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If I were a professional baseball player and I was told that I could earn a $50 million contract even after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PED), I’m be on board with that.

The only real drawback: I’d never be voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Instead though, I would have $50 million and would be set financially for the rest of my life.

I’d do steroids; put up big numbers; eventually test positive; serve my 50-game suspension; and then cash in the following offseason with a huge contract.

My hypothetical path sure does sound a lot like the recent path of new St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta, doesn’t it?

After being suspending for PED use last season, Peralta -- the top free-agent shortstop on the market this winter -- signed a four-year contract worth slightly more than $52 million.

Jhonny Peralta certainly is making his money
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
Original rumblings said that Peralta was only get a one- or two-year deal with a lower salary based on his connection to steroids. Well, that didn’t happen.

Nelson Cruz is next up for PED users seeking a lucrative multi-year deal. Cruz reportedly wants a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million. Not bad for a guy who was suspended for drug use just last season.

Right after Peralta signed, veteran relief pitcher David Aardsma, who appeared in 43 games with the New York Mets this season and is himself a free agent, took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the slugging shortstop’s new deal.

“Apparently getting suspended for PEDs means you get a raise. What’s stopping anyone from doing it?” Aardsma wrote.

Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler agreed with Aardsma on Twitter.

“It pays to cheat…Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use,” Ziegler wrote.

These relievers have a great point: Since the game is all about money, why wouldn’t a player do whatever he can he earn the highest possible contract, even if that includes taking PEDs?

A 50-game suspension is a minor slap on the wrist, especially if the payout winds up being over $50 million in Peralta’s case. I’m pretty sure most players would take that deal, especially those like Peralta who were not destined for Cooperstown anyway.

MLB should explore a steroid clause in player contracts that could void a player’s existing contract based on a positive PED test. That player can then sign with any team for the league minimum.

However, the MLB Players Association would never stand for this. But it’s really the only way to get banned substances out of the game permanently.

Like Aarsdma and Ziegler said, what’s stopping players from using steroids to get their next big contract and then stopping once they cash in? Nothing. No strict punishments. No financial detriments. Nothing.

When they someday retire. Peralta and Cruz will always be tarnished as steroid users. But when they’re basking in their riches, do you think they’ll even care what anyone else thinks about their baseball legacy? I think not.