TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira wants baseball to rid itself of its PED problem, and he has a very personal reason for it.
“I don’t ever want a kid to look at me and say, ‘Oh, he just hit three homers in a game, he’s probably on steroids," the Yankees first baseman said on Wednesday. “That’s why we have to be vigilant about making sure that every single option is exhausted to make the public, the fans, the players are all comfortable that we’re doing everything we can."
Teixeira and his Yankees teammates were visited in their clubhouse Wednesday morning by Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the subject of PED use in baseball was a major topic of discussion.
Baseball will institute random blood testing for HGH this season, and Teixeira said he would have no objection if baseball chose to increase the penalties for PED violations or establish more stringent testing procedures.
“I think we’ve tried to do everything we can to clean up the game, and we’ve done a good job of cleaning it up," he said. “But there’s always going to be outliers, there’s always going to be cases where guys either intentionally or unintentionally break the rules. If there’s anything that we can do to make it more of a deterrent or to make the testing better, I am all for going through that process."
Teixeira’s rookie season was 2003, the first year of baseball’s survey testing for steroids, which revealed 104 players tested positive, a result that triggered the beginning of the Joint Drug Testing program in effect now. Recently, the names of two of Teixeira’s teammates, Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli, turned up in the records of Biogenesis, a Miami-based “anti-aging clinic" being investigated by MLB as a suspected source of PEDs for players.
“We started when I was a rookie trying to figure it out, and we’re continuing to do that," he said. “We’ve kind of reacted to each new issue that’s come up and we’ll continue to do that for as long as baseball is played."
But Teixeira admitted, “I don’t think it will ever go away."
The problem, as Teixeira sees it, is that the cheaters are always a step ahead of the testers, and the solution is not necessarily harsher penalties -- currently, baseball’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates a 50-game ban for first-time offenders, 100 games for two-time offenders, and then a lifetime ban.
“I think what we’re finding is there’s always a doctor out there who’s smarter than the tests," he said. “So I would rather fix the science to stay ahead of the cheaters than just say, you’re banned for life, the first time. I think that’s a little overboard."
Teixeira said “most guys are on the same page" as him regarding the need to rid baseball of PEDs, but Weiner was more conservative about the strength of support for more stringent measures among his membership.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a groundswell," Weiner said. “There is clearly a healthy debate among the players, with some guys saying ‘We should increase the penalties,’ other guys saying ‘I think the penalties are sufficient.’ I wouldn’t say there’s a groundswell on any particular point of view, but I can say that there’s a substantial number of players whose frustration about the (Biogenesis) Miami story has led them to think maybe we should have heightened penalties."
Teixeira said he sees progress from baseball’s testing program.
“I’ve been a 30-home run, 100-RBI guy my entire career, and there were times early in my career guys were hitting 60 and 140," he said. “I think those days are over, and that’s good. Guys aren’t hitting 60 or 70 home runs anymore. In that case people can look at it and say, OK, we're back to a more normal time period. The days of guys being twice the size they should be and hitting 60 homers a year, I think those days are over."
But, he added, “That’s not to say there aren’t people still trying to cheat. It’s been part of baseball for a long time and it’s not going to go away, but we just have to be sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can."