Marlon Byrd, who appeared in 34 games for the Red Sox this season before being released on June 12, has been suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The 34-year-old said in a statement that he plans to work hard during the suspension in an effort to return to the majors later on this season. That plan, however, may be more of a pipe dream than anything.
Byrd, by all accounts, appeared to be a good character guy, taking his reduced role this season in stride. But given the veteran's minimal production, it's hard to imagine Byrd landing elsewhere in the wake of the added controversy.
It had already been nearly three weeks since Byrd suited up for the Red Sox, who acquired the outfielder via a trade with the Cubs in April. He arrived in Boston with the outfield in flux, and batted .270 (27-for-100) in 34 games. It was a step in the right direction for Byrd, who batted .070 in 13 games with the Cubbies before the trade, but the release and suspension represent two steps backward. For an aging outfielder — he turns 35 in August — who lacks any one definitive strength at this point in his career, Byrd can ill afford to backtrack.
Byrd lacks speed, his power has diminished and his defense was subpar this season. It's hard to imagine a team, especially a contender, jumping at the opportunity to add such a player for the stretch run. We've already seen the Red Sox instead opt for a veteran like Scott Podsednik, who at least brings the added speed element.
The suspension handed down to Byrd is unique in and of itself. He tested positive for tamoxifen, a drug used for breast cancer treatment and one that he said wasn't used for "performance ehancement reasons."
"Several years ago, I had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test," Byrd said in a statement released by the players' union. "Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance enhancement reasons. I am mortified by my carelessness and I apologize to everyone who loves this game as I do."
Byrd seems sincere in his apology, which is on par with usual character, but it'll take more than just that to convince teams he still has anything left in the tank. When it comes to a player whose future was already up in the air, "carelessness" is a word you don't want to accompany him.
The suspension is also a bit more alarming because of Byrd's admitted post-BALCO relationship with Victor Conte, the president and founder of BALCO who served prison time in 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering. According to USA Today, Byrd said Conte was not consulted before the outfielder took the PED, but the known relationship is enough to get some — not including Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine — talking even more.
Valentine didn't have much to say before Monday's game against the Blue Jays, saying that Boston's trainers weren't even aware of the situation, and that there was no indication during Byrd's tenure with the Red Sox that he would eventually test positive for PEDs. In other words, this whole fiasco came out of left field, an area Byrd may have a hard time getting back to.
Sure, Byrd wants to resume his career once the suspension is up. But just because he'll flap his wings doesn't mean he'll take flight.