Buster Olney has made quite the sport of using Melky Cabrera as his go-to example of the dangers of PED use. Back in the spring he played the “hey, if you want to think Melky is playing well clean, good for you, but all of us non-gullible people would be way more reasonable to not do that” game. He has almost always used Cabrera as an example of “cheating pays!” implying that Cabrera has made out like a bandit due to drug use for which he was caught in 2012.
Today, despite his claim that he is in no way accusing Cabrera of anything, he once again visits the topic, using Cabrera as an example of someone who may still continue to have incentives to cheat and who may rip off any team who signs him to a long term deal. And, as he has in the past, he uses Cabrera as the basis for his argument that PED users should have their contracts voided. He premises this on the ideas of an unnamed “veteran player,” but it’s clearly Olney’s position too:
This veteran had a really, really great idea that the union should consider: If a player is suspended a second time — which would effectively remove them from the improbable category of those who are victims of a false positive — then they should be stripped of their multi-year deals and, moving forward, be restricted to one-year contracts.
Seems to me that this creates all manner of bad incentives, both on the part of teams who may seek to get out from under bad long-term deals and for players who are signed to team-friendly one-year deals. I mean, if you are bought out of arbitration and a couple of years of free agency but you’re otherwise a good player, wouldn’t you rather go out on the market on a yearly basis than take your $3M a year on average or whatever it was you agreed to when you were a rookie? Some may. And given that teams themselves do not take the position that once a guy uses PEDs he’s forever an unsignable fraud, players will likely benefit from that. Maybe not the old ones trying to hang on, but the young ones who want both a performance boost and the right to negotiate on the open market for several winters in a row.
That — and Buster’s Melky-obsession aside –such a punishment is silly and disproportionate. It turns one violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement into a player’s forfeiture of his coverage under the agreement. We already live in a time where a player will miss an entire season for a second offense. That new penalty was JUST enacted. Since then we haven’t yet had a repeat offender in the majors. Perhaps we should wait to see if that’s actually a problem before ratcheting up the penalties again.
Or, hell, maybe we should just leap ahead to summary executions at this point. It’s the only thing, apparently, that will stop some folks from arguing that the current penalties are not sufficient.