Bud Selig's worst nightmare is coming to life in a 40-year-old, 265-pound body.
Bartolo Colon won his sixth straight decision for the A's at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland on Sunday, improving to 9-2 on the season, continuing his mockery of Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy.
When news broke in August that Colon had tested positive for PEDs, many, including yours truly, assumed the tubby, strike-throwing right-hander had tossed his final big-league pitch. Synthetic testosterone had rejuvenated his arm, helping him stretch his career into the late innings, and without it, he seemed destined to hit the beaches (wearing a shirt we'd hoped) back in the Dominican Republican.
But after serving a 50-game suspension, Colon is back on the hill, pounding the strike zone and throwing up numbers that rival his 2005 AL Cy Young award season. Right now, he's tied for the American League lead in wins (nine), complete games (two) and shutouts (two). He's first in fewest walks per nine innings (1.0), fifth in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (5.2) and ninth in WHIP (1.10).
If the deadline for submitting the All-Star Game rosters were today, Colon should be a shoe-in to make the American League pitching staff, which would be colossal embarrassment for the commissioner's office. It would suggest one of two things: PEDs don't, in fact, enhance athletic performances, so what's the big deal? Or he's still cheating and he's beating the system.
Baseball wants us to believe that it's capable of tidying up the sport, putting an end to the guessing game over who is cheating and who is clean. It caught Colon, Melky Cabrera and another 18 players connected to a Miami-area clinic, and those players reportedly could be suspended in the next few weeks.
Colon's season is, however, raising more doubt over whether testing can keep pace with the evolution of PEDs.
Let's be clear, I'm not accusing Colon of cheating. He could be another rubber arm, like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, as far as I'm concerned. But I will say that his performance is evidence that 50-game suspensions won't cut it if baseball really wants to crack down on PED users.
Right now, it's worth it to take a chance. The newest innovations in PEDs are always be a step ahead of testing methods and if you happen to get caught, you only miss roughly one-third of a season. So what? You could bounce back and be an All Star the next year — even if you're 40 years old.
It's really not fair that baseball gets singled out. Football, basketball and hockey players are cheating, too, but no one cares because the numbers aren't fluctuating so dramatically. Having said that, if Selig really wants to clean up the game he needs to up the ante on the risk his players will be taking if they decide to cheat.
How about a two-year suspension, elimination from Hall of Fame eligibility and wiping every statistic out of the record books? It might make players think twice before they dope. Remember the Black Sox? Pete Rose? No one thinks that baseball games are fixed because everyone fears the punishment.
Selig can wake up from this nightmare right now if he's willing to make a statement.
Paul Gackle is a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.