Bartolo Colon Getty

Columnist calls for enhanced drug testing, chooses to discredit results of drug testing

37 Comments

Christine Brennan’s latest column for USA Today decries the fact that Bartolo Colon is in the All-Star Game. Why? Because he tested positive for PEDs last year:

Colon, and every other performance-enhancing drug user in baseball, should never be allowed to become an All-Star, or win any MLB award. No Cy Young, no MVP, no batting title, no nothing. It doesn’t matter that he was caught and suspended last year, not this year. (Although with the reported Biogenesis suspensions still looming, the year is young.) The bottom line is, you don’t suddenly become a non-cheater once your suspension is over.

It’s her right to believe that someone who cheats once must always be cheating, regardless of what the drug tests say. But it is curious coming from Brennan, because for at least six years now her PED hobby horse has been all about getting Major League Baseball to adopt the USADA’s drug testing regime. How one can call for enhanced testing while simultaneously dismissing the results of drug testing (and while failing to point out how MLB’s drug testing program is lacking) is a neat trick, but I guess I can’t understand it given that I’m not a trained journalist living in a major city.

But the worst part of this column is how it completely misrepresents the role of the union with respect to baseball’s drug problem. Brennan says:

Because as much as MLB’s leaders try to clean up their game, the players’ union lags years behind, fighting harder for the cheaters than it does for the players the cheaters shove off All-Star teams and awards dinner stages, and out of record books … Why the players’ union doesn’t speak out for people like [Matt] Moore is mystifying. It will fight harder for Colon and his alleged Biogenesis buddies — Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, et. al. — than it ever will for the poor non-cheating players who continue to quietly accept their fate.

She may have had a point a decade ago when the union was still hostile to drug testing, but she’s completely ignoring current reality. On multiple occasions over the past several years the union has agreed to stiffer drug testing penalties and enhanced testing. Indeed, just this past winter they ratcheted things up significantly adding unannounced HGH testing and testosterone baseline tests, the likes of which Brennan herself has long called for. That baseline testing, by the way, is being supervised by the WADA, which Brennan said in 2007 must get involved and which she herself considered to be the gold standard of anti-doping efforts. Moving goalposts is hard work, of course, so maybe she was just distracted and forgot that she wrote that column.

She is also ignoring the fact that every public statement the union makes on drug matters acknowledges the importance of the drug testing program. And that players and the union have repeatedly and increasingly given voice to their desire for a clean game and the protection of players who do not use performance enhancing drugs.

All of that would get in the way of a good, outraged column, of course. So I totally understand why she ignores it.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

chapman
Leave a comment

OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the excaption because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

gettyimages-577291896
Getty Images
9 Comments

Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

*

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.