And now, tomorrow’s Bartolo Colon commentary today!

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I have a sneaking suspicion that Bartolo Colon’s drug suspension coming a week after Melky Cabrera’s is gonna be like manna from hack commentator heaven. The story line — and it will be treated as one, seamless story line — is gonna break down thusly:

Angle: Here we go again! The Bay Area is once again the center of the PEDs universe!

Comment: It is true, Colon plays on one side of the San Francisco Bay and Melky plays on the other. It is also true that Jose Canseco played on one side of the San Francisco Bay and Barry Bonds played on the other. This is an accident of geography and nothing more.  I’ll allow this as a viable angle if any evidence is revealed connecting the old Bay Area drug cases and these new ones. But that’s extremely unlikely.

There is almost certainly no connection at all between the old BALCO things and these testosterone tests. There is likely even no connection between Colon’s test and Cabrera’s. As such, linking all of these things together, or even just linking Cabrera and Colon together in some sort of grand “the Bay Area and PEDs” kind of thinkpiece without any actual factual basis for doing so is pretty good evidence that someone is mailing in a column. It’s the equivalent of writing a story about a murder in New York and spending several paragraphs on the Son of Sam killings.

Angle: Major League Baseball has a serious drug problem and has to do something now!

Comment: I bet Tom Verducci is kicking himself for writing this story yesterday instead of tomorrow, because it’s always way better to write a “the world is ending” trend piece when there is more than a single data point.  But now that there are two positive drug tests involving prominent players this year — sorry Freddy Galvis, Guillermo Mota and Marlon Byrd, you just don’t rate — we’re twice as far along into epidemic territory as we were yesterday.

That said, I still can’t see how the fact of a positive test and a player being penalized can serve as evidence that Major League Baseball’s drug testing program is flawed. Now, maybe it is flawed. Maybe the tests are done haphazardly and too seldomly. Maybe the whole thing is a farce. But the one thing that is not evidence of that is someone getting caught. No, to make the case that the system is broken, you have to actually explain what about it is broken. To do otherwise is the same as saying that the criminal justice system is broken because that guy who robbed the liquor store was caught and punished.

Angle: The Oakland A’s are sunk/The Oakland A’s are rallying

Comment: With all apologies to Mike Krukow, this line of thinking is post-hoc nonsense. It’s not going to help the A’s to have lost Colon, but in a world where people seem to think that even Stephen Strasburg is a non-essential part of a playoff team’s roster, I have a hard time buying Bartolo Colon’s absence as the tipping point. Especially now that they have Brett Anderson back to take his place.

If the A’s lose the wild card now, people will blame Bartolo Colon being gone. If they win it, they will credit the A’s rallying around the loss and/or betrayal and/or whatever of Colon and say it was the season’s turning point.  In reality, the A’s wild card hopes have a lot more to do with their offense, Brandon McCarthy’s health, the Tigers, the Orioles, the Angels and the Rays.  Colon is not a serious factor for anyone except someone searching for an easy storyline.

There. Now that you’ve read that, you can ignore everything else. Isn’t that a relief?

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 which 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 Major League Baseball’s castle.