Buster Olney, for at least the third time in a year, but maybe I missed one or two, has played the “we have no idea if Melky Cabrera is clean!” game today. And he expands it to Nelson Cruz. And argues for the umpteenth time that — because there is just so much risk with these guys because they could be using again and teams have no idea what to expect from them after signing them, yadda, yadda yadda — teams should be able to void players’ contracts if they test positive for PEDs. Here’s Buster:
The union has talked about strengthening the penalties to scare off repeat offenders, and adopted some changes after 2012, but until the players’ association is prepared to give teams the power to take away guaranteed contracts for those busted more than once, there will not and there cannot be meaningful change. The incentive to cheat for those who would consider cheating is still there, still very powerful.
Except Buster proves way, way too much in the course of his argument. He notes that GMs are averse to risk and that their ranks are rife with suspicion about players who use PEDs. So rife that they’ve started to discount certain players, right off the bat. He says “A lot of executives have come to believe that if a player’s performance doesn’t make sense — a late-career spike in production — then it is wise to assume it is built illicitly.” That they look for certain injuries. That “some executives will assume that if a player cheats once, he will be willing to break the rules again.”
So, in other words, they’re baking their suspicion and uncertainty into the offers they make to these guys? If so, what in the hell does Buster think they need protection from? If they are so concerned about players getting suspended, why don’t they just make offers of one year with three years of vesting options based on plate appearances, for example? They could do that. That would certainly protect them. Even if you assume that their not having to pay anyone who is suspended isn’t enough protection as it is.
The answer, I suspect, is that they don’t do that because they want to sign these players and these players won’t sign such deals. They won’t because other teams will offer better deals. Not because they’re idiots, but because they don’t see, say, Melky Cabrera testing positive again as nearly as big a problem as Buster Olney and other people in the media do.
But Buster doesn’t seem to see that. Heck, he does’t even seem to see that punishment for PED use has gotten really damn severe as it is. Go look at that paragraph I blockquoted again. “some changes after 2012 . . .” Excuse me? The MLBPA ratcheted things up to 80-game suspensions for first time offenders and season-long suspensions for second offenders JUST THIS YEAR. 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 maybe we should instead just nuke from orbit players who test positive. It’s the only way to be sure!
Or maybe we can just tear up the CBA and all player rights because some of Buster’s nameless, worried sources may suddenly forget how to manage risk, even though it’s their job to do so. And even though, in practice, they are doing just that.