They wanted to suspend him.
A first-time positive test for performance enhancing drugs carries a 50-game suspension, which may be appealed. Baseball knew the appeal process would run through the postseason, so they offered Romero a deal: take a 25-game suspension immediately, which would force him to miss the playoffs, or risk a 50-game suspension in the appeal process.
Romero wasn't about to miss the postseason. He appealed.
"We generally do not negotiate discipline in the drug area," MLB's executive vice president for labor and human resources Rob Manfred said. "If he appealed it would go beyond the World Series. We offered to reduce the suspension to avoid him being in the World Series. ... I think a scientist will tell you that the [banned] substance was no longer in [Romero's] system, but the appearance of it - you prefer to avoid. With any drug program, the goal is to remove the athlete as quickly as possible."
Asked if he believed the Phils' World Series title was tainted, Manfred said, "No."
Romero lost his appeal, which was heard by independent arbitrator Stephen Goldberg before Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. Romero earned the wins in Games 3 and 5 of the World Series. In the entire 2008 postseason, Romero went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (no earned runs in 7 1/3 innings) in eight appearances.
But what about that 50-game suspension?
Clearly, Romero wasn't ordering HGH from some quack doctor running an illegal pharmacy. He wasn't injecting anything into his butt. He bought a legal supplement at a retail store in Cherry Hill. I had a conversation a couple years ago with Ryan Madson about what players can and can't take. He said they were told if you buy something at GNC (or a similar store) you should be fine. I'm sure the words "GNC" and "fine" resonated with most players. In fact, I think most people walk into GNC or Vitamin Shoppe not expecting a product they buy could produce a positive drug test. In the same store Romero bought his supplement you can also buy the Myoplex shakes that several Phillies players take every day (Chase Utley is a Myoplex spokesman). Of course, players ultimately are responsible for what goes into their body. And unfortunately for Romero, that was all that mattered.
Jim Salisbury's story about Chan Ho Park and Marcus Giles joining the Phillies.
John Gonzalez, Phil Sheridan and Bob Ford chat about baseball's drug policy.