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Nationals Notebook

Some Strong Words on Steroids

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 19, 2005; Page D11

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 18 -- Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson, one of the best hitters in the history of the game, said Friday that Major League Baseball's new punishments for those who test positive for using steroids aren't stringent enough.

Last month, baseball and the players' union agreed that a first offender would receive a 10-day suspension. The second offense would be 30 days, the third 60 days, the fourth a year and the fifth would be up to the commissioner's discretion.

Frank Robinson isn't wearing rose- colored glasses on the steroid issue; he called it "a cloud over baseball." (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

"I think the penalties are not strong enough, I can tell you that," Robinson said at Space Coast Stadium. "First offender, 10 days? . . . Five times? You'd have to be awful stupid to get caught five times."

In an interview during baseball's winter meetings in December, Robinson suggested that a first offender should be suspended for a year, a second offender for two or three years and a third should be banned for life.

Because players earn such exorbitant salaries, Robinson said even the fact that the suspensions would be unpaid isn't enough.

"I don't think that's a deterrent, money," he said. "I think a deterrent is days or months or years because everybody gets hurt then. The ballclub gets hurt [because] the fans don't spend big money to see that individual. He's not able to play for his team, so the individual gets hurt. The money is not the big thing."

Robinson, 69, is in the interesting position of being surrounded in history by players implicated -- either directly or indirectly -- in the steroid controversy, which Robinson called "a cloud over baseball." Barry Bonds, whose testimony to a grand jury admitting steroid use was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, passed Robinson on the all-time home run list two seasons ago and is now in third. Sammy Sosa, named as a potential user by former slugger Jose Canseco in Canseco's new book, is in seventh, only 12 behind fifth-place Robinson, who hit 586.

"Probably, before I take my last breath, I'm going to probably be about 99th on the list," Robinson said. "I'm afraid people are going to say, 'Frank who?' It's going to be such huge numbers up there at the top."

Loaiza Has Sore Back

Right-hander Esteban Loaiza, signed in the offseason as a free agent, had some soreness in his back that kept him from participating in the regular running program. "It's no big deal," Loaiza said. "We're just being careful. I'm fine." . . . Reliever Dan Smith, who pitched in 32 games in 2003 before undergoing surgery on his rotator cuff last year, threw his first bullpen session of the spring. "There was some anxiety," Smith said. "But I couldn't be happier. It was better than I expected it to be." He went 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in 2003. . . .

The Nationals agreed to terms with outfielder Terrmel Sledge and infielder Brendan Harris on 2005 contracts. Sledge, who Robinson considers a contender for a starting job, is one of a growing list of position players who has arrived early. Outfielder J.J. Davis and infielder George Arias came in on Friday. . . . The Nationals named former Cubs and Red Sox third base coach Wendell Kim to manage their entry in the Class A Gulf Coast League.

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