Enough Deterrent to PED Use?
Around this time of year, we’re all hopefully focused on what’s truly important, like family and friends. Certainly, many are starting to shop for bargains with Black Friday around the corner.
With bargains aplenty for shoppers, I’ve been wondering why the price has been going up for some in Major League Baseball. The saying goes that eventually you get what you deserve. I’m not sure that qualifies in terms of PED users.
In the past two years, Marlon Byrd, Melky Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta have been suspended for various PED violations. In addition, Carlos Ruiz was given a 25-game suspension for taking a banned stimulant. What they all now have in common, besides being busted, are HUGE raises.
Byrd had made 22 million dollars total in his career. He received two years for $16 million from the Phillies, with an $8 million vesting option for a third year. Cabrera had earned $12.6 million before signing a two-year contract a year ago for $16 million with the Blue Jays. Peralta had earned a total of 29 million dollars in his career. Now, he’s signed with the Cardinals for four years and $53 million. Ruiz had made 1$4.6 million, and then signed a three-year deal worth 26 million, plus an option for a fourth year. That’s four players busted, four players who received significant annual raises. Who says crime doesn’t pay? Nelson Cruz and Bartolo Colon are among those free agents who’ve served a suspension who haven’t signed. I can’t imagine they will fall into a different category.
I’m certainly not breaking new ground here, but it’s obvious that punishments are not stringent enough. Players like Brandon McCarthy, Brad Ziegler and others have been very active on social media over the past few days to push the same message. Here’s what I think would truly act as a deterrent regarding using, and teams shelling out contracts for players who have been caught:
- Make the first strike a punishment of one year. If a player is out for a full year it’s harder to maintain your skills, and less likely that player will receive a big deal thereafter.
- During that year no contact is allowed with your current team. To allow a player currently to serve a 50-game suspension, but work out at the team’s Spring Training complex and play in games the final couple weeks defeats the purpose. If you face a PED suspension you work out on your own and rejoin the organization when you’ve finished serving your time.
- Penalize the team that had the player based on that individual’s success. Since advance metrics are a big part of the game, that’s the way this will work best. The team that has the suspended player will lose games in the standings based on the WAR (wins above replacement) of the suspended player. If there’s no benefit (meaning 0.0 WAR or a negative number) then that team is fortunate in terms of the standings. For instance, this year, Peralta was a 3.3 WAR player. Take away three wins from the Tigers, and the Indians win the Central Division. Nelson Cruz was a 2.0 WAR player. Take away two Rangers wins, and Texas isn’t in a one-game playoff.
More stringent punishments for individuals and teams will lead to shorter and smaller contracts for those found guilty of using. Why would a team offer a large contract to a once suspended player, or a player believed to be using, if the risk is a loss in the standings? Ultimately, a change would reward those who are playing the game clean. And as we approach Thanksgiving, that would be something to truly be thankful for.