Is 50 Games Too Weak a PED Punishment?

As you know by now, Melky Cabrera failed a drug test and was suspended for 50 games yesterday for using synthetic testosterone during the best season of his career. Cabrera will miss the rest of the Giants’ regular season, but he’s already been worth 4.5 WAR to the Giants, and some people within the game are grumbling that a mere 50 game suspension isn’t enough of a deterrent to prevent ballplayers from taking performance-enhancing drugs. If it isn’t an effective deterrent, is it an adequate punishment?

Kirk Gibson, the manager of the Diamondbacks, was outspoken yesterday. “Obviously, there’s not a big enough deterrent if it continues,” he told the Arizona Republic. “I think it should be a minimum of a year (for a first positive) and after that it should just be banned.” So what kind of suspension would adequately deter players from using banned drugs?

It’s very likely that almost no number of games could compete with the $60 to $70 million that he may have cost himself in the offseason free agent market, as Dave Cameron writes. Nothing incents like dollars and cents, to coin a phrase. For a walk year player in Cabrera’s position, where cheating could literally earn him the better part of a hundred million bucks, it’s easy to imagine that even a one-year punishment wouldn’t be high enough, especially with disgraced BALCO founder Victor Conte claiming that “To circumvent the test is like taking candy from a baby.”

The effectiveness of the deterrent will depend on the player’s own expected value, how much they have to gain against how much they have to lose. A player like Cabrera, in a walk year, on a team in a dogfight for the division, could hardly have any more to gain. A player like Manny Ramirez, on his last legs, trying to prove that he still deserves one of 25 roster spots, could hardly have less to lose. Players like them would have the greatest incentive to cheat. And I doubt that either a 15-game suspension or a 150-game suspension would much affect their calculus, considering that the first stands to make seven years of guaranteed salary and the second is on the verge of retirement anyway.

The third type of player with an elevated likelihood of cheating would be a minor leaguer who is trying to stick in the majors. The major league minimum is an order of magnitude greater than the minor league minimum, and drug testing is more stringent in the minor leagues, where players are not covered by the MLBPA. A player who arrived in the major leagues and wanted to stick there would similarly have an elevated incentive to use. A player like Alex Sanchez, for example. But they have much more to lose, because a positive test could just about end their career.

(I’ve always thought it strange that the suspension for steroids is not much higher than the 60-day suspension that Otis Nixon received for testing positive for cocaine in 1991. Of course, that occurred in the context of Len Bias legislation and the recent memory of cocaine destroying baseball in Pittsburgh for most of the decade. It was a special circumstance.)

The more difficult question is how to deal with the aftermath. Obviously, the Giants won’t be vacating the victories they won with Melky Cabrera, and Gibson’s grievance is understandable, considering that Cabrera OPS’ed 1.167 in nine games against the D-Backs. If the D-Backs miss the playoffs by fewer than the four games that they lost to the Giants, Melky’s malfeasance may be recalled. Moreover, the winner of the ALCS may grumble that the National League gained home field advantage in the World Series thanks primarily to All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera’s chemically-aided heroics.

Worse, if Cabrera had waited until the end of the year to get caught, he might have won an MVP award. And, as we learned last year amid the saga of Ryan Braun‘s failed test and successful appeal, those are permanent, too, which means that whoever finished in second place to Cabrera would have a legitimate beef as well: people who win MVP awards are worth more money on the open market, and MVP awards add to a player’s historical legacy as well, so they can build momentum for a Hall of Fame case.

Take, for example, Vladimir Guerrero, who’s more or less borderline, with 60 fWAR in his 16 years. He won a single MVP award in 2004, so his case would be greatly strengthened if he had one or two more. He finished fourth in 2002, when Barry Bonds won; third in 2005, when Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz finished first and second; and third again in 2007, when Alex Rodriguez won.

I have no way of asserting beyond a shadow of a doubt that Guerrero is more clean than Rodriguez, Bonds, and Ortiz. But if Guerrero won a retroactive MVP or two — like the New Zealand shot-putter who won gold a couple of days ago after the Olympics ended, when the Belarusian winner tested positive for steroids — that would make him a near-certainty for the Hall, rather than a player who will struggle to stand out against many other talented peers from the Steroid Era.

(As it happens, there’s a very good chance that Melky Cabrera will deprive Andrew McCutchen or Buster Posey of the 2012 batting title. But it also bears mentioning, as Jonah Keri writes, that it’s unclear just how much of Cabrera’s 2011-2012 spike is attributable to PED usage, as opposed to BABIP variance and so forth.)

Gibson is almost certainly right that a yearlong suspension would be an increased deterrent, and it might lessen steroid use on the margins. It would also raise the stakes if there ever were to be a false positive with the test, which Major League Baseball has long denied, but Ryan Braun’s successful appeal was predicated on just that notion. And that is why the players’ union is unlikely to sign off on any increase in suspension time.

The union is also unlikely to sign off on any increased scrutiny of players in contract years or at the beginning or end of their careers, even if they are likely to be at elevated risk for PED use. The court of public opinion will have no such scruples, however, and the suspicion of chemical enhancement that greets every great performance in a walk year, from Adrian Beltre to Gary Matthews Jr., will continue unabated. So Melky will likely need to accept a one-year contract for next year, and hope that he can kill it — like Beltre in 2010 with the Red Sox, for example — to set himself up for a major payday in 2013.

That won’t help the Giants, of course, and the damage has already been done to the Diamondbacks, not to mention home field in the World Series. The 50 game suspension hurts the Giants a lot more than it hurts Cabrera, who already did irreparable damage to his free agent value and historical legacy. If teams can pressure their players not to use, because of the damage that their absence could do to the team, then the 50 game suspension would truly be an effective deterrent. If not, then it will always pale in comparison to the money.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


178 Responses to “Is 50 Games Too Weak a PED Punishment?”

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  1. Pat says:

    50 games for a first time offense is still not enough of a punishment for guys like Cabrera who are about to become a FA and can risk doping and not getting caught to cash out in the offseason.

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    • Drew says:

      However, now, following the suspension and all the lazy, suspicious talk that will follow, the monetary penalty will be too steep, considering Melky took a substance that helped him sculpt his body, not play baseball better.

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    • Balthazar says:

      I agree with Pat, and with Kirk Gibson, that 50 games and loss of salary is too small a penalty for first time; year minimum, with five year second ban, essentially career ending?

      But the real issue was missed, both in Gibson’s remark and in the post. ‘Cheating’ is one thing. Robbing other players of perceived accomplishment is a further thing. Putting pressure on other players to abuse enhancers is a further and more important thing still. But the real issue is the Sign-and-Crash Syndrome. Player X has a way above projection fifth season, and then an off any reality plane walk year performance. X sings for multi at ten fat figures a year. Player shows up the first season and can’t hit his weight nor drive the batted ball hard enough to stun a seagull, so that his acquiring team is _cheated not only our of the performance expeted by tens of millions of dollars!_. Seriously, forge your mortgage docs, the law comes down. Dose, lie, sign, and you Cadillac all the way to the bank. It’s gross FRAUD, and teams on the buy-and-cry side are hurt big time. How many of you recall the Gone Vaughns, Mo and Greg? Most of us hafe forgotten The Incredible Shrinking Chone, but it hurts to say he’s still collecting his bi-monthly increments. And of course Beltre had a *cough* hitting problem for two years after he arrived in his new city which wasn’t just a function of the number the park did on his batting pattern (itself significant). There are waaay too many other instances of the build up to cash in trajectory. I’m for being all over the players so that franchises don’t get burned.

      Given that team after team has been burned by these inflatable stat free agents, why are the penalties still so lame? Because everyone still hopes to cash in of the juiced guys if they _don’t_ get caught. It’s a cyring shame Sabean isn’t the one suspended, because he’s made much moolah looking the other way on nonbelievable performances for many, many years. Tony Larussa might have gone to Hall anyway, but he’s a lock riding in on the back of some non-naturally Herculean shoulders. The fact that most if not all orgs still hope to ride the needle for the few precious extra wins that follow is the heart of the problem.

      The tests _are_ easy to circumvent. No one no way should have believed Melky Cabrera’s performance, it just reeked of juice. But to keep it up, one suspects he must have been dosing in season, not just in the offseason under masking agents. Tighter testing regimes with more randomnness, and stiffer penalties, PLEASE. I like homeruns too, but not as much as I like sports performance and dislike massive fraud and outright theft. What Melky Cabrera ‘lost’ this coming offseason _never belonged to him_, he’s not the kind of talent to have deserved the contract numbers leveraged on juiced numbers. It’s the game which has won, not the conniver who lost.

      One man’s view . . . .

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      • Balthazar, I don’t know if you often read Fangraphs, but Dave Cameron has argued for years that Beltre earned the money on his Mariners contract and then some, combining world-class defense with an above-average bat at third base. (Safeco is one of the most notorious pitcher’s parks in the majors, so that had a lot to do with the decline in offense he experienced.)

        And it’s not reasonable to say that he was paid on the basis of his fluky 48-homer season in 2004. He received a 5 year, $64 million contract. If they thought that he’d be hitting 40 homers on a regular basis, they would have given him a lot more than $64 million.

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      • enhanced performance says:

        bravo!!!
        I have been saying the same thing for months now. It is shocking to me that Melky’s cheating is what it takes for mathematical people to take their collective head’s out of the sand and start seeing the obvious.
        I love the Mr. Remington’s point about Vlad Guerrero and players cheated by Bonds, Ramirez, Canseco, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa etc. I would point out that we don’t know whether or not Guerrero cheated. We do know guys like Mike Greenwell in1988 who finished second in the MVP to an admitted cheater named Jose Canseco (even if you think he did not deserve to be ahead of Puckett). I bet Greenwell would love to have an MVP award.

        AL MVP awards that appear tainted starting in 1996 & 1998 Juan Gonzalez, 1999 Ivan Rodriguez (came back to spring training one year and no one recognized him), 2000 Jason Giambi, 2002 Miguel Tejada, 2003 & 2005 & 2007 Alex Roidriguez. The national league is not better when you consider Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti and Sammy Sosa.

        Thank you Mr. Remington!

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      • Balthazar says:

        So Alex, I’m well aware of Dave’s view re: Beltre. You’ll also note, that I did not say ‘Beltre wasn’t worth it’ in my remarks above. Let’s be clear concerning Adrian. He was, and is, a _fantastic_ defender, as I’ve had reason to see in person and otherwise in his time in Seattle. He had several good years of road offensive production during his contract which seemed in line with his skill set and approach. He always played to the best of his ability, and he was deservedly well liked personally by just about everybody. Safeco severely hurt his offensie production in Seattle, no question. I personally disliked his rockhead approach at the plate, but regardless of that he provided considerable value during that particular contract. Whether that matrix adds up to ‘market return for salary paid’ is arguable, but yes, one can certainly argue the point.

        What is also clear is that Adrian was hurt in his walk year in LA, turned in a not believable performance based on his approach and skill set (most of those 49 tates _the other way_ when he’s never done a thing like that before or since, he’s a dead pull guy?). Followed by nearly two years of far below average production which don’t seem entirely attributable to the disadvantages of Safeco (he wasn’t getting the ball out of the infield during a lot of that). And one can add that Adrian was hurt his last two years in Seattle, with lowered production attendant, so when he came to market again he had to take a one-year. And again he’s suddenly _not_ hurt, and turning in numbers far superior to anything he’d done anywhere since his last year as a Dodger, if admittedly in a very favorable offensive context for his skillset and approach. Nothing in that in any way ‘proves’ that Belre used enhancers. That said, I’d prefer MLB had an adequate testing regime in place so that I could largely dispense with the strong suspicious which frankly should linger over the performance of a player I’d generally like to like.

        But my larger point isn’t anything to do with Beltre, as you’re aware, Alex. My larger point is leveraged on the likes of Chone Figgins, and Greg Vaughn, and Jayson Werth, and all their ilk. None of them have failed MLB’s terribley weak *wink-wink* testing regime either. Teams all went out and bought the fumes on these guys, and have been badly hurt by the performance collapses which followed. Some of them bounce back to a reasonable level of production for what should be expected for them (see, Beltre, Adrian). Many don’t, and it’s major money and roster configurations lost in the heist.

        When players have performances in their ‘coming on the market’ seasons which surely look out of character, nobody should believe their eyes. Nothing in Melky Cabrera’s career suggested he was -at all capable_ of the numbers he was putting up, and him signing any contract based on those numbers would have been, in my view, criminal. Now yeah, when a player is injured in their ‘coming to the the market’ season, it can cost them tens of millions of dollars relative to their broadly defined level of performance. That puts tremendous pressure on a person’s ethics, no question. Not all players who use are ‘bad people’ is a point I’d accept. But I would far prefer a testing regime for substance enhancement for MLB which left far less discretion to players to screw up, or blatantly steal the dough.

        It’s not a lost season from the coming off juice crash which is the real point, or the phony ‘glory year.’ I personally don’t care at all about shaming particular individuals; if the users quietly go away, I’d be just fine. It’s the fraud and the attitude that “I’m ENTITLED to that money” which is the real cancer in the game, and why we need to get this process right. Either we’re watching a sports _performance_ where individuals compete to the best of their ability, or we’re watching an entertainment _exhibition_ like pro wrestling where everything is rigged and effectively a lie. And if we don’t ensure the former, we will assuredly receive the latter.

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      • Drew says:

        It’s like the view from inside a retarded toilet.

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      • Drew says:

        Would you take awards/stats away from pitchers who had TJS or LASIK eye repair?

        Even if roids helped Bonds hit (they didn’t, but let’s pretend they did), in my eyes he actually *lost* value when he bulked up so much because he could no longer be a top tier OF as he was in the early 90s.

        The main enhancements were to the size of his body, which, in effect, actually led to him being less of a player. In an alternate universe, without HGH, he’d have the same batting numbers but even better fielding and baserunning value. He’d have 15 WAR per season.

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      • I find it hard to credit that counterfactual, Drew. Why, exactly, would Barry Bonds have had the same batting numbers without PEDs as he had with PEDs?

        According to the book Game of Shadows, Bonds started using in 1999. I’m well aware that there is no such thing as statistical proof of steroid usage, but since extensive reporting has confirmed Bonds’ PED use, we can simply look at a time discontinuity analysis of his performance prior to taking serious PEDs, and then after beginning to take serious PEDs.

        Bonds was 34 years old at the end of the 1998 season, his 12th season in the majors. Now, it’s well known that players often gain power and lose speed as they get older; after all, that’s why power and a lack of speed are called “old player skills.” But still, Bonds is a special case.

        Up until 1998, he had a career ISO of .262 and a career HR/FB of 14.9%. (That’s per baseball-reference, which doesn’t have stats for his first two seasons, 1986-87. Fangraphs only has HR/FB data for 2002-2007.) From 1999 through 2007, when he was 43, Bonds had an ISO of .396 and an HR/FB of 23.8%.

        Why are you so certain that PEDs did not aid Bonds’s batting ability in any way?

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    • Balthazar says:

      To summarize comments below re: what testing and penalty regime would constitute an effective _minimum_ standard to inhibit abuse of performance enhancers in baseball:

      —4-6 full random test a year while a player is an unretire professional, at least two of which have to be in the offseason

      —1-2 year ban for first offense, including loss of salary and no service time accrual

      —5 years to lifetime ban on second offense

      —team option to void all contracts for any defense

      —player appeal process, requiring onus on player to demonstrate significant potential for a false positive

      A regime of that kind would have a significant impact on the incentive to use enhancers. It is painfully obvious that MLB has _not_ made an effort to implement such a ban. The owners and the users are still co-dependent in ongoing fraudulent performance.

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      • Drew says:

        I believe it was more a change in the league/game as a whole (parks, balls, pitching, less emphasis on running game, etc.) rather than some kind of unnatural occurrence. Bonds wRC+ in 1992 was over 200; in 2001 it was 230ish. Not drastic to me at all. Kind of a Roger Maris / George Foster kind of season.

        The following seasons he didn’t hit 73 home runs. Did “the juice” wear off? When Brady Anderson hit 20 then 50 then back to 20, what happened? Did he only juice a little bit? Was it on some kind of time release?

        To some extent I’m playing devil’s advocate to balance out the conventional wisdom, so I’m not trying to be dismissive or rude. And I get that an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that. I just don’t think the enhancement in performance is measurable, and anything other than marginal even if it could be measured.

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    • Nate says:

      Beyond punishment, is a 50 game suspension long enough for the “enhancing” effects of taking steroids to no longer be present? If you are trying to stop players from being enhanced, shouldn’t they have to sit at least until the effects wear off? I have no idea how long this would take but it seems like it isn’t even considered in these suspensions.

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    • West says:

      I preface this comment by saying I despise Sheriff Joe Arpaio and hope he gets hit by a bus, BUT his extreme penalties for DUI’s have been a success. No one in Arizona even takes the chance of driving a little buzzed because the risk is not worth the reward.

      I think the MLB needs to take a similar approach. A 5 year ban for the first positive test would eliminate almost all PED use, except for players with absolutely nothing to lose.

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  2. SF 55 for life says:

    whats the penalty for a DUI?

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Objection, your honor. Relevance?

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      jut wondering. to put it in perspective

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        what perspective is to be had? one is a stupid life decision and the other is cheating in a game. theyre unrelated in my opinion.

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      • Cidron says:

        cheating in a game IS a life decision.. if you are not going to work honestly, keep dignity and integrity, in your work, then you are very likely to not do so in your life either.

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      • Kampfer says:

        The worst consequence of using Steroid is losing huge amount of money, but DUI can cost some family (and perhaps his very own) a precious family member. Life is priceless, and it is sad when someone compare the possible loss of life to keeping integrity in some games. I would rather have 25 players cheating than 25 players driving drunk. At least no innocent life is threatened.

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    • Paul says:

      Given that employers now routinely shun anybody whose record is not completely clean, it’s an economic death sentence unless you make sure you don’t ever have to change jobs. It’s this new thing our wonderful legal industry created called “hiring negligence.”

      But the actual legal punishment varies by state, none of them being remotely as harsh as the economic death sentence now being imposed across this formerly great land.

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    • DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

      Slap on the wrist

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  3. jesse says:

    do we really think that players put that in depth of a cost-anylsis into the idea of taking steroids?

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  4. Brent says:

    I’d be fine moving it up to 80 games, but I’m not sure anything more is merited, at least until we better understand what exactly is on the banned substance list. It’s easy to jump all over Melky because (1) he’s a dickhead, and (2) he basically admitted to intentionally taking performance enhancing drugs. It would not be so easy to lay a 1 year suspension on a guy like Jordan Schafer, who has called his positive test a huge misunderstanding (as have his teammates) and has repeatedly claimed to have taken nothing illegal.

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    • Schafer was caught in the minors, where the system is not subject to the players’ union, so the operational likelihood of changing the system is easier than it would be in the majors.

      I’m aware that Schafer has said it’s a misunderstanding. And I think it is beyond question that there will always be a chance of false positives. I don’t know the facts of Jordan’s case, although it is true that he basically hasn’t hit in the majors or minors since he was busted in 2008. However, I’m more interested in trying to figure what kind of punishments might deter a bona fide user, than how to account for the fact of false positives.

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      • Brent says:

        Understood, but theres a few reasons I think we shouldn’t go all out in trying to deter. First, I am not confident the system is even decent at detecting use of performance enhancing drugs. I think it does a good job detecting certain substances, and probably a poor job at a lot of others. Second, I’m really not convinced that using steroids is so bad that we need to derail players’ careers. I don’t think anyone is using steroids in the manner they were used 15 years ago, when players used them to add muscle mass and perform in ways never before possible in the history of the sport. I think what we are seeing now is a different animal, less frequent usage that is aimed at recovery and health, as opposed to muscle mass. I’m not convinced that this type of usage gives players that big an edge. Say what you will about Melky, but maybe he was just a 28 year old having a lucky season. It’s not like Ryan Braun sucks all of a sudden.

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      • Jon L. says:

        Maybe, but Melky 2010 to Melky 2012 represents as large a difference in performance as early HOF-level Barry Bonds to late Babe Ruth-level Barry Bonds.

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      • BS says:

        Brent’s reply up there was full of bullsh#t.

        “this is a different animal” blah blah.

        Shut up.

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  5. There are two similar, yet distinct questions to consider concerning what length of suspension would provide an adequate deterrent. First, what length of suspension would provide an adequate deterrent to someone making a reasonable cost/benefit analysis? (This seems to be the question you are tackling.) Second, what length of suspension would provide an adequate deterrent to actual players performing their cost/benefit analyses? This question is the most relevant one in terms of practical application (i.e. ACTUALLY trying to deter players from using PEDs).

    My first reaction is that there might not be an suspension long enough to deter most players who intend on using. Human beings regularly make irrational decisions when there is a potential huge payout involved. Think of how many people play the lottery even when many of them know the odds are strongly against them. If a player sees a potential payout of millions of dollars, his cost/benefit analysis is likely to be flawed.

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    • This is a good point. And I elided them by asking without answering a third, related though possibly unnecessary question: what is the appropriate punishment for someone who has already been caught?

      People play the lottery because the cost is relatively low. A better analogy to steroid use would be online poker, which is now hard to do without violating the law, though it also comes with serious possible payouts.

      Far, far fewer people play online poker now than did before, because there is a serious chance of being caught, despite the fact that it’s much easier to make money in online poker than it is from playing the lottery.

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      • ausmax says:

        In the case of online poker, I think it has more to do with it being more and more inconvenient to find a site to play on. No player has ever been prosecuted for online poker, so it’s hard to see the actual legal ramifications as a deterrent for the individual player.

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      • Cliff says:

        For the vast majority of people, poker is probably much worse than playing the lottery. On any given hand their EV may be greater than with a lottery ticket, but you can’t win a million dollars playing poker with a one dollar stake. Unless you are seriously skilled at poker, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose money over any reasonable time span, whereas someone playing the lottery who wins millions is really going to enjoy that money, at least for a while.

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      • ClintC says:

        Alex, your analogy regarding online poker is awful. It is not illegal to play poker online, it’s illegal for sites to operate within the United States. I guess smart people can be ignorant too, but I wish you’d done your homework before making this statement.

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      • I didn’t say it was illegal to play poker online, ClintC. I said it was hard to do it without violating the law.

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  6. TKDC says:

    It all depends on the likelihood of being caught. If Victor Conte is even close to right, the punishment is not high enough if it is assumed that the Melky Cabreras of the world are benefiting greatly from PED use. If there is no way to better control PED use, the punishment should be a lifetime ban for the first offense. In reality, that would not prevent someone like Melky from rationally rolling the dice. The real question MLB should be asking is how to better test (again, assuming Conte is right).

    From Prof. Posner concerning punshment for ID theft:

    “My guess is that very few identity thiefs are caught, and also that many of them make a lot more than $10,000 per fraud, given such techniques as phishing that enable a fraudulent solicitation to be disseminated essentially without cost to an immense number of potential victims; if even a minute percentage of the recipients are hooked, the identity thief can make a killing. If this analysis is correct, the optimal punishment for identity theft is extremely heavy; it might well be life in prison.”

    http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2006/09/deterring-identity-theft–posner.html

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  7. Bavarian Yankee says:

    1st positive test should be a ban of 2 years, the 2nd one a lifetime ban. Sounds fair to me and a lot of countries in Europe do it that way.

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    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      btw: I think teams should be able to opt out of contracts if one of their players is tested positive.

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      • TKDC says:

        This is a good idea. It would even make sense to force players to forfeit salaries already paid (to some extent).

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      • Brent says:

        I like the idea of an opt out clause, but a 2 year ban is way way too much. You get a 6 game suspension for corking your bat, 1 game for doctoring the baseball, nothing for stealing signs. Why 2 years for steroids?

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      • Cidron says:

        Stealing signs, as well as other “on field” misdemeanors (spitballs, sliding in spikes high) are all considered “part of the game” punishable by the players themselves, whether it be a pitcher pitching high and inside, as well as other methods..
        Corked bats, more “true” cheating as it involves an outright breaking of long standing rules (unlike spitballs, by comparison) is more tolerated, but should have a punishment. But, not a large one as it is almost “wink wink” we knew it and it happens.
        Chemical/Biological cheating (peds, hgh, etc) should have a massive punishment because it ALTERS the persons body. If the person is that shortsighted to put his body at risk (moreso than the sport already does) than he should have a suspension (at least to re-evaluate his priorities regarding his body and values). If he cant accept that the damage is permanent, and gets cought a second time, ban his ass for life, for the sake of it.

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      • Keith says:

        Personally, I don’t see stealing signs as cheating. If you’re putting your strategy on display for the world, then it’s on your to defend its secrecy. Either change your sign sequence by inning or batter, or be more complex in the actions.

        The spitball, that’s a little different. I don’t see it as that bad, but since someone was killed, it was banned. Basically, they banned it because of a combination of lesser protective gear and an erratic pitch. I mean, we don’t ban every other pitch that’s hit a player’s head. If the spitball had hit Ray Chapman, but he wasn’t killed, it might still be around, to an extent.

        Corking a bat is in the same vein, I guess. The difference between it and a true spitball (as opposed to using a substance other than spit on a spitball) is that you’re using a specific man-made material to alter the bat’s composition, rather than using one’s own spit on a ball.

        As someone else said, steroids alter a person’s body. Whether that’s for muscle mass or healing, it changes the person in some way. That’s the top tier of cheating (with each of these examples beign a step up fro mthe previous one), and it deserves serious punishment.

        I like the idea of 2 years for one positive, then 4 for a second and life after the third try, maybe just because baseball is a game of three strikes. Opt-out clauses would be a good deterrent, but I’d also be VERY concerned about them. The Cubs don’t want to pay Alfonso Soriano and the Giants CERTAINLY don’t want to pay Barry Zito. What if trainers slipped a PED into something the players were given, with the intent of getting the team out of the contract?

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      • david says:

        isn’t this the second giant to be suspended this year? at some point the teams need to be held accountable also.

        recruiting violations, rape charges, and academic problems cost college teams, why shouldn’t similarly shady antics cost professional squads?

        if being postseason-ineligible for having a PED+ player was the result, i’d imagine PED-use would stop immediately.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Brent says:

        I still don’t understand why everyone gets so angry about this kind of cheating, but doesn’t care about other kinds. Because it hurts the player’s body? I don’t even know if that’s true. It is true for certain types of anabolic steroids, but it almost certainly isn’t true for HGH, so by that standard should HGH not be punished as severely? Players take speed to get an energy boost, is that as bad? Corking a bat and using chemical enhancers are both illegal and allegedly give the player an unfair advantage. Why suspend someone for 2 years for one and for only 6 games for another? Melky Cabrera is an asshole, and he cheated, and I want to piss on his career as much as anyone else, but I don’t understand how what he did is any worse than Sammy Sosa using a corked bat, or Neikro hiding a nail file in his pocket to doctor the baseball.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TKDC says:

        Slipping someone roids is a crime. The trainer could go to jail, along with any conspirators. Also, not everyone is an immoral sociopath.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • kick me in the GO NATS says:

        I think teams should be fined when players get caught. $1 million per violation!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CheatersWhoProsper says:

        btw I think teams should be punished in direct accordance with player punishments if one of their players tests positive. If teams forfeited wins as punishment, for example, or got bumped down a draft pick the following year, to give another example, they’d do something more about it than stand around and pretend to be appalled, plus in a certain respect it would tighten the relationship between players and owners. Very much a shared responsibility.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Michael Morse tested positive three times for the exact same dose because traces of it stayed in his bloodstream for so long. The panel actually told him they considered it an unfair result the third time around. Do you want to get in a situation where a player receives a lifetime ban because of two positive tests that resulted from the exact same dose?

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  8. Wes says:

    If I ran baseball, there would be a testing lab in every ball park, and a player couldn’t even be in the clubhouse to dress until he turned in his pee cup. Baseball doesn’t even test a player unless there is “probable cause” to link the player to drug use. If you’re careful, like Usain Bolt, and only beat the field by a little bit there’s no real probable cause to stand on if you’re MLB. Test these guys before every single game, and you’ll find out real fast who is and who isn’t using. That might just ruin the entire sport, however, because there’s got to be enough players in each clubhouse to dramatically affect the 25 and 40 man rosters.

    -16 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      “baseball doesnt even test a player unless there is probable cause to link the player to drug use”

      thats not true. you just made it up.

      +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Wes says:

        Sorry, the language is “reasonable cause”.

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      • Wes says:

        Players are tested once during Spring Training. Then they are subject to one random test. The other testing is “reasonable cause”. So, two tests, one planned and one random. Does that seem stringent enough for the thousands of active players playing in the majors and minors? I don’t think so. Every day. No peepee, no baseball.

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        so now its gone from “theyre only tested with probable cause” to “theyre only tested with probable cause in addition to the planned and random tests theyre already subjected to”

        its obvious you have an agenda. im not even saying im against your agenda (which i assume is a shitload more urine tests), but its hard to get supporters when youre distorting the truth to fit your argument.

        +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Wes says:

        I’m not distorting anything. My education on the subject is evolving (i.e. I’m reading up on this shit). That’s all. About a bajillion things come up when you just google something. Guilty of reading lots of things. The reasonable cause clause was cited explicitly on the overview on a site I read. Then I figured it would be prudent to read the official mlb drug policy. You do that, post on a blog and work at the same time. Come on bro, you’re just being nit-picky.

        -15 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Wes says:

        The Chinaman is not the issue here.

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        im being nitpicky? your entire premise was based on there not being enough testing in baseball. a conclusion you came to because baseball “doesnt even test a player unless theres probable cause”, a stance that wasn’t true. your entire point is a lot less relevant or meaningful with the knowledge that not only is there more testing than that, but that the tests are random as well.

        and honestly, i dont even think more urine testing is the answer. its obvious guys are beating those tests. i dont know enough about science to comment further, but i imagine blood tests would be more accurate (someone that knows, correct me if im wrong). and that opens up a whole other can of worms.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Travis says:

      Do that and you’ll pretty much be guaranteed to get false positive results.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Wes says:

        Ok, meet in the middle then. Three time is too few, 162 times is too many. One test per series? Per road trip and home stand? If you had to pass through a metal detector every day for work, would you carry a knife with you?

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    • vivalajeter says:

      If you had a pee sample from Barry Bonds, every single day he played for the Giants, you wouldn’t find a trace of any wrongdoing. The ‘roids are masked too well. And there’s no way a player should have to give a blood test every day.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ben says:

      And you would force the union to go insane. IMO, one of the problems with PED use in baseball is that change has to come from a number of sources: MLB, MLBPA, owners, etc. And for a while, all of them wanted to avoid the problem.

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  9. Bane says:

    Melky’s punishment must be more severe.

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  10. Telo says:

    Lifetime ban on the 2nd positive test. 1 full year on the 1st.

    Still waiting on David Ortiz’s explanation…. hasn’t come yet.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Jack says:

    The players need more of an incentive not to do PEDs than 50 games. Losing 50 games of pay at the Major League Minimum is around $150,000. Since the Major League minimum is around $480,000, the final salary comes down to $330,000 for a first time offender. The Triple A minimum is $2,150 a month. If we consider that a triple A veteran probably makes a little more than that over 6 months, we can assume that the average fringe player makes around $20,000… not quite poverty, but definitely not well off for a career that you’ll be lucky to have past age 28. So just making to the majors for a couple months will earn you far more than dawdling around in the PCL for another year, even if you get suspended. Secondly, if you accrue enough service time (43 days!) will get a full pension. A single day gets you a full medical pension.

    The solution is two-fold. First time offenders should receive the 50 game suspension like it is now, plus, they must forfeit all salary from the season in which they tested positive (so for Ryan Braun, had his suspension been upheld under this plan, would have lost his 2011 salary). If you test positive in offseason/spring training you forfeit the upcoming season’s salary. If a free agent tests positive, than he loses salary equal to the AAV of his next contract.

    Secondly, a first time offender loses his medical pension until he plays in the majors again. He loses his full pension until he accrues 2 years more of service time in the majors. A second time offender voids any right to a full pension ever and must accrue 2 years more of service time to get a medical pension. Obviously a third time offender loses both pensions and is banned permanently.

    This plan stops PED use in the minors in order to get to the majors for the massive salary boost and top notch pensions, as most fringe major league players wont make it back with the weight of PEDs hanging over their heads. This also will help with cases like Melky’s. He’ll almost certainly get back to the majors, but he might not be able to last two years if his true talent level is what we saw in Atlanta. If he uses PEDs again, he’ll lose his pension permanently (and also probably his chance at a medical pension). If he actually is a major league caliber player without the PED boost, then he’d still get those benefits, only lose out on this season’s salary (as well as possible future contracts.)

    The MLBPA would never go for this but it would work.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. walt526 says:

    If there’s a zero tolerance policy toward PEDs, then I think that you have to exercise some restraint in the severity of the initial punishment. Particularly since it’s not inconceivable that a player could test positive based on contamination of a legal supplement or otherwise plausibly unintentional administration.

    For example, many school districts presently have a zero tolerance policy towards weapons on campus wherein any child found to be in possession of a prohibited weapon is expelled. We want to curb school violence, so not letting weapons onto school grounds is perfectly reasonable. But there have been instances where 4th graders had pocket knives in their backpack because they had a Cub Scout meeting after school. Should they (and their parents/Scout leaders) know better? Absolutely, and some penalty is probably justified. But it’s ridiculous to treat the incident the same as one would a teenage gang member bringing a 9mm to school. The point is that there is a spectrum of culpability that gets ignored with a zero tolerance policy. And the likelihood of a disproportionate sentence being levied increases with the severity of the initial punishment.

    In my mind, Canseco (by his own admission) was the teenage gang member bringing a handgun onto campus. Without knowing the circumstances, I don’t know that Cabrera was that extreme. Maybe he was. What did he know, when did he know it, etc? We’ll never for sure.

    Personally, I find it implausible that any professional athlete would allow himself to be injected with an unknown substance (i.e., the Palmeiro B12 shot was total bull—-). But an oral supplement? A supplement that was contaminated? Some sort of lab error (apparently what happened with Braun)? There’s potential for an innocent (or at least unwitting) person to be implicated.

    50 games represents about a third of a season. That’s a pretty stiff penalty, particularly since the infamy associated with a PED is pretty damning. Would 100 games really be a more effective deterrent? A full season? Ban for life? It seems to me that there are diminishing returns to longer sentences.

    This incident will define Cabrera’s career. No matter what he accomplishes after he serves the suspension–even if he tests clean on a daily drug test for the next 15 years–his accomplishments, both past and future, will be suspect. Cameron’s estimate of the incident costing him $70M is probably in the ballpark. He’s likely looking at a shorter and significantly less lucrative career. I’m not sure how much more punishment is really warranted. And the next guy may be a legitimate false positive.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cidron says:

      zero tolerance has to have some leeway…

      example.. Locally, a kid in the school district got suspended for the year due to the anti-gun zero tolerance laws.. First time, a year suspension. The thing was, the gun was a picture of a gun on the book he brought to read during reading time. The teacher saw a gun, principal handed down the suspension stating that the kid “had a gun on him”. Due to the wording of the law, the kid was not allowed back in any district school for the year. And, again, due to the wording, the appeals process failed.

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    • siggian says:

      Bravo.

      The thing with severe penalties and no-tolerance is you back the player into a corner where they have no option but to deny everything or stay silent.

      While I severely disapprove of Cabrera taking a PED, I also offer a mild applause for him saying that he did it and he’s sorry. (Yes, I know he might not be sincere.) If the punishment is a lifetime ban, he doesn’t say that and there’s always that grain of doubt about the issue.

      Lifetime bans for first offenders won’t stop players from trying PEDs. The rewards for doing so for some of them are astronomical such as financial security for the rest of you life, your children’s lives, and your grandchildren’s lives. What lifetime bans do do is prevent closure on the issue.

      For proof, if you consider public opinion a lifetime “ban,” you will see that few of the 100 or so players who tested positive when PEDs were first tested have stepped forward and said they took PEDs. The most notorious failer, A-Rod, only confessed after there were strong rumours that he was going to be unmasked anyway. These players, with some exceptions, have little incentive to confess and a big reason to keep silent, and so many of them don’t talk.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Stringer Bell says:

    Oh hey, people overreacting towards PED use. I thought this was 2012.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. MauerPower says:

    They should just bring back public stoning.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. baty says:

    There really shouldn’t be a problem with implementing a lifetime ban after a second positive. I would think that it could be in the MLBPA’s interest to do so. So far we haven’t seen many second positives, so I don’t see why they would be overly concerned.

    As far as freak accidents go (through the probable argument of the MLBPA), it shouldn’t be too complicated for a player to check first before putting anything into his body. If a guy somehow does make a ridiculous mistake that leads to a first positive, then you lost your buffer. You’re at the mercy of the league the rest of your career. Hire someone to keep track of everything you do (if you have to), protect yourself, and there shouldn’t be any concern for getting kicked out in the future. An accident would have to be an amazingly rare occurrence.

    How much competition would really be out there in bidding over a 2 time positive tester hitting the open market anyway? And at the very least let the organization void any contract obligations, if they don’t want to be committed to the guy anymore, so he has to return to the open market and see for himself. I’d prefer if MLB just kicked the guy out.

    For the MLBPA, money will be spent on their players regardless. If they loose a guy every couple years to a ban, that money will still be spent elsewhere. I imagine there would be enough player support to keep money away from the guys who could be stealing their job.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Jeez, the death penalty doesn’t stop people from murdering people. Do you really think there is too much or too little penalty for a really rich ballplayer to be a less rich ballplayer?? We already know that no matter what these guys do there are teams that will welcome them back if they can may make them some extra cash. Melky knows that even if he cheated to get the results on the field, some team will sign him for millions of bucks just in case he really is that good without the drugs. 50 games, 100 games, a full year makes no difference in his case, he’s only 27 y/o. The plyers union would never agree to a lifetime ban.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      In my opinion Kirk Gibson is an idiot, he can say anything he wants until one of his own players gets caught, then he may change his tune.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cidron says:

        Gibbie.. naa, doubt it. He may speak his mind, but he pretty well sticks to his guns. Not one to waver or change sides.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      it already did agree to a lifetime ban, albeit on the 3rd failed test.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Don Draper says:

    People overract way too much about this. Players have always cheated. Babe Ruth used to use a corked bat and he’s basically worshipped. I don’t think any of us really wants to know how many of these guys are on PEDS, it’d probably shock a lot of

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. DSC says:

    “I have no way of asserting beyond a shadow of a doubt that Guerrero is more clean than Rodriguez, Bonds, and Ortiz”

    OK, I am asserting that Guerrero is more clean than proven cheats like Rodriguez, Bonds, and Ortiz, and is a lock for the HoF even if has only 1 great career to base that on. Sheesh. On Roids Guerrero would still be hitting 30+ home runs, if not 40+, and would have had seasons like Melky is having. Wild accusations with zero basis in fact sure are welcome on this site.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve says:

      Huh? Where is the wild accusation?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Drew says:

      You made a bunch of wild “accusations”, in a sense. Wild, unproven claims that Vlad (or other non juicers) would have much better stats if he took P”E”Ds is a baseless attack on any player who had better stats than Vlad.

      What real evidence do you have that any player was better after P”E”D use?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Richie says:

        See my earlier reply.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bob says:

        Do you mean other than the fact that steroid use is proven to improve strength, speed, endurance, and recovery time?

        I suppose if you ignore all of those effects on physical ability, there is always enhanced confidence from the placebo effect.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Antonio Bananas says:

    How about no suspension, no fine. Just that anything over league minimum is vacated? I don’t know if that’s legal or not. Maybe make it illegal for teams to pay players more than that if they tested positive?

    Just brainstorming a way that would deter players more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Cus says:

    If I ran baseball PED use would be legalized. Technology has advanced to the point where designer steroid use at present can’t be proven to be worse for your health than creatine or even extended use of caffeine based products. Not to mention the increased use of testosterone replacement therapy and human growth hormone.

    I’m not going to get into a whole legalization of drugs/steroids discussion, but gone are the days of after-school specials with little Jimmy raging in home-ec class and to think any other way is simply naive. Cocaine is bad, but a lot more people use cocaine than the average citizen would estimate.

    We live in the most narcissistic, self-absorbed era in history… until 5 years from now. Way more athletes use PEDs than the public thinks, because the average person doesn’t work out at a gym regularly , play sports recreationally, or care enough to learn about how the body works.

    I’ve seen it suggested that over 30% of gay men between the ages of 20 and 40 use some kind of PED for aesthetic purposes alone. I’ve also read a Men’s Health infographic that suggested the largest a 5’9″ man could get ‘naturally’ from working out was about 200 lbs. At my strongest I was 5’9″ and 195 lbs, and being ‘ripped’ naturally at that weight was simply impossible, even with ‘doing everything the right way’.

    I say that if we don’t care what PEDs Brad Pitt and Christian Bale are using to ‘get into character’ for their next blockbuster, we shouldn’t care about how guys Brett Lawrie and Mike Trout broke into the league as babies in the bodies of Greek Gods. I may be a pessimist, but in a lot of cases, and especially with home run hitters, shredded NFL players, and MMA athletes, the ‘clean’ ones just haven’t been caught yet.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Richie says:

      Umm, what studies of these illegal substances have been done to indicate their not being bad? Aside from zero, of course.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bob says:

      What would you do when the DEA busts your entire sport? Regardless of what you choose to “ban”, all PEDs are illegal.

      Even if I buy your theory that a 5’9″ man can’t exceed 200 lbs without steroids (I don’t), what about 6’2″, 6’4″, or even 6’8″? According to your ratio, a 220 lb player is entirely reasonable. Add in some body fat as well (few of these guys have great muscle definition) and 230 – 240 lb is not out of the question. And we just passed the threshold of MLB physique into NFL.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • amoc21 says:

      “We live in the most narcissistic, self-absorbed era in history… until 5 years from now.”

      This has to be the craziest thing I’ve read in a while.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Fred says:

    I remember hearing a nice sociologist fellow explain that deterrence is pretty weak (and stiffer penalties easily disregarded) unless there’s extremely high level of certainty that the penalty will be handed out (i.e. you get caught). If masking this stuff is not difficult, it may be impossible to clean things up even if you hand out lifetime bans and public spankings.

    Harsher penalties convey the public’s distaste for PEDs, but I’m not sure it really discourages a prospective PED user, especially if he/she thinks he can evade detection.

    +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Richie says:

      This. My understanding is that certainty of punishment kicks heinie over severity of punishment when it comes to deterrence.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dave S says:

      THIS!!!

      We don’t have a problem here with MLBs legislative branch. They already have rules.

      We don’t have an issue with MLBs judicial branch. They can uphold and apply the rules.

      The problem with MLB is the executive branch. They don’t have enough cops out there, with the right tools, to enforce the rules.

      I relate it to speeding while driving. If I’m on a familiar open highway, and my radar detector is silent… I feel pretty comfortable going over the limit. Is it “legal”? No its not. But in situations where I’m not much more likely to hurt myself or anyone else, and I get the benefit of increased time. Easy choice.

      If I didn’t have a radar detector, I might still speed occasionally, but I’d be more anxious about it… and I’d more closely look at the costs of being caught speeding.

      If I knew the cops were extremely unlikely to catch me, I’d likely speed more often, maybe flagrantly… and lots of other people would also. The potential for chaos is great here. This is the situation it seems MLB was in (to my mind) during the worst of the steroid era. The worst possible situation.

      If I knew that I would be caught EVERY time I was speeding, I would sure as heck STOP speeding, even if the cost was minimal… just to avoid the hassle. Because to invite certain punishment, every time, is simply stupid. There is no benefit to be gained.

      So, I think they need better policing in MLB, and better detection tools. Not better rules. Not harsher punishments.

      If they can’t manage to do that effectively, maybe the MLB should just forget about trying to stop it at all (as someone else stated).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • siggian says:

        This!

        Radar detectors are illegal where I live. I don’t use one but I do routinely speed (by typically 10km/6mph over the limit) as the odds are extremely slim that I will get pulled over. However, I do remember when they put up speed cameras and I did slow down to just barely over the limit. The chances of getting a ticket in the mail were much higher (and I did get nabbed once).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. Matty Brown says:

    I want a public poll!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. ausmax says:

    This is the second time I’ve seen the home field advantage in the world series mentioned with respect to Melky Cabrera. The all star game was a blowout this year, and there were several offensive heroes for the NL. Replace Melky Cabrera on the NL roster with any minor league outfielder and the NL still wins that game.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Drew says:

    They don’t effect the game at all. If you want to police players for their morals, then make it the same penalty as drug abuse or beating your wife. But it’s not cheating. I think TJS or Lasik eye surgery should be banned, too.

    Legalize performance “enhancing” drugs, stop worrying about it, or continue to have a dumb baseball press who believes in nonsense.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Drew says:

    The only way PEDs effected the game is that the HOF is a joke now, a bunch of dudes got suspended, and one dude was forced into retirement the year after he led the league in OPS.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • In many respects, the Hall of Fame has been a joke for a long time. In many other respects, it’s still waiting to be properly defined. Check out Bill James’s “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?”, previously published as “The Politics of Glory.”

      http://books.google.com/books?id=lMRa1Hk7MS8C

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Drew says:

        I agree, but it’s gotten worse.

        Do you agree with vote moralizing?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Drew says:

        By the way, in no way was I implying you were dumb.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hard to answer. Obviously, there’s a character clause in the Hall of Fame’s instructions to voters. Just as obviously, no one quite knows what it means. It certainly didn’t keep rotten human beings like Cap Anson and Ty Cobb out of the Hall, and it doesn’t seem to have done much to boost the case of a true gentleman like Dale Murphy. It appears to be something that people use as an excuse, rather than applying evenly and fairly with any sort of analytic rigor.

        I don’t think that ethics or morals are illegitimate topics of conversation. I think that if a guy is a terrible human being, then perhaps he should receive credit for that, just as a stellar human being should receive credit. But I certainly object to haphazard and self-serving moralizing.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Why not a monetary punishment? Team can opt out of contract if they want or maybe, current contract/the next contract they sign has to be league minimum, including all the years left on the current contract? Dunno how it’d effect people in FA years, but it might get to their head some, making the risk of losing much more money compared to what he’d get now or if he was not caught.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Drew says:

      Ridiculously harsh. The public perception penalty for using PEDs is enough of a monetary deterrent (no HOF consideration, shorter contracts, shorter careers, overall suspicion and press-fueled hatred, leading to less popularity) especially compared to the baseball benefits of PEDs (none).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Drew says:

    I think the stupidity of MLB drug policy actually unfairly costs Melky money in his walk year, rather the other way around (i.e. that his rule-breaking was an unfair route to his own monetary benefit).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. metsfaninLA says:

    Didn’t really read the comments so I don’t know if someone suggested this, but I thought this article was going to be about figuring out how long PED suspensions should be based on how much it increases production, and expected replacement production ala war so as to adequately punish the team. They talk about how his PED use which spoiled a good season, but it seems the good season is a function of PED use.

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    • Drew says:

      All suspensions would be 0 games if based on actual statistical benefits.

      -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • If based on actual statistical benefits, all PED suspensions would be indeterminate.

        Just because there are no double-blind clinical studies proving the effects of PED use on baseball play does not mean that there is 0 benefit.

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  29. Sivart says:

    Major league contracts should be able to be voided on the spot (one time chance after appeal process, if there is one).

    Or

    Become instantly non-guarunteed when the appeal process is over.

    The team should have say 2-3 days to choose after the appeal process which option they’d like to take. I think that would really put the breaks on some players.

    Alternatively, cap their future salary at the veteran’s minimum, or make them unable to ever sign guarunteed contracts in the future.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Drew says:

      Why penalize someone further who’s already being unfairly penalized for taking body sculpting drugs?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Barry says:

      This is probably the worst idea I’ve run across, and I keep running across it.

      Did the Giants know that Melky was juicing before they traded for him? Did the Royals? Possibly. Wouldn’t you do a significant physical before trading for a player?

      Say that the Giants knew that Melky was juicing. Under your rule, there would be no penalty to signing him to a huge contract. Suspected steroid users would actually get larger paychecks than normal players. Teams should be penalized for signing juicers, not rewarded.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. Richie says:

    “Nothing incents like dollars and cents, to coin a phrase.”

    Somebody has to commend this. Especially if you did think it up yourself, Alex. :-)

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  31. Oliver says:

    Make contracts voidable for a positive test. Or make guaranteed years team options upon positive test.

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  32. Bob says:

    This all comes down to risk/reward for a particular player. Melky was on a track to be out of MLB sooner than later. For a plate like that, the benefit of additional MLB level paychecks (even at league minimums) outweighs the risk of bad publicity (the only real downside if steroids are the difference between playing or not).

    If I were a fringe MLB player and I thought steroids would be the difference, would I take them? Absolutely. In MLB I would get 100k+ contract in a glamorous job. Out of MLB I either make 10k+ with the hope of MLB, or I get a more normal job with no hope at all of more.

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    • Drew says:

      But if you suck, you suck. Taking the roids would just be incidental.

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      • Bob says:

        If you suck, there are no amount of steroids that can make you good. What if you are good enough to be considered for MLB, but not good enough to stick? It could make the difference between staying in MLB and finding a different career.

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  33. Brian says:

    With all the people still doing it (and emboldened by the Braun fiasco/debacle/atrocity of justice), it’s clear they simply still don’t take it seriously enough.

    First time offense: remainder of the season (without pay) AND the FULL time of next season. When returning, a player must be tested three times a week, 52 weeks a year, until he officially retires, and that retirement must be permanent. The player is also required to donate 20% of all his future salary (after taxes) earned as a professional player under contract with a MLB team to PED prevention, awareness and treatment programs and groups.
    Second time: lifetime ban.

    Harsh? Yes. And it has to be, otherwise this will continue to happen.

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    • Don Draper says:

      Why don’t they just face the death penalty? Cause, you know, it has to be like wicked harsh for this to stop…

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  34. Those are not the roids you're looking for says:

    this thread mostly one person blathering on and on for the “pro” steroid side.

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  35. amoc21 says:

    So PEDs should be long suspensions/permanent bans, but if you get caught throwing a spitter, putting too much pine tar on your bat, or using a corked bat, then the punishment, if at all, pales in comparison?

    People against PEDs are just old timers who are mad that old timey player’s hallowed stats are being overwritten.

    If they were really serious about cheating, the other forms of cheating I mentioned above would have the exact same punishment as PEDs.

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      Yes absolutely! I want to live in a world were character matters most! Obviously you have proven that I do not, but it would be nice!

      Studies of honesty done at a scientific level show that the more honest a society in general is the higher the standard of living of that society.

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    • Bob says:

      So you honestly believe that a pitcher intentionally hitting a batter deserves an immediate 50 game suspension?

      This is where someone explains to amoc21 that not all actions are created equal, which is why not all punishments are created equal.

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  36. NeverJamToday says:

    I doubt harsher penalties would solve anything because MLB’s drug testing policy is a farce. The Lords of Baseball have no intention of ridding the game of PED users. All one has to do is read MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program to realize the breadth of the farce MLB is carrying out. The game’s policy is little more than a veneer. It is certainly not designed to catch cheaters.

    Every MLB player has to drop a UA within five days after reporting for spring training. And each player has to have a blood test for hGH during sping training. After that, each player will be called to drop one more “random” UA in the next twelve months. In other words, most players will be subject to only one true random urinalysis in a calendar year.

    Under the agreement, MLB can only administer 1,400 other “random” UAs in a twelve-month period. And this year and next, only 200 of those tests will be administered in the off-season, the very time when MLB knows its players are most likely to use steroids. So there are just 1,400 random tests in a year, only 200 of which are done in the off-season, for roughly 1,000 players.

    The majority of MLB players will go a full year without having to drop more than two UAs and one blood test. And the players know that one UA and the only blood test will be taken during spring training. To paraphrase Victor Conte, only the dumbest of the dumb would ever fail a drug test.

    But what about the testing of players who have previously failed drug tests? Aren’t known cheaters tested more frequently? Maybe. Under the Agreement, known steroid users can only be tested three additional times in a 12-month span. So Melky Cabrera next year will drop no more than five UAs in a 12-month period. And Cabrera may drop just two UAs next year; the additional three tests are discretionary. Interestingly, players who have previously tested positive for stimulants can be tested up to six additional times in a year. So MLB has made it clear: they prefer steroid users to amphetamine users, although the suspensions for stimulant use are not as harsh.

    To administer any additional UAs, MLB needs reasonable cause that the player has used PEDs or stimulants in the last 12 months. However, players get notice of a “reasonable cause” test, and their procedural rights entitle them to delay dropping the UA for up to five days. Studies going back to the 1970s in East Germany have proven that synthetic steroids are often undectable in urine 48 hours after use.

    Jose Bautista has claimed that he has passed 16 drug tests in the past two years. Joey Votto on the Dan Patrick show claimed he passed 7 tests in the past year. If Bautista and Votto are telling the truth, then they have been subject to multiple “reasonable cause” tests. So either MLB has strong evidence that Bautista and Votto are using, or Bautista and Votto are lying about the times they have been tested. If it’s the latter, one wonders why a clean player would feel the need to exaggerate the times he has tested clean. Perhaps MLB encourages its “clean” players to exaggerate in order to perpetuate the myth that MLB’s drug testing policy is tough and thorough.

    MLB doesn’t want to rid the game of steroid users. Steroid users have been great for the business of baseball. Only the sloppy fools like ManRam, Melky Cabrera and Ryan Braun – the dumbest of the dumb, in Victor Conte’s words – get caught. But the dummies who do get caught give MLB just enough street cred to bamboozle the fans, the sportswriters, and Congress that they are taking steps to clean up the game.

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    • Drew says:

      Good points, really, but I still don’t think eliminating steroids cleans anything up, being that steroids don’t do anything other than get people riled up.

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      • Bob says:

        Yes Drew, steroids are a regulated substance that require a doctor’s supervision to use legally. I’m sure they don’t actually do anything, and the medical community has perpetuated this myth in order to laugh at a few athletes who get caught using them.

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      • Drew says:

        The medical community has shown that roids made Melky Cabrera and others better at baseball? I guess that’s the smoking gun that we’ve all (not) been looking for.

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      • Bob says:

        No, the medical community has proven the effects steroids have on the human body. Melky Cabrera is still human, therefore the effects on him would be the same as on other humans.

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  37. Lee Panas says:

    I think 50 games is a harsh enough penalty. Even if they make it one year, there will always be players who will take the chance not expecting to be caught.

    Steroid use should be punished severely, but I honestly think people make too big of a deal out of it. Other forms of cheating don’t get nearly this much attention. Fifty games is plenty.

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  38. Dave K says:

    Does fangraphs have serious analysis of how PEDs improve baseball performance?

    Melky’s ISO is essentially identical to last year. His K% is down and his BB% is up. Do steroids improve a hitter’s ability not to swing at bad pitches? His BABIP is up considerably…so…maybe he’s faster?

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    • Drew says:

      Bob The Commenter has all the data at home. He’d put it up in this thread, but the formatting would get all messed up.

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    • Drew says:

      Hit Tracker Online has what you’re looking for. He’s not hitting the ball any harder or farther.

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    • Lee Panas says:

      As far as I know, nobody has done serious analysis on how PEDs improve baseball performance. It’s pretty much impossible to do unless you you know everyone who has done it, what types of drugs they have used and when. As Dave K suggests, Cabrera’s performance looks as much like luck and variation as an unnatural boost in skills.

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      • Drew says:

        Perceived benefits, perpetuated by bad sportswriters, and probably scan artists like Conte.

        Guys cork bats, get suspended, and yet it does nothing to benefit them.

        If a guy was sacrificing virgins to a demon god because he truly believed it would raise his wOBA to .600, he might do it despite the chance of getting caught.

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  39. Keith says:

    Braun’s defense was most certainly predicated on a false-positive, but it was a technicality that he was exonerated.

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    • Jason B says:

      Good distinction. And I enjoy your icon to boot.

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    • mmiale says:

      And let me just add that he got off on such a completely and utterly absurd technicality that it led to the lead arbitrator who made the ridiculous ruling being fired by Major League Baseball.

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  40. Tim says:

    UNRELATED: I clicked over to Adrian Beltre’s page after reading this article and seeing his name, but a ton of WAR info is missing on his page. Anyone else having the same issue or is it just an issue with my shitty work computer?

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  41. tojoyamamoto says:

    Does the juice somehow help your overall batting ability and not just power? I’m curious how Melky suddenly stopped sucking when he left the braves.

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    • NeverJamToday says:

      I don’t know how one would go about measuring the performance enhancing effects of steroid use for baseball players. Aside from doing an experiment with willing participants involving controls and placebos – which could never happen – any statistical analysis would be severly limited.

      Common sense would suggest that baseball players would not take a drug with such substantial risks unless the rewards were worth it: health risks like links to heart disease, liver and kidney disease, and cancer; the risk of getting caught – it can cost a player millions of dollars in earnings, damage his reputation, result in letting down his teammates, etc.; and there’s a risk – albeit slight – of criminal prosecution and imprisonment. How much of the known performance enhancing effects of steroids helps a particular player, and how much is based on a placebo effect, is anyone’s guess. But there has to be the potential for significant benefits for players to take these risks, even if the risk of being caught is slim.

      The lousiest part – and I think Tom Verducci spelled this out very well in his recent SI piece – is that the players who resist the temptations and play clean are probably placed at a competitive disadvantage. And that’s why MLB should be more earnest in trying to rid the game of cheats. I just don’t see how testing players only two to four times a year is going to clean up the game to the extent that is necessary, unless we assume that the vast majority of MLB players are virtuous by nature.

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  42. JS says:

    Braun may have used the possibility of a false-positive as justification for appealing, but his actual appeal was that there was improper handling of the sample he provided, per the labor agreement.

    At no time did Braun ever allege that the test itself was wrong, nor did he come up with a reason that someone would have tampered with his sample. His entire appeal came down to “you didn’t follow every single rule to the letter in transporting my sample to the testing facility”.

    He didn’t need to do anymore than that to win the appeal, but that Braun got off from the suspension doesn’t clear his name, no more than anyone listed in the Mitchell Report is cleared because the list was never supposed to be made public.

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  43. It is articles like this that leads me to try to open some more minds that PED myths reign over most discussions, this link leads to Eric “The Sinister Firstbaseman” Walker’s dissertion on steroids and baseball: http://steroids-and-baseball.com/

    I like the article, FYI, as I think a year ban followed by a career ban would be a very good deterrent. However, the MLBPA has fought hard over the years against both testing and penalties, weakening both along the way. And that makes sense, because if these things can do the things claimed, the players will get larger and larger deals, get the league more press and coverage, and more fans, win-win-win as far as the MLBPA is concerned.

    Just look at all the wrangling over the mis-handling of Braun’s positive testing by the union, when any of us non-experts know that there is nothing that could have been done to sample sitting around to make it suddenly filled with testosterone. One would have to have purposefully put it in (which the MLBPA don’t seem to realize is a logical conclusion, if protocol was not followed) if the player was not juiced in some way. Sitting around on a desk won’t make it potent.

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    • CheatersWhoProsper says:

      Seriously, why no more comments on ownership responsibility and shared punishment for steroid abuse on their team? Back when these scandals first broke, people wrote about that more. Brian Sabean faces no punishment, but if he did he’d be conducting himself far differently as a GM, as would the Giants as an ownership group, and every other team too. If punishments were stiffened for ownership groups, that would work, players unions wouldn’t even have to approve, and no government intervention would be required either. Thoughts?

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    • Drew says:

      Great link. Something to read when I want to feel validated. Or to forward to close-minded (when it comes to steroids) baseball fan friends.

      Here’s a discussion where a guy crushes another guy on steroid use. It’s silly, but he puts forth a lot of good points, and also links to your Eric Walker page.

      http://www.debate.org/debates/Statistics-Performance-Enhancing-Drugs-and-Major-League-Baseball./1/comments/7/

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  44. Jeff Mathis does Steroids says:

    Melky Cabrera cheats: 50 games is not harsh enough! End the F@!#ker’s career!
    Joel Peralta cheats: 8 games? Come on, people have always done that! Its old school!
    Williw Mays cheats (with amphetamines): How dare you insult an icon of the game!

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  45. question that I, for one, would like answered is from what period did Cabrera’s offending sample come from. It’s rumored that the offending sample came from 2011 and the mid summer testing was confirmatory sampling. It has no bearing on the ultimate penalty, but would bring some dispositive clarity to the events and the statistical evidence reflective of his performance. In Bond’s case, looking at his numbers in retrospect, clearly point to when he began using PEDs.

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  46. adohaj says:

    Why is it that everyone forgets SSS in regards to steroids. Bonds, Ortiz, Clemens.. ect. were outliers. Many more players took steroids but did not have a large spike in performance. For some reason many people instantly think steroids=increased performance. When obviously it does not.

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