game winning rally that proved to be the one game difference in the standings.