Before diving into this question, let’s be clear on a few points. First, the Giants are not exactly missing Guillen’s presence in their lineup. The guy hit only .266 in 42 games for the Giants, after being traded to SF by KC. Second, we don’t know exactly what Bud Selig knows about this case, or communicated to the Giants. Third, if you’re looking for a poster boy for the cause that we’re all innocent until proven guilty, Jose Guillen may not be your first choice. He was listed as a user of performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report. Also, the SF Chronicle has previously reported that Guillen purchased $19,000 of HGH between 2002 and 2005.
But let’s get back to the original question. Can Bud Selig order a team to remove a player from its roster, based on the mere suspicion that the player might have received shipments of performance-enhancing drugs?
Maybe. Quite possibly.
We’re familiar with baseball players who have failed drug tests and received suspensions. But a ballplayer can run afoul of baseball’s anti-doping rules without actually doping. For example, under Section 8E of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, a player who participates in the sale or distribution of a performance-enhancing drug can be suspended for between 80 and 100 games for a first offense. There is no stated requirement that the player be convicted or plead guilty to this offense (contrast Rule 8D covering possession or use of a prohibited substance, where conviction or a guilty plea is required for a suspension). Moreover, it is the Commissioner who has the authority to impose such a suspension (Rule 1A3). Baseball’s anti-doping rules expressly prohibit teams from punishing players for anti-doping violations (Rule 8L), so the Giants would not have been permitted (acting alone) to remove Guillen from their roster out of anti-doping concerns.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in these rules, but it appears that the Commissioner does have the power to suspend Guillen for participating in the sale or distribution of HGH, even if Guillen has not been convicted (or even formally accused) of anything. But (and here is the main point), the Commissioner has not suspended Guillen. At least, there’s no indication that Guillen has been suspended. If Guillen had been suspended, he would have had some rudimentary rights under baseball’s anti-doping rules, including the right to have his suspension reviewed by an arbitration panel. Presumably, there would have been a public announcement.
Instead, it appears that Bud Selig acted outside of baseball’s anti-doping rules, in secret, to make sure that Guillen’s presence in the World Series would not embarrass the grand game of baseball. While we have few facts, it appears that the Giants were more than happy to cooperate with the Commissioner in this effort. After all, Guillen is a marginal player; his presence would not be missed. Besides, the Giants would not want to have their post-season success tainted by the perception (fair or not) that this success might have been fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.
(You know. Like the success of a certain team located north of New York was impugned by certain people, just because certain stars of this certain team were later linked to certain performance-enhancing drugs.)
So, Guillen was suspended without actually being suspended. So what? No one seems to feel sorry for Guillen. The sport we love has avoided the potential humiliation of having its grand finale (once again) linked with nasty stuff like HGH. This is a good thing … right?
Except for quaint notions a few of us might hold … like respect for due process. Like the belief that everyone deserves the protection of the rules, even guys named in the Mitchell Report, even guys that only hit .266 during the regular season.
Oh, well. Maybe this will all be cleared up in subsequent reports in the media. Meanwhile, it’s been quite the entertaining World Series so far! Very free of scandal.