After a disappointing series in Texas and a particularly aggravating 6-8 loss today, we look to the minors for any encouraging news we can get about the Mariners future. This is not that news. Rainiers 1B Ji-Man Choi received a 50 game suspension today after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Of course, we don’t know exactly what he was using, how long he’s been using it, or how it’s been affecting his play, but we do know Choi will be watching the next 50 games from the dugout.
If you’re not familiar with Ji-Man (or as I affectionately refer to him, G-Man), here’s a quick and dirty rundown: The Mariners picked up the South Korean in 2009 as a non-drafted free agent, and they’ve since seen him blossom into a fringe prospect. After missing the entire 2011 season with a back injury, Choi put up a wRC+ of 151 in Class A ball. He didn’t show much power during that stretch, but his .420 OBP would put countryman Shin-Soo Choo to shame. Choi was off to a hot start this season in AAA before the PED monster reared its ugly head. Small sample size aside, his .394/.500/.545 line had my attention.
And now my dreams of seeing Justin Smoak lose his starting job have been derailed by a cup of Ji-Man Choi’s piss. The Rainiers will replace him at 1B and life will continue on as normal, but a larger issue is looming here. The Ji-Man Choi news coupled with the suspension of Jesus Montero last year give the impression that the Mariners’ staff isn’t doing such a great job with keeping their players on the straight and narrow. But is it really the Mariners’ responsibility to police their players?
Even the best organizations have their bad eggs, and the Mariners can’t hold their prospects’ hands 24 hours a day. Not to mention, PEDs are a complicated issue. Players on the cusp of the major leagues have the most to gain from artificially boosting their performance. Many baseball players don’t have fallback plans if their career doesn’t pan out, and fear of financial instability can drive people to do pretty much anything. This is all the more reason why the Mariners need to make keeping players clean a top priority. As for Choi, I hope to see him return from his MLB mandated timeout healthy, drug free, and not 40 pounds overweight. (Looking at you, Montero…)