August 5, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) runs to third base after hitting a triple during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Giants won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Steroid Era

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

 

Last night, Red Sox Pitcher Ryan Dempster very intentionally plunked Alex Rodriguez.

Why?

To retaliate on behalf of all baseball players and fans. A-Rod committed the mortal sin of modern baseball: he used steroids, and he had to pay.

Yet we all know that one plunking won’t atone for his sin. In fact, nothing will. This isn’t the first time that he’s been caught, but somehow his records still stand, and that angers all good baseball fans.

His punishment (as issued by Major League Baseball) is insufficient. The couple hundred game penalty fails to effectively discourage players from taking performing enhancing drugs. And how do we know this? Because twelve other players were also suspended. And there were seven others last year. And four in 2011. And six in 2010.

In fact, since 2005, MLB has issued an even one hundred suspensions for PED abuse. That’s twelve and a half players suspended every year on average. That’s enough to field a full 25 man roster of juiced up players once every two years. And those are just the ones who get caught.

But even more disgustingly, some of those players were issued more than one suspension. My personal favorite is Neifi Perez, who was issued a 25 game suspension on July 6, 2007, and before he even had a chance to retake the field, tested positive again on August 3rd (25 games later) and was slapped with an 80 game suspension. Clearly, he learned his lesson the first time.

This whole suspension thing isn’t working quite the way that Mr. Commissioner Bud Selig hoped it would. Let’s see if we can come up with a better system with a few minutes at the keyboard.

First, let’s glance at what Major League Baseball is trying to do right now. There are 30 major league teams, and 25 players on each team. We’ll add a few players to account for the ones that get called up over the course of a season and say — to be on the very safe side — that 28 players appear on average for any given team over the course of a season. That means that there are roughly 840 players playing pro ball in any given season.

Now I don’t know how many cup collectors Major League Baseball employs, but I doubt it’s many. We’ll say ten. That means, each cup collector has to handle roughly 84 players per season and make sure that they aren’t on PEDs at any point in time. That job is, to say the least, a challenge.

If anyone should happen to be caught, they are suspended for a brief period of time (usually a little less than half a season) without pay. We’ll choose to take a quick look at Jhonny Peralta.

He’s not a superstar, but was set to make six million dollars this year. He’ll probably lose just under 2 million dollars this season, meaning he’ll make four million. I will make around 30 grand this year. This means that Peralta will make roughly 134 times as much as I will for cheating at baseball. And he’ll still have a shot at a World Series ring if the Tiger’s let him play, as his suspension ends with three games left in the regular season. I wish I had his job.

So how might baseball more effectively handle this problem and move closer to removing the stain of PEDs from baseball?

Simple: you penalize the teams.

Last year, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Halfway through August, they lost a very good player in Melky Cabrera. In fact, he was so good that Fangraphs said he was worth 4.5 wins above a replacement level player. Had San Francisco lost those games, and the Dodgers had won those games, San Francisco wouldn’t have even made the playoffs (and the Cardinals would be looking for 13 in ’13).

Basically, those 4.5 games greatly aided the Giants’ in their trip to the World Series. Now, I don’t care who won the World Series (for the moment), but those extra few games in October made heaping piles of money for the Giants organization. From San Francisco’s point of view, Melky Cabrera helped them make lots and lots of cash. And Melky went on to sign a nice little two-year, sixteen million dollar contract. Everybody won, in spite of the suspension and the cheating.

But what if you took back those games and gave them to key opponents? Or even better yet, gave back one win to every team that Melky played against in addition to his suspension. Now ask the Giants how they feel about Cabrera’s PED usage. He didn’t just cost himself some money and some fame, he cost the team a lot of money and a lot fame.

Thus you place the burden of the punishment on the team. Instead of using a couple of guys to try to police 800 or so players, you have the teams striving to keeps its team clean, and its playoff hopes alive. You create an incentive for the teams, and thereby the players. (Do the Blue Jays want Melky Cabrera when they’ve dropped tons of money on a bunch of All-Stars and he could wind up jeopardizing their chances to do well? I doubt it.)

Bud Selig needs to stop messing around with PED use and penalize the teams as well as the players. When/if he does so, such abuse will all but disappear, and perhaps baseball can go back to the good ol’ days.

Tags: St Louis Cardinals Steroids

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