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Opinion: Simple steps would clean MLB

That Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players Monday for using performance-enhancing drugs certainly makes a strong statement about cleaning up a game many have known for decades is tainted.

That said, there is more baseball can do. Much more. And, as this board noted July 25 with the Ryan Braun debacle, it all starts with owners. They have the most ability and power to raise the bar immediately on player expectations.

For starters, the New York Yankees ownership should not play superstar and admitted PED user Alex Rodriguez until his appeal of his 211-game suspension, announced Monday, is settled.

Yes, if the Yankees so desire, they can keep him on their roster. Just don’t let him play. Why? Every pitch that he’s on the field (not to mention every paycheck he cashes) rewards him for cheating. Perhaps again.

Remember, he’s already admitted once to using PEDs and swore not to do so again. But he never faced any official punishment for that use.

Now he’s using every available legal tool to fight more charges about use. And he won’t even state publicly that he’s clean.

The Yankees — and all teams — must stop rewarding such behavior. Yet it’s fair to question if that’s what owners really want.

As harsh as the 12, 50-game suspensions issued Monday seem, they all allow the individual players to return to their teams exactly when playoffs start. What coincidence!

Similarly, it’s expected to take until November to settle Rodriguez’s appeal — something that could benefit the Yankees’ post-season push and his personal efforts to reach 660 career home runs. Rodriquez is 13 homers shy of that mark, which, if he reaches it, earns him a $6 million bonus, news reports state.

Even Braun’s 65-game suspension comes in a season when his team — the Milwaukee Brewers — won’t make the playoffs, and it costs him barely 2 percent of his $155 million contract.

Again, just how badly do players and owners want to clean up the game?

Looking beyond this season, two steps need to be taken before Opening Day 2014.

First — and to repeat after Braun’s suspension — owners must be willing (and contractually able) to cut players who are caught using PEDs.

Second, Major League Baseball and the players union must equally embrace stricter punishments.

Two steps are all that’s needed. Being caught the first time should result in missing an entire year, playoffs included. And a second positive test must yield a ban for life.

It’s that simple — if players and owners really want to clean up the game.  — St. Cloud Times