50 game suspensions are plenty tough

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Tom Verducci had a rundown of free agent outfielders the other day. His Melky Cabrera comments: decent gamble and, because of his suspension, you can probably get him on a one year deal. Fair enough. Then:

In the meantime, I can’t believe Cabrera has yet to truly explain himself and begin to clear the air to try to reduce the taint. He needs to be fully accountable. And the fact that he could roll the dice in his free agent walk year by juicing is a reminder that baseball and the union aren’t truly serious about getting PEDs out of the game; a 50-game suspension is baseball’s equivalent of a five-minute timeout in the corner. The penalty should be at least one year.

He’s not the only one who says this, but the idea that a 50 game suspension is not enough — that it’s “a five-minute timeout” is crazy.

Cabrera lost 30% of his salary — $1.85 million — due to his suspension. And, because he was in a free agent walk year, he probably lost as much as $40 million, maybe more, due to teams being unwilling to make a multi-year commitment to him this winter. He was also effectively shunned from his team and didn’t get to be part of it celebrating a world championship.

To suggest that those aren’t heavy penalties is ridiculous. If, against that backdrop, with those potential consequences looming, a player still wants to risk taking PEDs, he’s either dumb or is someone who is unable to balance risks and rewards.

Six major leaguer players out of thousands on major league rosters were caught using PEDs in 2012. That’s not a ton. If you believe that tons more are using and not being caught — and implicit assertion of everyone who makes arguments like Verducci is here — you should be advocating for more frequent and more stringent testing, not tougher penalties. Because they’re already extremely tough and intimidating for people who operate in a rational universe.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.