While Phillies fans sit around waiting for the team to sign two outfielders, a third baseman, and about six relief pitchers, the 2012 season managed to get a little bit worse. One of the few bright spots, Carlos Ruiz’s career year, has now been tainted by a positive test for Adderall. It’s Ruiz’s 2nd positive test for a stimulant (the first positive is not reported) and it will cost the catcher the first 25 games of the 2013 season. Considering this is a 2nd offense for Ruiz, and the NFL hands out 4-game (1/4 of the season suspensions for Adderall), I suppose the punishment could have been worse. Missing a month is something the team should theoretically be able to overcome, but the fans might fall out of love with Eric Kratz by May 1st.
The use of stimulants in baseball is nothing new. Before the steroid era was the “greenie” era when, depending on who you listen to, uppers were as readily available as gum and seeds in the clubhouse. The issue with stimulants is that some are legal to use and some are not. Also, it’s tougher to draw that straight line to improved performance. When a guy throws on 30 lbs of muscle in an off-season, the benefit is right there in front of your eyes. But if a guy is on a stimulant, the differences might not be as noticeable to the naked eye.
There’s also the question of where to draw the line. Over 100 players in MLB are allowed to use Adderall due to ADHD or some other medical diagnosis. So, has Adderall become the medical marijuana of MLB and other professional sports? Is every player prescribed the drug taking it for legitimate reasons? And if not Adderall, what other stimulants will players gravitate toward? Is amphetamine use a byproduct of stricter testing for steroids and other known performance enhancing drugs?
What makes Ruiz’s case unique is that the catcher is coming a career year. A year that far eclipsed anything he had ever done offensively. Ruiz went from a guy known for a couple of solid post-seasons to a legitimate 1st-half NL MVP candidate. He led the league in hitting for a time. He carried a hobbled Phillies offense. There was also a shift in physical appearance. Ruiz looked stronger. He spoke of a different off-season program, but now everyone is left to question how much of Ruiz’s career year was legitimate? I’m not sure PEDs ever made a .270 hitter a .330 hitter, but Ruiz did have more power and there was a much more consistent level to his at-bats.
I also remember several times during the year where announcers would talk about the “old” Ruiz. The player who was prone to slumps. His swing gets long, they’d say. Maybe he gets a little run down. That wasn’t happening in 2012. At the time the success was attributed to the increased physical fitness and confidence. Now? Who knows?
I have no idea how much Ruiz benefited from the Adderall use, but because you can see a significant spike in his 2012 numbers, he may end up becoming a poster boy for those who want stricter rules and guidelines regarding stimulant use in professional sports. And while I don’t think Ruiz’s big season is due entirely to Adderall, there is the fact that this was a second positive test. Carlos knew what he was doing. There had to be something to it, otherwise why risk another positive test and a suspension? He must have felt like he needed it last year, or in the coming year as he tried to build toward one last contract?
The Phillies won’t be looking for a replacement for Ruiz. They have too many other holes to fill. Not having their starting catcher will be another obstacle for a team suddenly overwhelmed by them, but I think most sensible Phillies fans were expecting some type of regression to the mean for Ruiz regardless. At least they should be hoping that the front office wasn’t counting on Ruiz as a middle of the order bat for 2013.