Apparently we’re supposed to suspect PED users for the rest of their careers

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Buster Olney has a great exercise in McCarthyism today. And if you consider my use of the term “McCarthyism” too extreme, know that one significant part of the good senator’s m.o. was to use a given person’s past mistakes and associations as proof, in and of itself, of continued wrongdoing. That’s what Olney is doing with Melky Cabrera today.

The upshot: Melky got caught cheating a couple of years ago. He’s now playing well in 2014. You can choose to believe that he’s clean, but if you choose to believe he’s a big fat cheater, well, that’s reasonable. And that’s clearly what Olney is suggesting you do, make no mistake. He uses an analogy involving a bank robber who went unpunished, suggesting that Cabrera has done the same. He makes a note to say that Cabrera is “a good friend of Alex Rodriguez,” which is gratuitous guilt by association. It’s really a mess of a column in which Olney says it’s OK to always consider someone a cheater if they cheated in the past. He even ends it with the sentence “All’s fair.”

Maybe strongly implying that a guy who did the crime and the time two years ago is still doing the crime now and telling your readers that always assuming guilt without evidence it’s not just OK, but probably the smart thing to do is “fair” in Olney’s world. But it’s certainly not a world I would choose to live in. And it’s not the world that Major League Baseball has sought to create with its drug testing system. Indeed, the entire point of the system is quite the opposite.

If Melky Cabrera tests positive for PEDs this season, I will assume his performance was artificially and illegally enhanced. Until that happens, however — or until some other evidence of his wrongdoing besides this sort of odious and baseless innuendo reveals itself — I won’t. If you have a rational and fair way to handle these things apart from that, I’d love to hear about it.

UPDATE: Many of you are referencing the notion of “not giving a past cheater the benefit of the doubt. About that:

The idea of not giving Cabrera the benefit of the doubt is valid. If questioned, no, of course you can’t blithely assume that someone with a dark past is on the up and up. The issue, however, is why are we constantly questioning and whether that questioning is even reasonable.

Some in the comments used an analogy to someone with a criminal record or to a philandering husband. To that I say, sure, if a guy who once cheated on his wife is late getting home with a sketchy explanation or if someone who was convicted for embezzling money suddenly has $100K in the bank, obviously you can’t forget what they did in the past.

However, we don’t, for no reason whatsoever, question past cheaters or past criminals constantly, forcing them to defend themselves when there is nothing to suggest they’ve reverted to their old ways. To do that is patently unreasonable and, depending on the circumstances, offensive. If you can’t live with a cheater, you divorce him, you don’t take him back and then suspect him all the damn time. If you don’t think the sentence served by the embezzler is sufficient, you ratchet up the penalties, you don’t keep him under police surveillance. The same goes for baseball players and PEDs: they did the time for the crime. If that is not enough for you, institute lifetime bans or quit watching baseball altogether. Don’t sit in constant, baseless judgment.

Melky Cabrera is a professional baseball player doing things now that are not unusual for professional baseball players to do in the space of a month or so. Especially when, even if you pretend that anything good he did in the past was via PEDs, the guy was signed by the best team in baseball when he was 17, was touted by scouts and put up good numbers at a surprisingly young age. Was he ever as good as he was in 2012 for the Giants? No, but it’s not like he was pre-super soldier serum Steve Rogers, either. It’s totally reasonable to expect a clean player to do what Cabrera is doing now without suspicion.

If Melky’s name shows up on some email from a drug dealer or he’s mentioned in the next Biogenesis-style scandal, even obliquely, or even if he suddenly develops ADD and has some doctor get him a therapeutic use exemption after all of this time, fine, your questions about him are reasonable and you don’t have to grant him the benefit of the doubt. However, we do not and should not think that good baseball performance is necessarily illegally enhanced performance without anything more. Even if the guy, in the past, took PEDs. To do so is to engage in ridiculous McCarthyist garbage and stretches the notion of “benefit of the doubt” to crazy extremes.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.