Being a professional baseball player is a very stressful profession. Every move you make is under the microscope, with your failures, and successes, being scrutinized. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, especially in the minor leagues. Every player is vying for one of the 600 major league jobs available, and may look to find any way possible to get an edge. That pressure can also get to a person, and they may look to escape in any way possible, even if that way would be in violation of the drug abuse policy.
That makes the rash of drug suspensions in the Rays system over the past two seasons that much more concerning. Last year, nine players were suspended under the drug policy, including former first round picks Tim Beckham and Josh Sale. This past season, Mark Thomas was suspended for 50 games back in July, and Taylor Guerrieri was suspended for 50 games on Friday.
With thirteen suspensions in the past two seasons, the Rays have had more suspensions under the drug policy than any other team in baseball. For a team that places as much emphasis as the Rays do in developing minor league talent in hopes that they will be able to turn into productive major league players, these issues have to be considered a sobering reality. Although most of these suspensions have been for ‘drugs of abuse’ as opposed to PEDs, it may be fair to wonder if there is a disconnect somewhere in the Rays minor league system.
It is easy to lose track of the fact that these players that have been suspended are, in general, in their early 20’s. People that age do not always make the best decisions, and, despite being professional baseball players, they are still young. They are going to make mistakes. Yet, there needs to be some sort of control to try to keep these players from making these mistakes, costing them valuable developmental time. The Rays maintain that there they do not have a problem with institutional control, and that may well be the case. However, that still does not explain these issues.
The Tampa Bay Rays maintain a high standard for on the field performance, and do everything they can to make sure that their players are put in the best position to be successful. Perhaps they need to start spending more time doing the same off the field as well.