Gossage on PED users in the Hall: "I really don't know what we'd do"

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Goose Gossage.jpgSo earlier I asked if someone had Rich Gossage’s cell.
Seems someone did, and I just got off the phone with the Goose.  Nicest
guy in the world, by the way. If you’re going to talk to a Hall of Fame
reliever today, I highly recommend that you make it Gossage.

Anyway, the reason I called him was because I wanted to know, in light of his feelings on Mark McGwire and other steroid users,
what he’d think if Jose Canseco was proven right and we found out that
a current member of the Baseball Hall of Fame used performance
enhancing drugs. And Gossage was honest: he has no idea.

“I don’t really know what I’d do,” Gossage said.  “We’d have to find
out all the facts,” he said. “It’s a big dark cloud. I don’t know what
the scenario would look like.”

Gossage went on to say that it would probably depend on what the
writers did going forward with steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger
Clemens — guys who are sure shot Hall of Famers if they hadn’t used. 
“If they let in some of those guys, I guess things are different.  What
I said about integrity yesterday still stands, but as for the Hall,
we’d have to see how the writers handled it. I can only speak for what
I believe.”

Gossage wouldn’t speculate about whether it would be appropriate to
remove someone from the Hall of Fame.  And though I didn’t ask him, he
volunteered that he has no idea what member, if any, could have
possibly used steroids, and doesn’t know one way or the other if anyone
had (he wouldn’t comment on the issue of Canseco’s credibility).

To date, no member of the Hall has ever been de-inducted, as it were,
and I could find nothing that suggests that the Hall even has a
procedure for doing so. Of course, if they wanted to, the Hall could
simply call a meeting of its board and make a rule in about five
minutes.  But let’s face it: if the Football Hall of Fame hasn’t taken
out O.J., what are the odds that the Baseball Hall of Fame would remove
a juicer?

But back to Gossage, who was gracious enough to chat with me a bit
longer than I thought he might:  He thinks that there’s a difference
between drugs of abuse and performance enhancing drugs.  He says “Dave
Parker was one of the top five baseball players I ever played with.” He
does not think that his — or Tim Raines or any other player’s —
cocaine use should be held against them in Hall of Fame voting. 
“Parker belongs,” he said. “What he did, with the cocaine, that
decreased his performance, it didn’t enhance it. If he hadn’t done that
stuff we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”  Gossage clearly thinks Parker would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer absent his mid-career cocaine-induced swoon.

“It all boils down to one word: integrity,” Gossage said.  “When it
comes to steroids, you have to talk about the records, and records are
something huge.  The home run record is the greatest record there is.”

I had to ask, of course: is Aaron still the home run king?  “In my mind
he is.  Not only was he the best. But look at where he came from. All
he did. That’s a Hall of Famer.”

I came away from our conversation with the impression that Goose
Gossage is a reasonable and level-headed guy when it comes to this
stuff. He believes what he believes, but he knows others disagree. 
He’s not out to moralize on the subject or tell others what to think.

It’s easy to get the opposite impression of the man, however, from
reading some of the reporting about him that we’ve seen in past couple
of years.  Some of that stuff has made him look like a fire-breather on
the subject of Hall of Fame standards in general and steroids in
particular. It’s enough to make one wonder if the writers who have
elicited all of those juicy quotes from him are trying to make him seem
more of a crusader than he really is.

To me he just seems sensible. But then again, he’s from Colorado, and I’ve never known anyone from Colorado who was anything but sensible.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many who have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of the castle.