Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports makes the case that the four-year, $53 million deal shortstop Jhonny Peralta just signed with the Cardinals could be a potential driving force behind harsher penalties for performance-enhancing drug use. Peralta was suspended for 50 games last year by Major League Baseball for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Peralta will take home an average annual salary of $13.25 million with his new deal with the Cardinals, which is more than double his highest single-season earning — $6 million in 2013. Brad Ziegler, reliever and union representative for the Diamondbacks, tweeted, “It pays to cheat…Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.”
Looking at the system from a purely objective way, leaving my own personal opinion out of it, if the penalty is to be tougher, it needs to take players out of action long enough for teams to call into question their ability. Here is the current system:
- Use PED’s, they work, but get caught: Potentially have a great season, miss 50 games (and salary), chance to sign big free agent contract
- Use PED’s they work, but don’t get caught: Potentially have a great season, miss 0 games, chance to sign big free agent contract
- Don’t use PED’s: nothing, probably not getting a big free agent contract
Increasing the punishment from, say, 50 games for a first-time offense to 100 games is not enough of a deterrent from a game theory perspective, since teams clearly buy that a player’s skills won’t deteriorate from the missed playing time and from going off the use of PEDs. Major League Baseball would need to increase the frequency of drug testing and/or improve the ability to detect drug use, or increase the suspension length to a long enough time that teams don’t feel as comfortable putting stock in that player until he proves himself on the field again, which reduces the “payoff” of using PEDs. At the very least, to reach equilibrium, the punishment for a first-time offense likely needs to be increased to at least a full season or calendar year, including the playoffs.