Now that baseball's so-called "best hitter" has been suspended for 50 games, it's clear that Major League Baseball needs to do something serious about performance enhancing drugs and the resulting distorted records. I propose the following three-step program:
1.Policy. To avoid a continuing race with the chemists (Ramirez was caught with a female fertility drug in his system) baseball must ban all performance enhancing drugs including those not yet invented. This can only be done by collecting regular blood samples of all the players, which are dated and saved for future reference. New drugs (and drugs like Human Growth Hormone for which there are no currently effective tests) can then be tested using these blood samples.
2.Penalty. Players found to have used performance enhancing drugs must pay a stiff and immediate price: A lifetime ban from baseball. Why not? Far more games have been impacted by performance enhancing drugs than by gambling. One Strike and You're Out would put an immediate (and equally important, believable) end to the use of these drugs. Retired players whose blood tested positive would suffer a loss of status and honors.
3.Records. Baseball's performance enhanced records should be adjusted by a blue ribbon panel of trainers, chemists, statisticians, players and coaches. Given two years and a budget of $20 million (the salary equivalent of two utility infielders), the panel would develop a formula that, in its best judgment, reflected the percentage impact that steroids has on performance. Accordingly, that percentage would be subtracted from the records - pitching and hitting - across the board over a certain period of time (also determined by the panel).
For example, if it's found that hitters get a 20% boost, the relevant hitting stats (also determined by the panel) get reduced by 20%. The same would go for pitchers, which may have different percentages. The adjusted PE performance enhanced) numbers would appear in parenthesis next to the actual stats.
Only time would tell which numbers were more legitimate (just as the imaginary asterisk after Roger Maris's 61 home runs was ultimately removed). Unfair to some, yes, but more important it would be fair to the fans, and fair to past and future players.
Jim Bouton played professional baseball for 10 years. He later became a sportswriter and an author. He also operates a web site at www.jimbouton.com.
By Jim Bouton
Special to CBSNews.com