I often defend baseball’s PED testing regime. I think its official punishments are good. Fifty games is a lot for a first offense, as are the financial penalties that go along with the suspensions. But it really has no clue what it’s doing when it comes to secondary sanctions like the one we saw imposed today on Melky Cabrera.
Was it not foreseeable that a person who tests positive for PEDs might one day win a batting title or an ERA crown? Apparently not, because it wasn’t an issue until Melky tested positive and Andrew McCutchen’s hitting fell off a bit. Now there’s all this unsatisfying scrambling.
Thing about is, just this year Major League Baseball was thinking about things like this. It passed a rule making PED-positive players ineligible for the All-Star Game. Why didn’t it think about statistical or postseason awards then? Where was the imagination? Why was what seems so dreadful now — a PED cheat winning the batting title — not a looming menace then? And what about other problems? Just this week 30 players were nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. What if one of them tests positive after they win? Do we retroactively take it away? Or do we realize that, heck, David Ortiz won it last year, so why should we even care about such things now?
I think no one thought too hard about it because, in reality, baseball think about it like I do, and no one at Major League Baseball truly cares about such things. It only becomes an issue when people in the press start grumbling about it or asking Bud Selig about it at press conferences. Then some negative public relations-adverse reaction occurs, leading to ad hoc rules like the Melky Cabrera Rule.
Major League Baseball will get a lot of pats on the back and atta-boys as a result of this. But let’s not pretend that this is some sort of well-though-out thing as opposed to a way to get out of some bad P.R.
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.
It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.
At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”
Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.