Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Romero, Giles and Chan Ho Park

The team made several announcements yesterday, the biggest being that J.C. Romero has been suspended 50 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This is a particularly strange case, as Romero bought it over the counter, at a GNC store in Cherry Hill, NJ. Romero felt the supplement he was taking had been approved by the players’ union, and there was even mention that Phillies strength and conditioning coach Dong Lien approved it after Romero presented it to him.

The league has gone from one extreme to the other. Cracking down on performance enhancing drugs is crucial to maintain the balance of Major League Baseball. But while known substance users, such as Jason Giambi, continue to play, (Giambi just signed a deal to return to Oakland,) players taking over the counter supplements they felt were approved are being disciplined. Where does the problem lie? There seems to be a communication breakdown. Maybe the warden from Cool Hand Luke should have been present at the hearing to deliver some insight, “what we’ve got here is… a failure to communicate.”

There are conflicting reports and accounts of exactly where the misunderstanding comes from. It could be directly from the league, not providing a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not, either to the players’ union or the players themselves. If the league is clearly issuing the dos and don’ts, then it could be the players’ union not giving a clear enough explanation to the players it represents. The teams bare some responsibility as well, as the physicians and trainers should closely monitor what each player is taking.

Someone dropped the ball here. Sure, Romero has some responsibility too. But he adamantly denies having any knowledge that the substance was banned. He also claims he was told there was nothing available for purchase over the counter containing any of the alleged illegal substance, and that they later reneged that, saying two or three things may contain it.

This type of thing should not happen. Everything not allowed by the league should be more clearly outlined so that this does not happen again. Former Florida Marlins’ pitcher Sergio Mitre was also suspended yesterday for 50 games for the exact same thing. The players seem to be confused about this ruling, and someone needs to step in and clear things up. It’s not like Romero and Mitre were taking HGH; supplements of that nature need to be taken very seriously and dealt with as strictly as possibly. The 50 game suspension applies to players found guilty of HGH use for a first offense as well, and the punishment Romero received clearly should not be as strict as that for someone taking HGH, a clear violation of league rules and tactic to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.

Ruben Amaro Jr. stated he plans to fill the void in the bullpen left by Romero’s suspension. Be sure to buy your “Free J.C.” t-shirts being sold by other Phils' blogs!

In other news, former Braves’ second baseman Marcus Giles has signed a minor league contract with the team. His numbers have steadily declined since his outstanding seasons a few years ago, and Giles did not play at all in 2008. He has a chance to make the roster if he plays well in spring training, and if Chase Utley is not ready by opening day. This is a classic low-risk, high-reward scenario. Giles does not exactly fit the high-reward category, but he could certainly fill in nicely at second base in Utley’s absence, and possibly provide a right handed bat off the bench if he can find his old stroke. Let’s hope this scenario plays out better than Kris Benson’s minor league deal last year. He never came close to making the big league roster, and I didn’t hear of any Anna Benson sightings around town. That double-negative does not make a positive.

The Phillies, to the surprise of no one, also officially announced the signing of Chan Ho Park. He could compete for the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training.

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