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First Marlin (Minor Leaguer) Suspended for Failing Steroid and Substance Abuse Test

Wilson Delgado may have been in the Marlins short term major league plans - well, up until Friday's news at least.

With Luis Castillo hobbled by hip and leg injuries, Delgado, who has been with AAA Albuquerque so far this season, would have been a logical call up if the team is forced to put Castillo on the disabled list. Now though, Delgado is suspended for the next fifteen days. Apparently Delgado failed a steroids and substance abuse test in the minors. Keep in mind that testing in the minor leagues covers far more substances than the major league testing, so it's nearly impossible to speculate as to what Delgado took or really anything in specific. We don't know if Delgado was taking designer steroids, if he smoked pot, or if there were trace amounts of some ingredient bought at GNC in his system.

The details are not made public, so all we know is that Delgado is suspended. This suspension will probably have no long term impact on Delgado's future as a ballplayer (assuming, of course, that he doesn't have any future issues), but it could put a serious crimp in the Marlins short term plans.

Delgado's suspension brings the issue of drug testing close to home for Marlins' fans. While a number of major leaguers and literally dozens of minor leaguers have been suspended so far this year, none have been Marlins.

Delgado's suspension also adds fuel to the recently publicized fire about the plight of Latin American ballplayers with regards to steroids and other banned substances. Delgado is a native of the Dominican Republic. In addition, an overwhelming majority of the players suspended so far this year (including four of the five major leaguers) hail from Spanish speaking countries.

Some folks - including a number of major leaguers, such as David Ortiz and Mike Lowell - have said that more needs to be done to educate Spanish speaking players of the recently "enhanced" drug policy. This can be particularly important for the Spanish speaking ballplayers who spend their winters in their homeland. In many other countries, substances that are banned by baseball (and in the United States) are not illegal and are readily available. Based on that, many feel that Latin ballplayers may be taking what are illegal substances based on baseball's rules without knowingly doing so (in addition there's also the issue of the list of illegal substances having been recently expanded, so that someone could have taken a substance when it was legal - say in December - and still have it in their body now, when it is illegal).

The Miami Herald's Dan LeBatard, who can often intentionally inflame with subjects such as these (see his take on the NBA's recent awarding of the MVP award being an example of racism), recently wrote of the situation. Some of LeBatard's points may be of merit, but others seem extreme (from page 14 of the 5/23/05 issue of ESPN the Magazine, which I can't find a link to):

When Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo arrived in this country from the Dominican, he accidentally set off a hotel fire alarm because he thought it was a shampoo dispenser.

Now, maybe I'm being naive here, but I've traveled to Spanish and French speaking areas and have never had an issue where I mistook a fire alarm for a shampoo dispenser. That sort of a thing may be something other than a language issue (note that LeBatard also writes about how Vladimir Guerrero has a 5th grade education - which he says is something that is not uncommon amongst foreign players).

On the other side of the coin, Jose Guillen, a major leaguer whose native tongue is Spanish, lays the blame on players who he says should be making themselves educated and informed. He says they have earned high paying jobs and need to take it upon themselves to ensure that they abide by the rules of the workplace.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem like this story is going away anytime soon. Hopefully we've seen the last Marlin suspended, but that's not likely. There will be more.

What I'm not sure of though is what we're seeing so far. It's entirely possible that the next dozen players suspended will be native English speakers who should have no excuse for not understanding the policy. A relatively small sample size of players has tested positive so far, so it's tough to say that we're really seeing a pattern yet.

Hopefully though this will eventually just become a performance enhancing drug issue - one about catching cheaters, and not an issue of punishing those who are not sophisticated enough to beat the testing.