Remember before there was PED testing and all of the PED-crusaders talked about how nothing could be trusted and no accomplishment could be considered legitimate until there was PED testing? How they talked about a regular, routine PED enforcement regime would be the key to ending the PED epidemic and hysteria?
Well, we’ve had that for a long time now, but it hasn’t changed anything. Despite the fact that a positive drug test and suspension should be held up as evidence that the system is working as designed, any time a major leaguer tests positive for something and gets suspended, people come out of the woodwork to assert how our regular and routine testing regime we have is awful. That it is somehow evidence that it is itself ineffective. That we need to implement some new and ever-more-draconian punishment.
In that vein comes a suggestion from ESPN’s Michael Smith. He was on “Around the Horn” a little while ago and echoed something he tweeted this afternoon:
Say it with me people. WAR is the answer. Cabrera’s wins above replacement is 4.7. Say five wins. Seems fair to me. And to baseball.
— Michael Smith (@michaelsmith) August 16, 2012
In other words, deduct five wins from the Giants current win total to reflect Melky’s tainted contribution to it.
Points for creativity — I haven’t heard about a team forfeiting wins outside of NCAA football — but not many points for practicality. Indeed, it is not just impractical (who gets those wins that were lost? How does it work in the standings?) it is arbitrary. That’s because it does more to punish the clean teammates of the drug user than it does to punish the actual drug user. And that’s before you get into the fact that no one, not even its most ardent proponents, has been able to reach anything approaching a consensus on the best approach to calculating WAR, let alone its utility, especially in single-season samples.
Not that that last part matters. Indeed, I tend to believe that a seemingly-sensible but ultimately nonsensical punishment like the one Smith suggests is going to most appeal to the people who are the least likely to understand statistics like WAR in the first place.
UPDATE: Criticism aside, I may actually be coming around to this solution. Why? Because this bit of brilliance:
— Walt White(@TheOneWhoKnocks) August 16, 2012
If Michael Young willingly took steroids, got suspended and thus gifted the Rangers with two more wins, he’d be sure to get another couple of MVP votes this year, because that’s ultimate team-player stuff right there.