Wait, someone has evidence that Rafael Palmeiro really was clean and is unwilling to do anything about it?

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John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus has a Hall of Fame vote and has published a Hall of Fame column, and boy howdy does it have an interesting passage in it regarding Rafael Palmeiro, for whom he is voting:

Rafael Palmeiro: An extremely reliable source—with no ties to Palmeiro—told me an off-the-record story at the Winter Meetings that convinced me that Palmeiro was indeed a clean player and was tricked into using the steroid when he thought he was taking a shot of vitamin B-12 that led to his suspension and end of his career in 2005. Unfortunately, there would be too many legal ramifications to make the story public.

“Legal ramifications?” That’s … interesting. Normally I’d dismiss such stuff out of hand because it’s all so he-said, she-said sounding. But it is probably worth noting that, in Maryland, where Palmeiro was playing at the time of his positive PED test, there is no statute of limitations for felonies so, yes, someone may very well be worried about legal ramifications for assault or whatever you could think to classify drugging someone without their knowledge or consent.

Not that I’m prepared to actually buy this. After all, are we truly to believe that Rafael Palmeiro possesses convincing evidence that one of his teammates (or trainers or whoever) doped him, ending his career, ruining his legacy and putting him at risk of criminal prosecution for lying to Congress and yet Palmeiro is unwilling to say anything about it publicly? The man has became a disgrace and a laughingstock as a result of that positive test. The poster boy for lying cheaters, thanks to that finger-wag while under oath.  Is it reasonable, then, to assume that he has no incentive to clear his name with the convincing story Perrotto was told? He’s worried about someone getting in some relatively minor criminal trouble and is willing to wear the goat horns the rest of his life because of it?

Or I suppose maybe he doesn’t know. In that case, there is apparently someone working in baseball — the guy was at the Winter Meetings after all — with evidence that would clear Palmeiro’s name, yet rather than bring it to anyone’s attention who could do something about it, is simply telling to baseball writers, off the record, over drinks at the lobby bar in the Opryland Hotel. What kind of a person is that?

I don’t know. It all sounds like far-fetched bar talk. I can say this much, though: if there is any truth to this, it brings us back to the old dynamic of the PED story in baseball: people, including writers, knowing what’s really going on, yet no one being all that interested in exposing it. How very shameful. And, in some ways, how very appropriate.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.