Doping experts would prefer to give athletes lenient punishment in exchange for information

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After the Mitchell Report came out, I argued that maybe baseball would have been better served if it had used such opportunities and efforts to learn about players’ doping habits, suppliers and incentives rather than merely produce a list of players for the media to tear apart and which the league itself could hold up to show just how much it was doing.

Back when the Biogenesis stuff hit I similarly argued that  baseball would maybe be better served to talk to the players involved and cut deals in exchange for information about what could be a big drug pipeline into the sport. To stop treating the users as 100% of the problem and actually look to the dealers and others as a means of actually stopping the drug problem rather than merely (ineffectually) policing it.

Most people call me a crazy, druggie-loving apologist when I say stuff like that.

Know who else is saying stuff like that? People on the vanguard of anti-doping efforts. From Pacific Standard:

Anti-doping officials have learned that drug testing cannot catch the most sophisticated cheaters. Marion Jones passed over 160 drug tests; Lance Armstrong passed even more. Incentivizing athletes to become informants, as Gay did, has become a critical component of enforcement. According to people familiar with the Gay investigation, the sprinter told investigators that his former coach Jon Drummond, a gold medalist and chair of USA Track and Field’s Athletes Advisory Committee, encouraged his use of the banned products and transported them for him. They said that Gay also gave information about the chiropractor, as well as NFL players and other track athletes he believes were using the same or similar products.

Gay’s seemingly light punishment, anti-doping officials say, will ultimately serve the greater good, because intelligence gathering accomplishes what drug-testing never will.

If you want to solve a problem, go to its root. If that means losing out on the opportunity to put a big famous person on public trial to make an example out of him, well, maybe that’s a price worth paying.

Of course, I don’t think baseball, its players or its fans will accept that. We get too much joy out of looking tough and there is too little reward, apparently, for actually being effective.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.