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Grange on Bautsita: Message in a bottle

No one likes to be profiled; to be a suspect for no good reason.

Right thinking people have little tolerance for authorities of any stripe targeting someone for investigation or harassment because of their race or the car they drive or because they were in a particular neighbourhood.

In the current age of acronyms anyone who doesn’t know DWB stands for ‘Driving While Black’ can verify it with a quick search on Google.

Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is an intelligent, thoughtful person, and who knows, maybe he does feel some resentment about peeing into a bottle if the information coming out of the Dominican Republic about the number of times he’s been tested for performance enhancing drugs is accurate.

Maybe you could call it HWD, or ‘Hitting While Dominican.’

According to a story by Dionisio Soldevilla of the Dominican Republic newspaper Hoy, Bautista was asked by pitching legend Pedro Martinez how many times he has been tested under Major League Baseball’s drug prevention and treatment program while at a dinner hosted by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

Bautista, the journeyman-turned-slugger, said he’d been tested three times in 2009 when he tallied a modest 13 home runs. A year later he went to the stall nine times and clubbed 54 homeruns — more than tripling his career high to that point. Last season it was seven more times and an American League best tally of 43 home runs.

Is he angry? It’s hard to know. Through a Blue Jays spokesman he declined comment.

But here’s an unsolicited suggestion: Bautista should be ecstatic.

Not just because he’s passed all 19 of those tests, including the three he took before he became – arguably — the best hitter and perhaps the best player in all of baseball.

But because the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program run by MLB and the players association appears to be truly independent: free not only from the influence of the players, owners, or the commissioner’s office but also free to think for themselves.

It seems like more than a coincidence that Bautista’s testing regiment increased as dramatically as his production. And if so, good: it suggests that the men who visit major league clubhouses are committed to finding drug cheats and not just committed to appearing to find drug cheats.

And if you’re committed to finding drug cheats in baseball, a little profiling probably isn’t a bad thing.

No, drugs aren’t not just a Dominican problem. The 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun was the prototypical all-American boy from baseball hotbed Southern California before his coronation was ruined by a positive test for elevated testosterone.

But the reality is that the Dominican Republic — where Bautista is from and where he resides during the off-season — not only supplies a disproportionate number of athletes to MLB for an island roughly the size of North Carolina, but more than its share of positive drug tests, too.

Baseball players from the Dominican have reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs, almost 2.5-times above the average rate of all other major league players. Reasons range from the desperation these professional prospects feel to escape poverty to the relative ease of obtaining PEDs on the island to language barriers that could make it harder for Spanish-speaking players to fully understand what they’re taking, let alone the consequences.

So can you blame the PED-police if they saw Bautista’s success and raised a few red flags?

Call it profiling or call it thinking: you have a Dominican player — Bautista — who at age 29 and in his seventh season of major league baseball turned in a statistical performance matched or exceeded only by the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and a small handful of others in recent times.

The aforementioned and all of the others — save for Ken Griffey Jr. — who have climbed the statistical heights Bautista has have all been somehow implicated with PEDs.

The fair thing might be to test Bautista no more or no less than any other player — innocent until proven guilty and all of that.

But MLB is not a police force charged with upholding certain civil liberties.

It’s a business that along with its players has had its integrity questioned and its reputation dragged through the mud. Its drug problem was deemed severe enough that the United States Congress got involved.

At the moment its strikeout leader (Roger Clemens) and its leading homerun hitter (Bonds) have had their careers tainted by allegations of PED use and both are Hall of Fame eligible next season, which should only reignite the issue.

The joint testing program defines random testing merely as testing without notice. It does not imply random selection, and it doesn’t limit the number of times it can test players.

Bautista has handled the whispers about the source of his mid-career power surge about as gracefully as is humanly possible.

He’s looked questioners in the eye and denied that he’s ever cheated or used banned substances, and done it without rancor.

And then he’s gone out and continued to hit baseballs hard, far and often.

Here’s hoping he’s got a few more 40-home-run seasons in him.

And here’s hoping the tests keep coming and he keeps passing them so he can simply say: “See?”

He deserves a profile as a great hitter, period.