Why It’s Okay That PED Players Are Getting Paid

Over the last few days, you’ve no doubt heard a lot of grumbling about the fact that players with PED histories are getting paid. You heard it a little when Marlon Byrd (career earnings: approximately $22 million) signed for a guaranteed $16 million with the Phillies, and a little more when Carlos Ruiz (career earnings: approximately $15 million) accepted $26 million to stay in Philadelphia.

But of course, that was just a prelude to the howling that came when Jhonny Peralta, with around $30 million in career earnings to his name, picked up a $53 million contract from the Cardinals — and it’s only going to get worse if Nelson Cruz, who has earned approximately $20 million in his career, actually gets the 4/$75m contract he’s reportedly asking for.

Multiple MLB players took to Twitter to complain about Peralta, notably relievers David Aardsmawho said “getting suspended means you get a raise” — and Brad Ziegler, who chastised the owners for “encouraging PED use” and said that he didn’t mind Peralta being employed so much as he did that the new Cardinal got “a massive raise“.

The question, however, in regards to the signings, is this: What did they expect the Cardinals should have done?

Peralta got $53 million because the Cardinals acted in the best interests of their team. They recognized a Kozma-shaped hole on their roster, and determined that paying Peralta rather than giving up a pick for Stephen Drew or tons of talent and even more money for Troy Tulowitzki was the best way to fill that hole. They did it because a general manager’s job is to put out the best team on the field that he can, not police the morals of the sport, and while we’d love to think otherwise, the most talented players are not always Boy Scouts. Baseball teams employ drunk drivers, domestic abusers, and sexual abusers, offenses which are unarguably more dangerous to society at large than PED guys. (The hypocrisy of fans easily cheering for those players while crucifying PED users is another topic entirely.)

If St. Louis could have nailed down Peralta for $10 million, or $15 million, or whatever number the aggrieved would have deemed acceptable, then they most certainly would have. The free market said otherwise, so they paid what they needed to get the right man for the job. $53 million is more than anyone expected Peralta to get, to be sure, but with the incredible amount of money flooding the game these days, very few free agent contracts should shock us any more — and it was reported that Peralta could have made even more elsewhere, but wanted to go to St. Louis. (It should also be noted that Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS has that number as almost exactly his value anyway.)

Between the money, the need, and the player, it’s a completely defensible deal, one that likely makes the Cardinals better, but the players and fans who are upset aren’t looking at it from that point of view. They’re looking at it from an emotional stance: Hey, that guy cheated. Why is he getting paid?

He’s getting paid because he’d served his suspension, and it’s really not the job of front offices to collude against PED guys in the absence of collectively-bargained rules saying they ought to do so. Either way, it’s far too simplistic to suggest, as some have, that Peralta and the others got their big deals “because” of PEDs. The Cardinals are obviously aware of his past, and evaluated it analytically along with everything else they know about the player. They considered whether he was likely to get hurt; they considered if he was likely to regress as he ages, and if so, by how much; and they considered how much of his recent performance could be attributed to PED usage. They came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that Peralta’s 2013 was not fueled by chemical help, and so if anything the stain on his name was a detriment to his free agency, not an enhancement.

We don’t know their process, so we don’t know how they came to those answers. But what we do know is that they took it all into account, and their decision further cements what we already knew: Major League front offices look at PED busts very, very differently than fans and players do. Though fans like to include all “cheating” under one huge unforgivable umbrella, it’s rarely that cut-and-dry. Even now, what we don’t know about the effects of PEDs on baseball players probably outweighs what we do, and the various players nailed didn’t all use the same thing at the same time. (Ruiz was reportedly busted for Adderall, for example, a far cry from the big cartoon needle filled with Popeye’s spinach that many envision all users as having.) Peralta’s case adds even more mystery, since he’s part of the big Biogenesis mess that we still don’t — and may never — fully understand, as the Alex Rodriguez saga is showing.

You can certainly understand why the players and fans feel that way, of course, and Ziegler did later add that he’d be pushing the union to make chances to prevent this sort of thing in the future. (Many are asking  for much harsher penalties for PED abusers; Peralta’s new St. Louis teammate, Matt Hollidayis on record as saying he’d prefer a full season for the first bust and a lifetime ban for the second.)

Perhaps the union and owners will do just that. Depending on your perspective, maybe it’s “hopefully” they’ll do just that, because the view that the current system isn’t enough of a deterrent is probably accurate. But until they do, the game rolls on under the system that the owners and players agreed to. It’s naive to expect a general manager who has certainly done his due diligence to hesitate on upgrading his team, knowing that other GMs would be all too happy to jump on that opportunity to strengthen their own roster instead.



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Mike Petriello used to write here, and now he does not.

Find him at @mike_petriello or MLB.com.



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Guest
Guest
Guest

If the players were actually interested in stopping PED use, then they would institute punishments for players caught cheating that actually have teeth- such as giving teams the right to void a player’s contract for being suspended for PEDs.

David
Guest
David

Have to hit the teams who employ them also. The Cards, for example, don’t lose anything but playing time if Peralta were to get caught again, should they be allowed to void the contract.

So in addition to being allowed to void the contract, the salary should still count against the luxury tax calculation. Or a draft pick should be zapped. Or … something …

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump

Oh, I think that having the player suspended and his salary go straight to luxury tax, but count for double even if the team wasn’t over the threshold, for example: A player making $10m gets busted for PEDs either with a positive tests or evidence. That player now has to forfeit his salary for the year (regardless as to how many games he’s been suspended) and it would go directly to the luxury tax pool. Then the team owning him would would be considered $20m over the luxury cap threshold (which would be $209 million as it currently stands). If they are already over the luxury tax threshold then perhaps the salary should count triple towards the team’s threshold (so a team at $200 million would be considered 230 million for tax purposes).

But, you could also do this a number of different ways. You could have that money come out of a team’s Rule IV draft allotment starting with first round picks until it’s all used up (this could even mean that it would span multiple years), or likewise you could have it come out of the international FA allotments.

Personally, I think that any of these would be a deterrent for both the player, the team who signed him, and any future team that he may sign with.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I think PED players should be executed. This would ensure that they never got paid for anything again and be one hell of a deterrent.

B N
Guest
B N

@Baltar: That is far too harsh. You can’t just go around killing people! (Source: John Connor) Instead, they should be injected with a capsule that would react with any PED in the bloodstream to release deadly poison into their brain. All the deterrent, and they WERE warned that PED’s are harmful.

PS They should also play on a space station, starring Christopher Lambert and Arnold Schwarzenegger as team captains.

Brad Johnson
Member

There is merit to the idea that the teams themselves need to be disincentivized from employing PED users. There is even merit to a clearly punitive system like the one Stuck recommends below (although I would not personally advocate for that specific approach). If you want PEDs out of the game entirely, then you need to create a strong incentive for all stakeholders.

Guest’s idea for voiding contracts is far too team friendly and it can create a massive conflict of interest similar to what we see between the Yankees and ARod.

However, one of the problems with this is that innocent mistakes can be made in regard to PEDs. While some people who get caught claim they didn’t know they were using a banned substance, I have little doubt that there are actually a few instances of players just following the advice of others and not doing enough homework.

One thing we have to remember is that every single professional baseball player is using performance enhancing substances. Most of these are not banned, some of them are. Some of them may be arbitrarily banned (I do not know). Some of them may be legal but shouldn’t be (I do not know).

Carlos Ruiz is a good example. For Adderall to work as intended, Ruiz has to have an actual medical use for it. Otherwise it’s a pure stimulant that would make it hard for him to focus. Maybe he did use it as a stimulant, but there are easier, legal ways to get a similar effect. He probably used it for it’s intended purpose.

nada
Guest
nada

“However, one of the problems with this is that innocent mistakes can be made…”

yes but by punishing teams, we should be incentivizing them to make sure their players know exactly which supplements to use and which not to use, thereby minimizing the number of innocent mistakes (which suck, I agree).

In the example of Ruiz, it’s nearly unfathomable to me that at no point in the time between him going to the doctor and taking his first pill, he thought to himself “Gee, I wonder what the PED policy on Adderall is?” If so, then MLB and the individual teams have profoundly failed to educate players on the policy, and they need some incentive to do so.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Make it difficult for him to focus? Clearly you’ve been out of the college scene for a while.

AK7007
Member
AK7007

Two things. One, the whole first time year, second time life ban isn’t going to change anything except for established players. Players like Holliday would be wise not to use PEDs under such a scheme because he already has his payday and can only lose money, not significantly gain from PED use. Players on shorter contracts wouldn’t want to use as much, because it would likely eat into a future contract. (right now, that first 50 game ban is a buffer for players like cruz and peralta) Marginal players have a huge incentive to use, because even with harsh penalties, if the alternative is you don’t make the big leagues – you should be using. Draconian punishment policies aren’t the answer, and I think you know that they aren’t. Education and early intervention are the answer, even if it will take a long time to be effective. (get them while they are still in the minors, which is what MLB is doing)

Secondly, Adderall suspensions are bullshit. 1/10 MLB players are given use exemptions already, and MLB appears to have great latitude in who they choose to give them to. For all we know, since nobody’s talking, Ruiz might have had one under the previous rules before you needed to go before a 3 person panel to get one. What we do know is that if 10% of the league is taking a PED lawfully (doubtful they all need it for ADHD) it’s just plain stupid to go after a few guys who couldn’t get their papers in order. Just deregulate the damn stuff.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump

Ok, the US military has a zero tolerance policy. If you unknowingly take a banned substance under it’s drug policies, it doesn’t matter how you ended up with it in your system the only thing that matters is that it WAS in your system.

This puts incentive on members of the US military to disassociate themselves from people who have that kind of lifestyle and to ensure that they know what is in the things that they are taking/using. Is it unfair if a member of the military goes to a party and accidentally eats a hash brownie? A little, but (s)he should have known better than to be involved with that crowd anyway.

This type of truly zero tolerance policy is what baseball needs if it’s ever going to clean itself up, and by incentivizing teams to ensure that their players know the policies inside and out and to squash the culture of PED usage despite the benefits it may provide to their teams.

Brad Johnson
Member

Stuck, I’m not sure it’s fair to expect athletes to follow the same code as soldiers. The military has a zero tolerance policy because failure is a very serious thing. That’s not the case in baseball.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump

Brad, illegal drugs like marijuana have similar effects to alcohol without nearly as much risk (the risk is similar to tobacco when smoked), yet soldiers can drink all they want as long as it doesn’t harm their performance and they are sober while on duty, they can also smoke in designated areas. The penalty for a positive test or evidence based failures is still discharge and possible jail time.

PED’s are just as illegal and are more detrimental to the game than responsible marijuana use (under the guidlines I mentioned above) is to the military. If MLB wants to clean up then seriously punitive ramifications to both team and player are needed.

You called my ideas “clearly punitive”… Really? That’s the idea! If players who are linked to PED’s can lose a year’s worth of salary and the teams they play on are severely punished don’t you think that both might think twice? The players may be seen as higher risk than reward for a second positive meaning that future teams may avoid them like the plague which would result in depressed salaries so that it can’t be argued that they are being rewarded.

If the teams are hit so hard that thy see stars then they will clearly have incentive to change the atmosphere in their club houses and police themselves harder.

Do you really think that Ortiz was unknowingly but literally ‘juicing’ when he tried to explain that he was drinking some sort of funky energy drink while he was hanging out in the DR? I call bullshit on that.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Hash brownies don’t make you better and shooting machine guns or driving tanks. As a vet, I can’t think of any single banned substance that made us better at our jobs, or gave us an unfair advantage for that matter. Booze was legal, but I figure all that did was level the playing field.

Mando steroid use for all, I say.

Brad Johnson
Member

Stuck, as I mentioned in that first comment, a punitive system has merit. If you really want to drub PEDs out of the game, you create incentives that punish the player, teammates, front office, and owners. That way, it’s not up to a single individual to make morally ambiguous decisions.

As for Ortiz, who the hell knows. Back then, nobody had any reason to be careful, so if someone came up to you and said this new formula will help with your training and is healthy for you, you’d probably take it with only a minimal amount of research. And if in that research you learn that the substance is technically banned, everyone else is also taking banned substances, so why not.

It’s like driving 10 miles over the speed limit or smoking weed in college, there’s almost no chance you’ll get in trouble and in fact it’s expected behavior.

Simon
Guest
Simon

Not knowing what you took is hardly a defence. Don’t take strange things unless the team signs them off. Not hard.

Brad Johnson
Member

Simon, it’s easy to say that, but try putting yourself in the athlete’s shoes.

Let’s say you’re Melky Cabrera and you’re close to be drubbed out of the league and pigeon holed as an org soldier. Someone you trust (at least somewhat) offers you “something” that will help take your game to the next level. How many questions are you really going to ask?

I’m not saying Melky didn’t know that he was cheating, I’m just using his use case as an example.

Go Nats
Guest
Go Nats

I have taken adderall for its intended purpose in the past. It always helps anyone concentrate. It is very good for helping you recover from a tough night out and still function. So, I would consider it a PED, but nowhere near as much as a steroid. Adderall effects you for only 3-4 hours. Then you need more to have the same affect. it is also a bit addictive.

Albert Dimond
Guest

Of course, wartime use of otherwise illegal stimulants has been common in military history. The purpose, goal, and motivation of a military is quite different from that of a baseball league. Neither is, nor ever will be, a temperance society.

Anaphylaxis
Guest
Anaphylaxis

I once took an Adderall and it most certainly did NOT help me concentrate.

nada
Guest
nada

I think it’s fair to say that Adderall has different effects on different users. With that said, if you are voluntarily seeking Adderall, one would presume that it is because you are one of the people for whom Adderall is useful. So even if you personally don’t get any benefit from Addy, the MLB ballplayers who take it probably do, or else they wouldn’t take it.

cowdisciple
Guest
cowdisciple

If the players were actually interested in stopping PED use, then they would institute punishments for players caught cheating that actually have teeth- such as giving teams the right to void a player’s contract for being suspended for PEDs.

Allowing teams to void the contracts of players caught using would be hugely counterproductive. In that scenario, there is nothing but benefit for teams who offer large contracts to users – they get the enhanced production (to whatever extent it exists) and then they get to void the deal if the player is caught? Pure profit.

I agree with above posters that you HAVE to punish the team as well as the player if you want to fix the perverse incentives that are the root of the problem. If the team of the suspended player lost their next first-round pick (or something), teams would be much more likely to police their own organizations (and teams are in by far the best position to do that) and would also be very reluctant to offer contracts to PED users. It would have essentially the same effect as the player receiving and rejecting a qualifying offer, and we’ve already seen that the QO has a huge impact on a player’s market value.

Fix the incentives, or you’re never going to be able to address the cause of the problem.

Wayne
Guest
Wayne

I have no problem with ball players using PED’s….my problem is when they lie, get caught in a lie, and embarrass their teams (A-Rod, and Braun to name a couple)

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