Longer PED Suspensions: Deterrent or Retribution?

In the wake of the Biogenesis reports linking several more Major League players to a PED supplier, Bud Selig has begun to talk about enacting stiffer penalties for failed drug tests. From last week:

“The time has come to make meaningful adjustments to our penalties,” said Selig, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.”We need to do everything possible to deter the use of performance enhancing drugs … [the recent Biogenesis investigation has] driven my intensity to increase the toughness of our PED penalties … Apparently the penalties haven’t deterred some players.”

And then, earlier this week, Selig made this statement:

“If people want to continue to do what they shouldn’t do, then the one thing that you have to do is you have to have stricter penalties,” Selig said. “It’s as simple as that.”

If only it really were as simple as that.

In reality, punishment theory is actually a pretty complicated subject, and Selig’s oversimplification of the issue might be better PR than policy. It would be terrific if enacting harsher penalties actually stopped people from doing things that society didn’t want them to do, but unfortunately, the decision of whether or not to break the law is much more complex than simply weighing the benefit derived by breaking the rules against the cost of the penalty associated with getting caught.

I’m not a behavioral scientist and I don’t want to pretend that I know more about this than I do, but I have done some reading over the years on the motivations behind punishment and the relative effectiveness of those ideals. The generally accepted reasons for punishment include deterrence, retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation – most penalties fall under one of these four headings. Selig’s stated goal for harsher penalties is that of deterrence, but I wonder if we’re not getting to a point where actually increasing the severity of the suspensions would move MLB further from deterrence and closer to some combination of retribution and incapacitation.

I’d suggest that the list of players that Major League Baseball has suspended for failing a PED test should give us pause before thinking that longer suspensions are going to actually serve as a deterrent. With perhaps the notable exceptions of Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, and Carlos Ruiz, pretty much every other player that has had to serve a suspension — we’ll deal with the separate case of Ryan Braun in a minute — for a PED violation has either been a fringe Major Leaguer or a former star trying to hang on at the end of his career. Those who have actually been punished by MLB’s drug testing problem lean far more towards the Marlon Byrd/Kevin Frandsen pool of player types.

There are essentially two conclusions you can draw from the types of players that have been suspended to date – that the great players who are using have enough money to purchase PEDs that aren’t yet being tested for (or can afford to hire enough lawyers to get their suspensions overturned), or that the incentives for using PEDs are skewed towards those players who aren’t necessarily risking much by using in the first place. Personally, I think both conclusions are likely true to some extent, and the latter statement is why harsher penalties may not act as much of a deterrent to begin with.

If you’re a player on the fringes of the big leagues, you may very well become convinced that you will not have a Major League career without resulting to some chemical assistance. Former MLB player Erik Knott penned a great article on this very subject last week, and this paragraph is worth reading again even if you already read the article:

Moral objections aside, players who used steroids proved they would do whatever it took to get to the big leagues, and I didn’t. I could have ordered them and learned how to use them just as easily. Maybe I would have jumped from 87-91 to 90-93. That would have been enough velocity to get the ball by hitters from the left side. Control was never an issue for me, and neither was keeping the ball on the ground and in the park. Would that extra velocity have gotten me more swings and misses, more time in the bigs, and therefore more career earnings? As I sit here and reflect on it frankly, I think the answer is probably yes.

Knott believes that using PEDs may have given him a Major League career he might not have otherwise had, though he chose not to use them for reasons not related to the possibility of being caught. I’m sure he is not the only player who feels that they may have pushed him over the tipping point, and if one sees PED usage as the difference between a big league career and no big league career, then no length of suspension is going to deter him from using. After all, under that belief system, not using is essentially the same thing as imposing a lifetime ban on yourself. What is the difference between MLB keeping you out of the sport for failing a drug test and MLB keeping you out of the sport because you’re not good enough to play at that level? From a utilitarian perspective, both not using and getting a lifetime ban have the same result.

This is the problem with punishment-as-deterrent. There are too many scenarios in life where you cannot establish penalties harsh enough to move the needle on the decision. The only thing MLB can threaten to do is take away something that he believes he can’t receive without the use of PEDs in the first place, so the calculation of use-or-don’t-use has to come down to some other factor. In Knott’s case, it was his moral compass and his family. For someone in the same situation, but with less interest in what his father thinks about him and without a wife to encourage him to stay clean, what’s the motivation to not use? If the punishment can’t effectively act as a deterrent, then what?

That leads us into incapacitation. This is, essentially, the goal of the lifetime ban. If you can’t motivate a player to not use PEDs, then you can keep him from competing in MLB to begin with. Incapacitation is an effective reducer of crime, and there’s little question that moving to that ban more quickly would indeed reduce PED usage among Major League players. But it would get us to that reduced state of PED usage by throwing players out of the population, and if we’re actually looking to clean up the game, we should note what kinds of players have failed two PED tests so far: Neifi Perez, end-of-career Manny Ramirez, Guillermo Mota, Ramon Castro, Prentice Redman, Wilson Delgado, Luis Ugueto, Randy Ruiz, and Brian Mallette.

For all intents and purposes, those players are already serving lifetime bans. It might not be an official blacklisting, but Major League teams are not signing up for a third go around with twice suspended players. Codifying the rule into law might be a nice PR statement, but it wouldn’t actually change anything in the population of players being selected as potential MLB players. Right now, the 100 game suspension and the stigma that comes from that has been enough to keep teams away to begin with.

So, if we’re already practically incapacitating repeat users, then moving to a harsher penalty for second time violations is really more about retribution than anything else. There’s a natural element to wanting to punish people for violating the rules, and retribution serves to make us feel better about the justice system if we are punishing criminals for the crimes they have committed. But retribution isn’t as easy of a selling point for tougher penalties as deterrence, even if we eventually have to conclude that’s really what longer suspensions and a quicker path to an official lifetime ban would effectively be.

Michael Weiner, head of the player’s association, seems to understand quite well that this issue isn’t as black-and-white as Selig’s recent statements make it out to be. His response to Selig’s push for a “quick resolution” to the conversation of increased penalties for failed tests:

“There is a reasonable debate you could have in this context and the criminal justice context as to whether increasing the likelihood of detection is the way to deter — or increasing the penalty,” Weiner said. “There is a lot of serious study that says it doesn’t matter what the penalty is, it depends upon if you think you’re going to get caught.”

That last comment is really the key. If Major League Baseball wants to actually increase the deterrence of PED usage, the variable to increase is detection. You can change the calculation of whether to use or not by limiting the likelihood that a player will get away with it. If you can reduce the odds of successful PED usage without detection to a low enough point, then the benefit of using effectively goes away.

Most studies suggest that people respond much more favorably to incentives rather than penalties. The carrot works better than the stick. Even harsher penalties won’t do anything to change the incentive structure that is currently in place for players who see PEDs as their path to the big leagues. However, taking that path away through more thorough testing and increased detection can greatly reduce the allure of that incentive.

While harsher penalties might satisfy our desire to punish the bad guys that are sullying the good name of baseball’s pure history — tongue very much in cheek — I tend to side with Weiner. If MLB wants to reduce the amount of PED users in baseball, it is very likely that increased detection is the better path to pursue.

To MLB’s credit, they are also pursuing this path. HGH is being tested for in-season for the first time. Weiner’s statements suggest that the player’s association is willing to discuss implementing better testing procedures to cast a wider net and catch those who may have been getting away with PED usage previously. If we’re going to see further prevention of PED usage in Major League Baseball, it’s likely these changes — and not stiffer penalties — that effect actual change.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


125 Responses to “Longer PED Suspensions: Deterrent or Retribution?”

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  1. bkgeneral says:

    I don’t get people thinking “improved” testing is any type of answer. Basically drug testing is equal parts IQ test, and finance exam. If you have the cash to get the latest and greatest, testing is always 2 years or more behind. How about taking on PED’s like they take on gambling. Even being linked to known gamblers is enough. MLB approves all doctors/ trainers/ etc, use of any source outside MLB approval is lifetime ban.

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    • enhanced performance says:

      Wow, a great discussion on PEDs and penalties. Detection is the key. I think things like genetic fingerprints, frozen and stored samples and blood testing are the key. Of course more frequent and random testing must be employed.
      I do have one small gripe however with Mr. Cameron’s post. It is clear that many ped users were stars and not exactly past their prime (Canseco, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, Juan Gonzalez, Sheffield, Giambi, Rocker, Gagne etc.). Maybe some were older but not all and definitely many were stars while they cheated. Still it is an excellent post.

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      • Jay29 says:

        All of those players you list were from an era in which there was no testing — not even an explicit ban — in place. The assumption is that once MLB started testing and punishing players, the stars either stopped (due to the risk of suspension/embarassment) or found ways to avoid detection.

        But I do think that Dave was too quick to focus the discussion on fringe players. Yes, deterrence is ineffective against guys fighting for a roster spot, but aren’t we more worried about the stars’ PED use? They are the ones whose usage most harms the game, or, I should say, it’s their getting caught which most harms the game. And deterrence can’t as easily be deemed ineffective in their case.

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        • Scott says:

          Steroids have been explicitly banned since 1991. But I definitely agree that the focus is on stars. I recently wrote a paper on player responses to failed PED tests/steroid allegations and found that the list of implicated players was littered with people I had seriously never heard of. Dan Serafini? Steroid use is a problem and the higher a player’s profile the worse it is for the sport in terms of both PR and competition.

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    • Tree says:

      That’s not really true, and in as much as it is true, it won’t be true forever. 95% of the time people talk about PEDs they are talking about variations of testosterone. There is nothing magical about the variations that makes them particularly hard to test, they are just different. Also the regular population wide testing they are doing should be providing them with baselines that make it easier to detect future changes.

      As far as it not being true forever, look at drug development in other areas, it gets expensive fast when there are no obvious areas of research. Placebo voodoo probably already provides a better return for a company like Biogenesis, which is why they were selling it.

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    • Balthazar says:

      There are major locial fallacies in how you frame this commentary, Dave.

      The assumption given that those players _caught_ for usage since MLB began testing are a representative sample of the players _actually_ using, either then or previously, is completely unfounded. As enhanced performer says in his comment, many players who have NEVER ‘been caught’ have obviously been using, both the by the evidence, their own admission, or third party corroboration. McGwire was never caught. Palmiero was never caught. There is every reason to beliee that Manny Ramierez started using before he left Cleveland (he came in with an entirely different body after one offseason, with power numbers afterwards he’d never before had), not just ‘end of career.’ Clemens was never caught by MLB. The putatively confidential tests which MLB did in the early 2000s identified many players using, including stars very much NOT at the end of their careers. From the standpoint of the available evidence, the way usage of PEDs is framed in your commentary, Dave, is flatly deceptive: Many stars have patently used throughout their peak performance years over the last three decades. You have the evidence to have approached this question differently. For that reason, then, the line of argumentation pursued in the post has no valid basis.

      “. . . [N]ot using is essentially the same thing as imposing a lifetime ban on yourself. What is the difference between MLB keeping you out of the sport for failing a drug test and MLB keeping you out of the sport because you’re not good enough to play at that level? From a utilitarian perspective, both not using and getting a lifetime ban have the same result.” No, the two situations are NOT equivalent, are not ‘essentially’ the same. A player who does not have major league tools isn’t ‘banned’ from performance, they are not qualified for the job. It’s not that MLB is being ‘unfair’ to them or ‘punitive’ to them, they simply don’t have the stuff to play at that level. Misrepresenting someone unqualified as if they are ‘penalized’ is fallacious at best.

      —But it gets worse than that. The situations of a player not qualified, and a player who qualifies by dishonestly enhancing themselves does not make the latter ‘equivalent’ to those who are actually qualified on the basis of ability. Those cheating are breaking the rules of competition; they are disrespecting the effort of those who do manage to compete clean; they are disrespecting the purpose of the sport itself as a fair competition between individuals having mutual respect. Just as Player A who lacks the skills for the job isn’t actually equivalent to Player B who enhances and is banned, Player C who enhances himself to get a MLB job isn’t equivalent to Player D who had the skill/tool set to get the job clean.

      It is not just the result that matters, getting the MLB job. How one gets it, and how one plays the game DO matter in the larger scheme. There is a persistent false reduction of performance enhancement to ‘outcomes only’ in much commentary on the issue, and specifically in the thinking behind your post, Dave. Enhancement is really about the process, and a resistance or inability to grasp this is diagnostic of real deficits in ones thinking. Swimming faster, biking longer, hitting/throwing it harder isn’t just a ‘result’ it’s the product of physical talent, learned skills, and behavioral qualities. Those who think ‘results are all that matter’ ARE the problem. If ‘results’ are all that matters, why doesn’t a pitcher just pull out a pistol and kneecap that guy who is about to score and mess up his FIP? Why doesn’t he must use squashy ball half the size of a regulation hardball when the other team’s big hitter is up?

      Which brings this round to the very odd perspective on ‘punishment’ that is presented in the commentary. As if somehow it’s the individual who used who really matters. That person DOESN’T matter: it is the pattern of many people using to the point where the ‘sport’ becomes a contest of multiple frauds which is the real issue. Am I supposed to feel sorry for someone who is ‘punished,’ the implication of the use of that term? They made the choice; nobody else put the stuff in the bodies. Nobody else cashed those checks or did those endorsements for money. Framing as ‘punishment’ the sanction of someone with a behavioral distortion that involves them decideing to does and cheat seriously miscasts the _function_ of that sanction. The issue isn’t the ‘punishment’ of an individual to ‘change _their_ behavior,’ the issue is to caution other parties about their concurrent and subsequent choices. The point of consequences in the matter of PED usage in MLB or other sports isn’t to reform the abuser but to discourage the undecided. And as wee see from the dosing ring rung by Biogenesis with the evident connivance of a crooked players agency, deterrence is evidently too weak at present. All in all, the framing of this post as ‘results are what count’ and ‘punishing individuals does/does not change them’ doesn’t really engage with the problems actually posed to sport by PEDs.

      Should penalties be stiffer? What needs to be stiffer is the testing regime: that is really what matters, not what happens after someone is confirmed as an enhancing cheat. MLB’s testing regime is far too lax. There need to be twice as many tests annually, with full randomicity. Players who have tested positive should be on very tight, lifetime testing regimes at any time they are subsequently readmitted to competition. We aren’t just talking about anabolic sterioids, there are multiple other enhancing agents now. And yes, new compounds, masking agents, and dosing regimes all stay a couple years ahead of the tests. Better testing _regimes_ will isolate those using over time, however. And that is the point: deterrence, not punishment.

      And rehabilitation? I don’t personally care if anyone who chose to use is EVER readmitted to competition. The sport involved doesn’t need them, period. We don’t need Bonds; we don’t need A-Rod; we don’t need Melky. There are a lot of other people with pretty good skills who play the game very well and are a joy to watch; we don’t need big heads chasing big wallets to enjoy the game we love. But as things stand, certainly most first time abusers who are identified by testing aren’t likely to face life time bans. So the initial ban doesn’t matter that much. 50 games is rather weak; it’s a year of competition in most other sports. The point is a rapid escalation for any subsequent tests. No matter what the first positive test brings as a sanction, a second should be 2 years; flat, positive, out. A third is lifetime because that person is incapable of getting the message that their ‘reality distortion field’ is unacceptable.

      Here’s a final question for you Dave, which I doubt you’ll answer since in the eight years I’ve either read your commentary or discussed this with you directly on the issue you’ve never given an answer. Is there any behavior regarding PEDs which you would actually define as unacceptable, and requiring sanctions? Reading you, the answer would be, not really. So what’s your answer?

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      • Breadbaker says:

        Palmeiro was never caught? Are you talking about someone other than Rafael Palmeiro? http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2121659

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      • Josh Baum says:

        Wow! That was sensational. It is wonderful to read someone who really gets it. I think you were a tad harsh on Dave though. In defense of his post, though I agree with you on most things, he mentions bud selig. The commish’s comments were more about retribution and like you say better testing is probably more important. It is true that it is ok to be angry and I love your viewpoint and eloquence.

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      • commenter #1 says:

        tl;dr

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      • Mr. Jones says:

        This comment is nonsense. Dave is not talking about the steroid era. Your contention that “Many stars have patently used throughout their peak performance years over the last three decades” has no relevance. He is talking about MLB as it is currently, not how it was fifteen to twenty years ago.

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  2. commenter #1 says:

    “If people want to continue to do what they shouldn’t do, then the one thing that you have to do is you have to have stricter penalties,” Selig said. “It’s as simple as that.”

    DEATH PENALTY FOR PARKING VIOLATIONS

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    • Matt says:

      This would likely reduce the number of parking violators and effectively disprove this article’s point.

      Was that what you were going for?

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    • Baltar says:

      You stole the comment I was going to make, except it was going to be, “Retroactive death penalty for steroid use.”

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  3. rubesandbabes says:

    No, they are testing for HGH in Spring Training, not in-season.

    Stiffer penalties are good, but meaningless without increased testing. Right now, it is extremely easy for the players to game the testing.

    MLB should be commended for finally performing the right kind of tests, but once, twice a year won’t do it. If they test 8-15 times a year, wow that’s gonna be rough on a lot of ballplayers.

    And once they do start real testing, the WAR stat is gonna have to make room for the relievers whose efforts are discounted to make the stat work a little better. Not every team will have a dynamite bullpen anymore.

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    • JustinSmoakedCheese says:

      What’s it like always being up on your high horse Rubes? Your comments here and at SB nation are some of the worst crap out there. It’s fun when you are uppity and wrong

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      • rubesandbabes says:

        Hi Justin,

        The problem with the internet is people are using it too much to reinforce their own ideas and find comfort in this way. It’s not getting any better.

        The Mike Trout MVP deal was not about a fellow with a deserving MVP candidacy being touted for fun – it was about trying to fix whats wrong with the world and right now from the ‘stupid people.’ Guess what, most everyone is in fact pretty stupid.

        Another good example is the total lack of significant peer criticism among this crowd for all the lightweight new baseball stats of the week articles one sees so often here. Feeling entrenched over WAR? Why?

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        • tylersnotes says:

          i read this 3 times and my only explanation for this comment is that there is a rubesandbabes_ebooks

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        • Matt says:

          ‘The problem with the internet is people are using it too much to reinforce their own ideas and find comfort in this way’

          I’m impressed. I didn’t know what the problem was with the internet until you told us.

          Based on your above statement, i fear that you may unintentionally proven yourself correct.

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        • Baltar says:

          “The problem with the internet is people are using it too much to reinforce their own ideas and find comfort in this way. It’s not getting any better.”
          rubesandbabes

          “If people want to continue to do what they shouldn’t do, then the one thing that you have to do is you have to have stricter penalties. It’s as simple as that.”
          Bud Selig

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    • rubesandbabes says:

      Dave, the one time HGH testing already happened for my team. My understanding is HGH in Spring only. If I am wrong, I am wrong, but the greater point about the guys not being tested stands.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        The point doesn’t stand, because you’re incorrect about how the testing is being implemented.

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        • rubesandbabes says:

          Blood test once in Spring, pee test twice a year, once random, and five pee tests for Bartolo..

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        • Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

          Why would you write off the whole “once random” thing as if it’s nothing?

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      • Balthazar says:

        So Dan Ugglas, because one randome is really insufficient, that’s why. With short cycles and masking agents, you have to test practically in the middle of usage, under 48 hours from a dose, to even get the possibility of a postive reading. Many players can, and doubtless do, use short cycles in season with very little possibility they will be detected. Furthermore, if a player has already had their _single_ random testing, they have a license to use for the remainder of the season, knowing they won’t be tested again.

        Testing should be at least eight times a year on a significantly random basis to have significant deterrence. Player’s should never know if _this week, any week_ they might have to give a sample. Refusal to give a sample should continue an automatic sanction, also. MLB’s present testing regime is, as stated in the comment of this thread, extremely easy to game, and far below world anti-doping standards in many professional sports. Folks who test positive should have far more frequent, mandatory testing for the rest of their careers. Yes, that’s an onerous requirement—and should be, the point is deterrence.

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  4. Sparkles Peterson says:

    I really doubt that PED use among established MLB players/stars is rare, which does diminish the first argument but supports the conclusion. If MLB wants to stop PED users, they need to make a better effort to catch PED users, instead of just catching the PED users who can’t figure out the glaring cracks in the system. At that point, I think a lot of people with long big league careers ahead of them, with or without the aid of PEDs, are going to be reevaluating the risk and reward.

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  5. Christopher Columbus says:

    OMG! Firsties!!!!I discovered this article. Skippity-bop-be-boot-a-be-bop-a-bop!!!!!!!

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first to discover America, either, so this is fitting.

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      • Baltar says:

        America was discovered?

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        • tommy says:

          yes. everything but africa was discovered, if human evolution is correct as it is understood today.

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        • philosofool says:

          The idea of discovery is vague. Lavoisier wasn’t the first guy to breath oxygen, but he was the guy who proposed a common chemical element absorbed in combustion reactions.

          Arguably, Columbus discovered that there is a continent west of Europe that is not Asia, while Vikings discovered that there is a continent west of Europe (but didn’t know enough about China to make Columbus’s discovery.)

          Also, Netwon and Leibniz independently discovered calculus. Contrary to some misunderstandings, it can be perfectly true that Columbus, Leif Erickson and an unknown group of Asian nomads all independently discovered America.

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  6. JustinSmoakedCheese says:

    This seems to indicate a need for better minor league testing, to catch the guys franticly grasping for a call-up. Also, I like drugs.

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  7. Wil says:

    My question would be, what possible incentive could you offer players to not take PEDS? Especially a guy who is stuck in the minors? Is anything really going to keep him from doing PEDS?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      You essentially just have to take away the reward. If he’s 95% sure he’s going to get caught and caught pretty quickly, then it’s no longer such an attractive option.

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      • Tim A says:

        So what’s with the equal penalties for weed usage. I really think puffing a joint, and injecting chemicals into your blood via needle, are two very diffrent things. 50 game suspensions for Pot JFC.

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        • Ryan says:

          Does that mean you’d be okay with an aerosol steroid but not intravenous THC injection?

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        • Steve says:

          Only in the minors though. Big leaguers don’t get 50 games for weed.

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        • Baltar says:

          “weed usage” is still technically illegal most places, so let the law enforcement authorities handle it–or not.

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      • SerMonty says:

        I disagree that it is impossible to offer incentives to a minor league player. Minor leaguers make really crappy salaries, right? So a player grasping at the majors is hoping for a serious reward, but is risking little.

        What if MLB increased minor league minimums (if any exist)? If minor leaguers made $100,000, wouldn’t they have an incentive to keep that job rather than cheat to get a promotion?

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    • Nate says:

      How about you have to pass drug test before being promoted to Bigs.

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  8. rubesandbabes says:

    “There are essentially two conclusions you can draw from the types of players that have been suspended to date – that the great players who are using have enough money to purchase PEDs that aren’t yet being tested for (or can afford to hire enough lawyers to get their suspensions overturned), or that the incentives for using PEDs are skewed towards those players who aren’t necessarily risking much by using in the first place.” – DC

    Uh, no this is illogical – the players are not being tested and they (we now know, more than two years ago) are favoring testosterone which leaves the body quickly. There may be a mystery drug problem, The Jamaica Syndrome I call it, but the ballplayers needn’t even take it to that level.

    Common Scenario: The player gets tested once in the Spring, and then his one random in-season test comes up in May. After that, it’s free and clear all Summer with no further testing. Good times!

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    • jpg says:

      Um no it’s not illogical. Look at the list of players. Elite players like Bonds, Sheffield and Giambi got busted using undetectable “designer” steroids because of leaked grand jury testimonies. Then you have the Neifi Perez types who are just trying to stay employed. The overwhelming majority of players who have been caught are in one of those two buckets. Maybe what DC said was illogical, but your testosterone claims (with no data or links to back it up…shocking) and effects with made up names did absolutely nothing to prove he was being “illogical”. Get over yourself.

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  9. TKDC says:

    For many players, it is perfectly rational to roll the dice (I think you or someone else at Fangraphs brought this up regarding Melky last year). While you are right that the key is actually better testing and enforcement, the punishment cannot be ignored as this does in fact involve rational decisions. It won’t solve the problem to severely increase the penalty, but it will move the needle on who is willing to take the risk.

    Once this is realized, you just have to decide what you are willing to give up. If you truly don’t want steroids in the game, you can remove them by making lifetime bans and jacking up testing (assuming this is possible) to capture all the culprits. The thing is, even the most ardent opponents of PEDs are unlikely to go along with this. It just seems for the selfish reason of not wanting the best players to possibly just disappear from the game, too much of a price to pay.

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  10. TKDC says:

    Is there anything wrong with suspensions as retribution?

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  11. West21 says:

    I preface my statements by saying this is a game and not real life.

    I have been in the legal field for 3 years now and it is obvious to anyone who has taken a criminal justice 101 class that stricter penalties don’t necessarily deter crime. BUT excessive penalies have shown some deference in crime. Take the DUI laws in Arizona, everyone outside of Mark Grace does not even chance driving outside of a few drinks. I am not championing Sheriff Joe by any means(I despise him), but his strict punishment of DUIs have lowered then considerably. Excessive penalties are nearly impossible to pass into law because of cruel and unusual punishment.

    That being said, there is no constitution in baseball, baseball is a game that is meant to be played fairly. Excessive punishment for PEDs would greatly deter players from using them. 2-3 year bans would scare the shrewdest of users and a life time ban would even scare Victor Conte’s clients.

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    • cass says:

      There’s the problem that the tests aren’t perfect. The odds of getting two false positives is much less than one, though, so waiting for two failed tests to give a lifetime ban makes sense. You don’t want to suspend a player for life when they aren’t actually guilty.

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      • Synovia says:

        The odds of getting false positives on both samples they take in one test are astronomically low. The tests are pretty damn accurate.

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    • Paul says:

      I’m glad you brought this up because it goes directly to Dave’s point and I think is a good analogy. Are you sure it’s the penalty that is deterring DUI’s in Arizona, or the enforcement (or both)? I suspect knowing a little about Sheriff Joe that along with stiff penalties, his department probably conducts a ton of checkpoints.

      I am okay with stiff penalties, but it must follow a detection mechanism that is reliable and consistent. In other words, when the CDC reports that people drove drunk 300 million times last year, but a little over 1 million DUI arrests occurred, that is a woeful detection record. If you issue a really severe punishment for a crime that is poorly detected, that’s pretty damn unfair, isn’t it?

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      • Jason B says:

        “If you issue a really severe punishment for a crime that is poorly detected, that’s pretty damn unfair, isn’t it?”

        What would you propose as a solution – really ramp up detection efforts, or scale back penalties for the unlucky few who are caught? With regards to detection efforts and DUI’s, I think if you ramp them up you have to be sure that you don’t ensnare the innocent bystanders and make things miserable for them – i.e., have a Breathalyzer-type test before the ignition can be engaged (pretty quick and painless) rather than a lot more DUI checkpoints (as someone who doesn’t drink, I don’t want to be crawling through traffic every weekend while the cops try and catch anyone who may have had a drink or two).

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  12. BX says:

    And DUIs continue to go completely unpunished by MLB, even absolutely absurd ones such as Drake Britton’s.

    Until they do something about DUIs/DWIs I’m not inclined to see anything MLB does about PEDs as anything above mere silliness.

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  13. geefee says:

    I don’t think either deterrence or retribution are the reason these suspensions are in place, but I guess retribution is closer to the truth. If you have a system, and you occasionally catch someone, you can look like you care, and you can provide a sacrificial lamb to those who want one, and you’re done. I have a hard time believing that MLB really, truly cares one way or the other if anyone is using steroids.

    It deters players from getting caught too, if that’s what you mean. Let’s be serious: a lot more players are using steroids than are getting caught doing it. A LOT more. If you actually test positive, it means you screwed up, and I don’t mean by using in the first place.

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    • cass says:

      “Let’s be serious: a lot more players are using steroids than are getting caught doing it. A LOT more. ”

      Please provide some evidence to back up this assertion.

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      • geefee says:

        Non-naïveté?

        You cannot possibly believe that testing catches a substantial percentage of PED users. Think about it for a second.

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      • Synovia says:

        How about the fact that we haven’t caught a single all-star with a test, but we know about dozens through grand-jury testimony?

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        • taprat says:

          DO we know of dozens of all stars who have used PEDs, since MLB officially banned PEDs and increased the testing? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m naive but I do think the landscape changed significantly when MLB officially implemented the ban. I don’t think it was viewed as cheating amongst the players prior to that. Now, I think it is.

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  14. xb says:

    What they need to do is to allow explicit contract language that allows the team rescission of a contract based on confirmed PED use. They don’t need to ban them…they need to allow teams to get out from under their contracts more easily than taking the fight to the union every time.

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    • Tim says:

      If there were clawbacks in it it might be a very reasonable deterrent. One of the weaknesses of the current system is that a player can be successful on PEDs until he gets caught and keep all the reward.

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  15. PackBob says:

    Keeping baseball pure was never a good reason to discourage PED use. But I think it’s incumbent on every generation to try and provide an even playing field where cheating the system to gain an advantage over talent and skill is not allowed, with no less attempt because of past failures. Increasing the difficulty of using without being caught seems the best approach. A 50-game suspension doesn’t do much when the player turns around and gets millions in a new contract.

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  16. Anon says:

    Regarding punishment, why is discussion constrained to bans/suspensions?

    Add a financial punishment. Get caught and you pay X amount and/or XX% of your salary/contract. If you are near the end of your career, you lose your pension. Also, consider adding a punishment to teams with a recurring problem.

    Regarding detection, keep redundant samples. Test at time of collection, X years later, and again Y years later.

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      A player is not paid for the games he misses during his suspension, so there is a potentially significant financial punishment there. A 50 game suspension is nearly a third of a player’s income.

      Also, think about how much in endorsements that Ryan Braun potentially lost.

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      • SixthGear says:

        Losing 35% of one year’s salary when you are already very wealthy doesn’t seem like much of a financial punishment. Maybe enforcing all previous salaries to be paid back to ownership would be an extreme deterant.

        The difference between being rich and poor is more than enough incentive for these people to take a risk in which they may have a high liklihood of not being caught and therefore punished.

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  17. Leftfield Limey says:

    It appears unarguable that detection is a key part in deterrence but logically it does not follow that you can therefore ignore the penalty element. The penalties also need to be strong. The deterrent is never likely to be strong enough to stop PEDs but if you are serious about deterrence surely you make the deterrent as strong as possible (in terms of both detection and penalty).

    There then comes the point on making “nice PR statements”. It can be easy to dismiss such statements as puff but this ignores another reason for punishment (to add to deterrence, retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation) to set out what the community (in this case the baseball community) sees as morally acceptable. Players on PEDs cheat all players who are playing clean. It is as simple as that (you can argue about the degree). If the sport is serious about being clean then it needs to make it clear what is morally acceptable in the sport and high penalties send a clear message. Baseball has shown a historic ambivalence to PEDs and when compared to other sports that anti-PED programmes in place (e.g. athletics) even now the measures in baseball are really quite risible. Clear messages are needed to dispell this ambivalence or the problem continues. Alternatively if PED usage is acceptable they should come straight out and say it so evryone knows exactly where they stand.

    I have always found one potentially intriguing option to deter individuals from breaking the rules is that of peer punishment. If a player is found using PEDs, take away a few wins from the team’s wins/losses column. It would be a fascinating experiment to see if pressure from team owners (financially) and teammates (in playing terms) was more effective in stopping players from cheating.

    Penalties on teams

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    • geefee says:

      Penalizing teams directly is absurd. That’s all I can say about that. Besides, I’m not sure how you could possibly argue that penalizing the players doesn’t penalize the teams already.

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      • Anon says:

        Penalizing teams directly is absurd.

        No. Penalizing teams for a one time problem is absurd. Teams with a widespread or reccurring problem absolutely should be punished. Removing wins as a punishment seems absurd; make the punishment financial and/or draft related.

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        • geefee says:

          And why is that? Is the assumption that a team with multiple players getting suspended is encouraging its players to use PEDs? If that’s proven to be the case, that would be one thing, presuming it is ludicrous on a number of levels. Is the goal to encourage blackballing suspected PED users?

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        • Anon says:

          Is the assumption that a team with multiple players getting suspended is encouraging its players to use PEDs?
          No, the assumption is that the team isn’t doing enough to deter PED use.

          The goal is less PEDs. Motivating an involved group(teams) to actively oppose PEDs is a legitimate path toward that goal.

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        • geefee says:

          That’s totally encouraging blackballing suspected PED users, because if there’s any significant direct penalty given to teams, none will ever consider signing any non-essential player who might test positive. That’s what that will do.

          And okay, let’s pretend it should be a team’s responsibility to prevent what we all know is ultimately something they are incapable of preventing. How is creating an (I’m guessing) unrebuttable presumption of omission any different of better than one of an affirmative bad action in their part?

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    • Balthazar says:

      So Leftfield, yes, existing deterrence regimes in baseball are risible. That is what makes Bud Selig’s PR so weak, his indignation occurs in a lax context with which the team owners are _fully_ complicit.

      Hence your concept of penalties on teams are rather interesting, actually. The principle reason baseball has been and remains ambivalent regarding a minimally effective deterrance regime for PED usage is that having dopers on your roster is immensely profitable for MLB teams so long as those guys don’t get caught. SF went to the World Series last year, a very profitable outcome, but minus a few ‘Melky way wins’ they wouldn’t have gotten that wild card. St. Louis has gotten a great deal of mileage out of having users on their squads throughout the sterioid era. And so on. Owners _want_ these guys’ results, but don’t want to get blamed for it. . . . Soo penalize the teams and owners.

      In one sense, that’s harsh. Teams don’t put the stuff in their players, and to a real degree can’t stop their players from using, so being penalized for a situation an org doesn’t really control is pretty painful. But still, the attitude of owners would change IN A HURRY if doping cost _them_ not a little skin directly. So I’d be for this, so long as the games lost for an initial positive test were low.

      But the penalty for positive tests which we really need to see is contract voiding. Players with positive tests should have their employment contracts voided, or at least seriously reduced. If there is a way to get through to players just how morally unacceptable the actions of PED usage are, it’s to take away their ‘permanent gain’ from using, their guarantee of payment.

      This form of sanction is long overdue: players coming off PED usage have had a devestating effect on many, many franchises due to subsequent performance collapse. This is, to me, the largest single issue with PED usage, yet it is almost never discussed. Guys dope; they get a big deal; they come off the stuff; they crash; the team’s budget is gutted, and the dud guy is an albatross putrifying their MLB team for years. Mo Vaughn; Greg Vaughn; Vernon Wells; Chone Figgins; four score more (pick your suspects and actuals as you see it) whose performance soared above what had seemed their trajectory, only to crash and burn _after_ getting the contract, taking a 25 man roster into the manure pit with them. Teams should have sued many of these guys for fraud years ago . . . but were too eager to benefit from the enhanced performance to clean up the game, always hoping it would be someone else who got burned. But what we are talking about here _is fraud_. If a guy walks into a bank and passes a bad check, he can get prison time. If a guy dopes, signs, and crashes, he walks away with tens of millions of dollars. There is literally no _financial_ deterrence at all, and hence every incentive to steal the money and run. Even lifetime bans for single positive tests won’t deter enhancers if they get to walk away with $30-100M. It’s the guarantee which has to go to get through to those guys.

      Any serious deterrence regime for PED usage in sports would void guarantees of payment to the players involved. And that’s long overdue.

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      • Jason B says:

        “Guys dope; they get a big deal; they come off the stuff; they crash; the team’s budget is gutted, and the dud guy is an albatross putrifying their MLB team for years. Mo Vaughn; Greg Vaughn; Vernon Wells; Chone Figgins…”

        Have these guys all been caught doping? Legitimately asking, I wasn’t aware that they had tested positive.

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      • Leftfield Limey says:

        Balthazar. Agreed if you penalise the team, the team has to be able to penalise the player and probably the teams would want to cover themselves and introduce their own PED testing regimen so they could find the problem first – presumably the union would be in uproar.

        In some ways more interesting would be the effect of peer pressure from fellow players. If they saw their chances of playoff glory suddenly hit by an effective 10 game losing streak I am certain they would be less than impressed and it would be interesting to gauge how effective a deterrent the fear of incurring the wrath of the baseball community in this way would be.

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  18. Dan in NYC says:

    Just got this from a friend and hope it is just unsubstantiated rumor (at least for fantasy purposes): http://daps.tv/source-robinson-cano-alex-rodriguez-ryan-braun-and-curtis-granderson-to-be-suspended/

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    • Matt Bertelli says:

      I read that rumor around the Internets but so far it is just a rumor. It is somewhat believable though so it is within the realm of possibility but I wouldn’t bank on it.

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  19. TKDC says:

    It should also be noted that the vast majority of baseball players fall into the “barely hanging on” bucket.

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  20. Joe says:

    When comparing this issue to gambling, a lot of people tend to overlook one important fact: Performance enhancement via chemicals, in and of itself, is not against baseball’s rules.

    Seriously, there are any number of supplements (both muscle-building and otherwise) that are perfectly legal both in the eyes of the law and of MLB. For example, creatine has the exact same purpose as steroids in the eyes of professional baseball players, yet there is no push whatsoever to ban players who take creatine.

    There are also exceptions to the rules against PEDs if they are prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical treatment. Players who suffer from concussions have the ability to use amphetamines, and I’m quite certain that MLB was not prohibiting Jon Lester from using steroids while going through chemotherapy.

    Gambling on baseball, on the other hand, is against the rules in every way, shape, and form, and there are no exceptions whatsoever to this rule.

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    • Abluejayinoz says:

      Concerning Jon Lester and his prescribed steroids. Different type of steroid. Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone and are the “performance-enhancing” kind. Corticosteroids are synthetic derivatives or hormones produced in the adrenal cortex (hence the name)and are used to combat inflammation and the effects of severe allergic reactions. The word steroid merely means hormone-like and can, therefore, be used for any number of drugs. Please don’t confuse these two sets of drugs, they have completely different effects.

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  21. Mike E says:

    I think MLB would be much more successful in starting an education program that teaches players from the low minors on up, how little PEDs actually will help their performance. I safe to say there are a lot of players in the minors with no medical or scientific background and little knowledge of the statistics of players using banned substances and their success rates. I’d venture to guess that many of the younger players hear from these pushers “hey, PEDs are the reason why Barry Bonds was so good.” When MLB should teach their employees that is false. Barry Bonds was good because he could hit a baseball, the PEDs made him a little faster a little stronger and gave him a bit more longevity, but the PEDs didn’t give him the ability to hit baseball. Ask any of the scrubs listed above.

    MLB might have more education stuff in place, and it’s going to be able to break through years of misinformation and stigma surrounding PEDs. However, coupling the education with suspension might have a shot at working.

    But it’s really an uphill battle. There’s so many players out there that think PEDs are a magic potion that will add 100 points to their batting average.

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    • maguro says:

      I don’t think telling aspiring big leaguers that PEDs will make them “a little faster and a little stronger” will *discourage* them from using. A little edge is all they’re really expecting…Nefi Perez didn’t think PEDs were going to turn him into Barry Bonds. But a little edge can be the difference between the bigs and riding a bus in the minors, so it’s very tempting.

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  22. Forrest Gumption says:

    DUI arrests need to be a year long suspension even before PED use ones are addressed. Putting innocent people’s lives at risk is a MUCH worse thing than using drugs to play baseball better. A year long suspension for DUI should get it through these numbskulls heads that they are millionaires and if they are going to be leaving their houses and drinking alcohol, then they should hire a driver to sit in the car while they go about their drinking.

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  23. Forrest Gumption says:

    Regarding already suspended players, the union has to work with the league, not against it, and make it impossible for players to get raises after suspension, like Colon and Cabrera got this year. In my opinion a banned player should also have his following seasons impacted, his current contract should be voided and he should only be allowed to make the league minimum the following year. Pretty sure something like that would put an end to this once and for all.

    But of course the union would never support anything like that…

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    • Synovia says:

      Except that for most of the guys testing positive, league minimum is better than what they were going to get without the PED’s: A pink slip.

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  24. Matt says:

    Although I agree with your concept entirely – i disagree with how it is applied here.

    Greater penalties are deterrence up to a point in most situations. So the question is: is 50 games the optimum suspension for deterrence?

    If the first positive test was a lifetime ban, then I think most of us would agree that fewer players would take PEDs out of fear and that many more players would keep a closer eye on what they are placing in their bodies.

    Personally I would like to see a 1 year suspension for first time offenders as this would make it difficult for players to latch on with a new team right away (a la Melky Cabrera – who went from a borderline major leaguer to an $8 mil a year players thank, in part, to steroids).

    The first time penalty for Olympic athletes is 4 years and there usually isn’t nearly as much money at stake.

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  25. Steve says:

    Well, the A’s did sign Manny last year. He just wasn’t good enough to merit another contract.

    Had he come back and raked, I doubt he would have had a huge problem getting a job this winter despite two PED suspensions.

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  26. Dustin says:

    Knott’s moral and family lines were simply the bullshit lies he tells himself so he can sleep well at night. He was using amphetamines during games for a reason. They might not have been performance enhancing in the way that steroids can be, but they most certainly are performance enhancing.

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  27. Nivra says:

    I think you’re article misses a key part of the information timeline.

    Selig said that the current policy didn’t have enough “deterrance” only after several major stars were discovered to have been using.

    If it was only fringe MLB players, then your article makes perfect sense. Now that it’s been discovered stars are using, then your theory would argue that there is not enough deterrance. And this is exactly what MLB is doing… considering increasing the deterrance.

    Your thesis seems to use MLB’s current announcement and the pre-FLA-steroid scandal status of MLB steroid usage to make a point, missing the correct timeline entirely.

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  28. smithjt says:

    It doesn’t have to be either/or. There should be enhanced detection AND tougher penalties. This article is great for whipping up the site’s engagement metrics, but I have a hard time buying you actually believe there shouldn’t be tougher penalties, Dave.

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  29. Daven says:

    A significant salary reduction for the remainder of the player’s current contract or during, say, three years of their next contract, whichever is longer, might be something to consider rather than increasing the ban lengths.

    So if they test positive, they automatically get their normal suspension without pay, then when they get back, their salary is reduce by 50% (or whatever) for the remainder of their current contract or for the next 3 seasons, including if they sign a new contract.

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    • jwb says:

      So you’re giving teams incentives to have players on bad contracts fail tests? You understand that there are ways which they can make this happen, right?

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  30. M'sFan says:

    The major issue with recommending better testing is $$$. As an analytical chemist these lab require hugely expensive mass spectrometers ( $1 million or more).

    Secondly, there is an infrastructure problem. There are 2 total WADA accredited sports drug testing facilities in the US and one in Canada. Thus we are looking at 3 facilities taking care of thousands of samples. It is my understanding all MLB testing is done at the facility in Quebec so that puts even more stress on the facility and their employees.

    Ultimately the only way to fix the testing issue is a huge amount of money from the MLB and possibly the players association to expand current facilities and get new ones as well. With these changes things like out of competition random testing (something that must be a part of any comprehensive drug testing policy to be taken seriously) can become realistic.

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  31. Stathead says:

    You said you would talk about Braun, and did I miss something because I’m not finding it in the article?

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  32. snack man says:

    “Most studies suggest that people respond much more favorably to incentives rather than penalties.” this is patently false. First of all, a penalty is an incentive. Modifying this to say “positive incentives” instead of “incentives” still leaves it wrong. we know from experimental economics that the best incentive is the retroactively reducing pay. Basically, if I offer someone $10 if they do a great job that’s nothing compared to giving them $10 and then telling them I’m going to take the money back if they don’t do a great job.

    Put to use in baseball, all contracts would stipulate that PEDs were not used during the contract period or the entire contract is void. Do that and wow would you have good compliance. That marginal player, no way they can risk all the MLB minimum they have received to date.

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    • Careless says:

      I don’t even think that would be legally allowed. No player who wasn’t already on his second free agent contract could possibly pay it back.

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  33. BABIP says:

    How about punishing the teams whose players get caught.

    That way the players would have to worry about more than themselves when they decide to take steroids. They would really be letting their teams down if they get caught. Teams would also become very effective at stopping steroid use when they lose money or draft picks or whatever when one of their players get zapped.

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  34. Tim says:

    “It would be terrific if enacting harsher penalties actually stopped people from doing things that society didn’t want them to do”

    I’m uncomfortable with the basic assumptions underlying this statement.

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  35. dc says:

    the answer is financial penalties.

    for instance, if melky cabrera doesn’t get caught in 2012, but instead in 2013, the free agent contract he signed becomes null and void at the teams request.

    if the point of the taking PEDs in the first place is to be a better baseball player, to make more money.. take away the motivation by risking the end goal.

    what player would risk losing a long term contract or any money for that matter to take peds?

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  36. Breadbaker says:

    The real problem is that all the incentives go the wrong way, and the suggestions here about voiding contracts and the like go the wrong way as well. What is needed is a sea-change in thinking. Clean players need to recognize that the dirty players are stealing their money, because the better dirty players are paid more than they deserve and the poorer ones are taking the place of clean players in the sport. But the teams actually only care if they believe that (a) they will lose money if their players are not clean; and (b) they don’t get an advantage if a player they think they’re overpaying is found to be dirty. Can you imagine how happy the Angels would be if Vernon Wells failed a drug test?

    What I’d suggest exploring is something more like what the NCAA does to teams: require forfeiture of every game won with a dirty player. But I’d go a step further: require the refund of the ticket price to the fans, on the grounds that the game was not legitimate. And the resultant salaries to everyone Want to see serious self-policing? Put this into place tomorrow and there will be no drugs in baseball the next day. File under a Modest Proposal, of course, but if they were serious about having a clean sport (which they are not), they’d consider it.

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  37. CircleChange11 says:

    1. How would you prove/support that stronger penalties equate to less misconduct? Certainly, common sense would seem to indicate so, but there are also plenty of other examples where it hasn’t worked like that (prohibition, war on drugs, etc).

    2. Essentially, it’s a risk-reward situation. Athletes weight the risk versus the reward and often choose to take the risk.

    3. If a marginal athlete isn’t going to be in MLB without PEDs, then what deterrant would an MLB suspension really be?

    The truth of the matter is that in order for a free society to work as intended, the people have to have strong moral character since it is us who maintain order and ensure safety. Likewise, in order for their to be a clean sport, it is the athletes who must decide to keep it clean since there are only unreasonable means to ensure that “every cheater gets caught”.

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  38. Marco says:

    I suspect MLB’s true aim here isn’t “eliminate/reduce steroid use in baseball” but rather “eliminate/reduce embarassment to MLB because of steroids”.

    Further, I think that the embarassment comes from stars using (and getting caught), not fringe players.

    Seen through this lens, I think their plan is more logical(I’m staying away from a value judgment on appropriatness). Huge deterrants to stars (who have something to lose) may reduce usage in that group, sparing MLB from the embarassment they’re hoping to avoid.

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  39. Pft says:

    Here is the solution.

    1st offense a 500k fine or 30% pay cut on the rest of the players contract, whichever is higher.

    2nd offense, 1 million and 60%.

    3rd offense, player plays for league minimum for the rest of their career.

    No suspensions, that just hurts fans and MLB revenue.

    You will never have 100% detection rates, so you need strong penalties, and the players are unlikely to approve this (or are they?)

    As a fan, I would like every player to use PED’s. What’s not to like about enhanced performance. Not good for the players health but they would be under close medical supervision unlike today.

    In fact, players do use PED’s, Toradol, Creatine, Cortisone, etc. None of these were available 50 years ago and are legal and approved by MLB.

    The sanctity of numbers argument is for the brain dead. So many differences in the game besides PED,s, bats, balls, parks, training, lights, gloves, strike zone, players size, talent pool, etc.

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    • BJ Renton says:

      I like that idea but I think I got a better idea:

      When players get to spring tanning camp, warn all players if they get caught with PED they will be suspended for life. Also if a player haven’t been warned at spring tanning, warned whenever they sign or arrive to the team (whatever the case maybe). This will give new players to MLB a chance to be warned about PED suspensions. Then when they get caught the first time MLB gives them a life time band form baseball.

      I am done with this and I’m only 18 years old. I barely remember when the Mitchell Report when it came out. But I know one thing with having learning disabilities. I have work double as hard to get my high school diploma then the rest of my classmates. This is the case for people who don’t use PED’s, they have to work double as hard to make it to the Majors or never make it to the Majors. So now use get players who think using PED’s is the only way to get to the Majors. BS!!!!

      That why this piss me off so much, probably more than most fans. I have to work double as hard to get my high school diploma. But if you used PED;s in baseball and get caught you get rewarded with millions of dollars and after the suspension or suspensions. Then when the suspension is over people are saying you are a good person and player? What has this sport gotten to that cheating is good after “you paid you debt to the spot”. These suspension are only a slap on the wrist. Then these players get paid with great money to play in the biggest baseball league in the world? What is wrong with this picture? Is it just me or MLB and the players union make a big deal with this new drug testing program that dose nothing. I’m not saying testing is the end all be all. But test during the regular season maybe be an improvement and show us fans that MLB cares about this issue. It is just me or is MLB doing PED testing for PR only.

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  40. Pft says:

    Under the current test program and proposals only MLB and teams stand to gain, mainly financially. Most of the suspensions seem to be against players who are overpaid free agents, soon to be free agents which suppress their market value, fringe players, and in the rare event a young cost controlled player is caught, their service clock is delayed while on suspension (for bad teams who are not yet competitive like the Padres)

    The day a mike Trout or other productive cost controlled player on a team competing for a playoff spot gets suspended I will eat my hat since it would cost MLB revenues .Any positive test likely would be thrown in the waste basket by Bud.

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