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MLB, MLBPA announce stronger testing, harsher penalties for PEDs

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In the wake of the Biogenesis scandal and Alex Rodriguez’s subsequent 162-game suspension, Major League Baseball and many of its players have called for tougher drug testing and harsher suspensions for violations of baseball’s drug policy.

They just got it.

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have announced that they have reached agreement on changes to the drug testing program which enhance testing procedures and increase penalties for taking PEDs.

The enhanced testing procedures

  • The number of in-season random urine collections will more than double beginning in the 2014 season, from 1,400 total tests to to 3,200;
  • Blood collections for hGH detection will increase to 400 random collections per year, in addition to the 1,200 mandatory collections conducted during Spring Training;
  • Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry tests will be randomly performed on at least one specimen from every player. Basically, this is an enhanced analysis of blood samples which are considered more effective in detecting hGH in blood and are tests endorsed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The enhanced punishment

  • A first-time violation of the Joint Drug Program will now result in an unpaid 80-game suspension, increased from 50 games.  A player’s second violation will result in an unpaid 162-game suspension, increased from 100 games.  A third violation will result in a permanent suspension from Baseball.
  • A suspension of 162 games will result in 183 days worth of pay docking, to account for the fact that players are paid baed on a 183-day schedule as opposed to being paid per game. This was implemented in reaction to Alex Rodriguez still receiving some pay this year despite a 162-game ban.
  • Every Player whose suspension for a performance-enhancing substance is upheld will be subject to six additional unannounced urine collections, and three additional unannounced blood collections, during every subsequent year of his entire career.

MORE: To read the full summary of the MLB-MLBPA joint drug program modifications, click here

There are also some advantages to players under the new system. Specifically, if a player tests positive, he can argue to an arbitrator that his use of PEDs was not intended to enhance performance. This changes things from the “zero tolerance” policy which previously existed and under which someone faced first-time discipline even if their PED use was accidental.

Additionally, the league and the union are creating a safe harbor of sorts: they have established a program in which players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result. This should reduce confusion on banned over-the-counter substances and reduce the use of the “I got this from GNC and thought it was OK” defense many have raised in the past.

Many anti-doping experts already viewed Major League Baseball as having the toughest drug testing regime in all of U.S. team sports. This only increases baseball’s lead in this regard.

It does, however, present some reasons for concern. As we at HBT argued this morning, the playoff ban for those players who tested positive and have already served their entire suspensions seems somewhat draconian and will result in harsher penalties for players on winning teams than those on losing teams. It also punishes innocent players on playoff teams in ways the previous system did not before. Moreover, merely adding games to first and second offenses may make everyone feel like the system is tougher, but it must not be assumed that the same basic incentive to cheat — if a player can get away with it, it could mean millions of dollars — will always persist. We execute murderers yet murder still occurs.

At the same time, the strengthening of the drug testing procedures and the implementation of the supplement supplies is most welcome. If the players in the Biogenesis investigation had been caught via testing, no one would have thought of that episode in baseball as a particularly black mark and a year’s worth of bad publicity and litigation would not have been necessary. The best way to cut down on PED use in baseball is to catch the guys who cheat, not to try to make up for testing failures with harsh rhetoric and tactics after the holes in the drug testing system are exposed.

Either way, this is a significant increase in the strength of the drug testing program and will likely be met with overwhelming praise by players, fans, the media and the clubs.

2016 postseason playoff shares announced

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OXON HILL, Md — There used to be a time when postseason money was bigger than most players’ actual salaries. Winning a pennant in baseball’s Golden Age was great for its own sake, but if you were one of the guys who hung around with, say, the Yankees for a long time like Frank Crosetti, the money was basically life-changing.

That’s not the case any longer, but the money is still pretty good, as evidenced by the postseason shares handed out for this past postseason, which were just announced and are set forth below.

Shares come from the “players’ pool,” which calculated by taking 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series.  The players’ pool is divided among the 10 Postseason Clubs. The 2016 players’ pool was a record total of $76,627,827.09. Last year it was $69,882,149.26.

The clubs themselves decide how many shares to allocate, with the players making decisions regarding which part timers, cup-of-coffee callups, staffers, etc. get. They also have the ability to hand out straight cash awards in whatever amount they want as opposed to a percentage cut of the postseason money.

The breakdown:

  • Chicago Cubs (Share of Players’ Pool: $27,586,017.75; value of each of full share: $368,871.59) – The Cubs issued 66 full shares, a total of 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards;
  • Cleveland Indians (Share of Players’ Pool: $18,390,678.50; value of each of full share: $261,804.65) – The Indians issued 60 full shares, a total of 8.75 partial shares and 16 cash awards.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,741.24) – The Dodgers issued 65 full shares, a total of 8.285 partial shares and 20 cash awards.
  • Toronto Blue Jays (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,045.09) – The Blue Jays issued 66 full shares, a total of 7.75 partial shares and 15 cash awards.
  • Boston Red Sox (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $33,761.22) – The Red Sox issued 61 full shares, a total of 10.686 partial shares and 14 cash awards.
  • San Francisco Giants (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $36,443.03) – The Giants issued 57 full shares, a total of 10.5 partial shares and nine cash awards.
  • Texas Rangers (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $38,422.69) – The Rangers issued 54 full shares, a total of 10.19 partial shares and seven cash awards.
  • Washington Nationals (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $35,442.68) – The Nationals issued 60 full shares, a total of 10.209 partial shares and one cash award.
  • Baltimore Orioles (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $18,351.02) – The Orioles issued 52 full shares, a total of 8.36 partial shares and 30 cash awards.
  • New York Mets (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $17,951.65) – The Mets issued 51 full shares, a total of 12.75 partial shares and five cash awards.

 

Cubs-Royals reportedly agree to the Wade Davis-Jorge Soler deal

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 3:  Wade Davis #17 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It was rumored to be close last night but now Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that the Cubs and Royals have agreed to the Wade Davis for Jorge Soler deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo first reported that the deal was close last night. It’s not a completely done deal as the official announcement is pending physicals, but an announcement could come this morning. Ken Rosenthal reports that, assuming it gets done, it will be a straight-up deal, with no other players involved.

Davis has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the past three seasons, posting a 1.18 ERA with 47 saves and a 234/59 K/BB ratio in 182.2 innings. He did, however, miss a lot of time in 2016 — basically the month of August — due to arm trouble and expecting him to be the circa 2014 Wade Davis is probably unrealistic. He’s owed $10 million for 2017 and can become a free agent after the 2017 season. He’ll fill the void left by the departing Aroldis Chapman as Joe Maddon and the World Series champs’ closer.

Soler, who will be 25 when the 2017 season begins, hit .238/.333/.436 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 86 games last season. He strikes out a lot but takes walks t00 and has shown some good power in short bursts. He’s the sort of player who one could easilsy see putting things together to become a solid regular, which makes him a decent return for giving up a closer in his walk year.