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.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.