West tests positive

There have been a number of Minor Leaguers suspended for taking illegal substances, most notably the Rays’ James Houser a while back. But the most recent news of a Minor Leaguer getting a 50-game suspension for taking a performance-enhancer truly made me pause.

MattwestThat’s because it was Matt West. What’s special about Matt West, you ask? Well, other than the fact that I interviewed him in May for a pre-draft story on high school powerhouses, he was the Texas Rangers’ second-round draft pick. Just this past June. He’s all of 18 years old and was just starting his pro career in the rookie-level Arizona League. Playing second, short and third, he’d been hitting .301 over his first 29 games.

Here’s what’s the most disconcerting thing about this as compared to others, and I don’t mean to belittle the importance of the other positive tests.  Maybe there’s more to this than meets the eye
, but right now it looks like a teenager, a high schooler, was using illegal substances to get ahead. And I can’t see a scenario where he just started in the last month or so. The only conclusion I can draw — and perhaps it’s erroneous, but I doubt it — is that he was doing it while at Bellaire High School. The Rangers gave this kid a touch over $400,000 to join the organization and now they’ll have to wait until part-way through the 2008 season to see if he can play at all — or play clean.

You see and hear all these public service announcements imploring kids not to take steroids or anything like them, to not do what it seems some of the big stars in professional sports (not just baseball) have done to excel at the highest level. While there aren’t any details yet on the West case, it seems like this young man didn’t get that message. And if that’s the case, there should be a lot of people, starting with West and his family and continuing to Bellaire HS, a big baseball program that has produced many top-notch players. And I’m not sure how or if the Rangers should have or could have known about this, but perhaps it’s time for drug testing to be part of the draft process before someone signs, if it’s not already.

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