Great Moments in incoherence: The drug testing program is working, so it must be scrapped!

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Only in baseball does a system that catches and punishes a guy trying to cheat the system get assailed. Like this article from Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who believes that the fact that the union defends members who fail drug tests — like every union on the planet in every industry — means that the system is somehow broken:

What Cabrera did was expose everything that is faulty with the system: The penalties don’t serve as enough of a deterrent, the players and owners bring differing agendas to a “joint” program, and the loopholes are big enough to allow fans to question the reputation of ballplayers as whole.

This is silly. There are 750 ballplayers on active rosters at any given time. A couple test positive a year. How on Earth is that evidence of a broken system. And are we really going to use Melky Freaking Cabrera’s failure to be deterred by a 50 game suspension against the system? We learned on Sunday that Melky Cabrera is dumber than dog crap. The system is designed to address the vast majority of players who aren’t total morons and have the capacity to reason, so Melky’s example is not one on which to rest your claim that it’s broken.

Of course you don’t have to read far down the article to find the name Gary Wadler pop up. The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency is always around to argue that independent testing is required in sports leagues.  It’s merely a coincidence that his agency also happens to be the one who administers independent testing programs for leagues. Programs which pay Mr. Wadler’s salary. Go back and Google the name of any athlete who has ever been given a drug suspension with “Gary Wadler.”  He hits the media in the wake of such things like clockwork, giving writers talking points which pump up his organization.  There’s a lot I don’t like about how Major League Baseball handles drug testing, but I applaud them for not caving in to Wadler’s cynical, self-serving public relations machine.

And speaking of salary: Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension is costing him nearly $2 million in present salary. Can you find any other instance when someone is fined $2 million for anything? It is also likely costing him a long-term contract worth upwards of $40 million.  Yet we’re supposed to buy the notion that the penalties aren’t enough? That this sort of thing does not deter others?

Due process when one’s money and livelihood are on the line is not evidence of a failed system. The fact that a star player on a playoff-bound team is suspended is certainly not evidence of a failed system.  In fact, they’re quite the opposite. They are evidence of the system’s health, and suggesting otherwise is the second dumbest thing I’ve heard today.

The dumbest thing? Well, that also has to do with Melky Cabrera. It comes from Rick Sutcliffe — noted immigration scholar — who says that Melky Cabrera should be deported. Never mind that he has neither been charged with nor has he been convicted of any crime or otherwise deportable offense.

This is all madness. Just imagine what people would be saying if we knew Melky was taking drugs and he wasn’t caught and punished.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.