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Original Issue

No More Mr. Niceguy

As another player tests positive, the commissioner finally plays hardball

If  baseball doesn't further tighten its policy on performance-enhancing drugs, commissioner Bud Selig has left little doubt where the blame lies: with the players' association and its executive director, Donald Fehr. Selig last week boldly broke from the collegial front that he and Fehr exhibited in front of Congress in March. He proposed to Fehr a ban on amphetamines and a "three strikes and you're out" policy for steroid offenders, in which penalties for each offense would escalate from a 50-game suspension to a 100-game suspension to a lifetime ban.

It was quite a salvo: Selig's minor league policy, which does not require collective bargaining, isn't even that tough (though Selig said it will be altered for 2006). The next move belongs to Fehr, who has favored progressive discipline but surely never imagined a system this harsh. Under the current policy, instituted in spring training, a third offense means only a 60-game suspension. (On Monday, Twins pitcher Juan Rincon became the fifth player to receive the 10-day suspension prescribed for first-time offenders.) Selig succeeded in putting Fehr on the spot. If he fights the proposal, Fehr, who said he will talk with Selig, will appear to be advocating a player's right to use amphetamines and softer treatment of repeat steroid users. Fehr would risk not only losing the public relations battle but also inviting further intervention by an already peeved Congress. --Tom Verducci




If Selig's plan were in place, Rincon would have faced a 50-game suspension.