Michael Weiner: tougher drug penalties might be coming, but that may not be best way to curb PEDs

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Union chief Michael Weiner has been making the rounds in Florida, and yesterday he said two things of note. First: stronger penalties may very well be in the offing:

There are certainly some players who have expressed [a desire for stronger penalties] … We’ve had discussions with the commissioner’s office. If it turns out that we have a different penalty structure because that’s what players are interested in, that’s what the owners are interested in, it will be for 2014 … more and more players are vocal about being willing to accept sacrifices in terms of testing in order to make sure we have a clean game.”

Second, even if that’s what the players want and what ultimately happens, he’s not certain that tougher penalties are the way to go. After noting that baseball’s first time penalty — 50 games — is proportionately harsher than that of the other sports, he opines that better policing, rather than sentencing, is the true deterrent to cheating:

“We have a very strong penalty. There is a reasonable debate you could have in this context and the criminal justice context as to whether increasing the likelihood of detection is the way to deter or increasing the penalty. There is a lot of serious study that says it doesn’t matter what the penalty is, it depends upon if you think you’re going to get caught.”

Weiner is not an ideologue, so if the players want tougher penalties, tougher penalties are going to happen.

I agree, however, with the idea that better policing is more effective than stronger punishment in deterring bad acts. We’ll see how the policing stuff works this year when increased testing — including the institution of a blood test for HGH and the cataloging of testosterone baselines for players — is implemented.

My guess, though: the necessarily greater number of suspensions from the enhanced testing will cause people to think that the drug problem is getting worse (as opposed to thinking that more existing cheaters are being caught), which will lead to more grandstanding and hand-wringing which will in turn lead to tougher penalties.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.