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:
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:
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.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.
According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.
It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.
Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.
Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.
Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.
The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.