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NBC SportsTalk: Brian Cashman’s irresponsible PED comments

Aug 30, 2012, 9:12 AM EDT

Brian Cashman

Joe Sheehan and I joined Erik Kuselias on SportsTalk last night and one of the segments was about Brian Cashman’s lack of surprise over Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera‘s positive PED tests.  Which is fine as far as it goes. It may be a rare bit of candor from an executive on the topic of PEDs.

But Erik, Joe and I all agree that it’s unseemly and, in a lot of ways, cynical for a guy like Cashman to say such things.  My biggest beef: pointing to the performance spikes these guys had is misleading, because Cashman knows as well as anyone that there have been way more Guillermo Motas and Marlon Byrds caught taking banned things out there — dudes trying to hang on or get over the hump — than there have been positive statistical outliers caught.  Indeed, we have all manner of fluke seasons in baseball history that have nothing to do with PEDs. Melky and Bartolo may have been riding dirty, but let’s not make every guy who has a flukish year a suspect.

And yeah, I dopped a Norm Cash reference. Stopped the conversation cold.

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  1. drewsylvania - Aug 30, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    If the feds are consistent, shouldn’t there be an investigation of Cashman to find out what he knew when?

    • bigharold - Aug 30, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      And Cashman would tell them, .. “I knew as much as the CBA wouyld allow me to know.

      I’ve less of a problem with management/owners turning a blind eye to PEDs than I do the Players Uninon that not only didn’t protect the non-cheaters from the cheaters they didn’t have the foresight to protect the chheaters from themselves.

  2. bigleagues - Aug 30, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    I think dismissing suspicion as simply an anomalous performance spike is just irresponsible. I mean, it’s obvious that Brady Anderson simply had a performance spike, right? No PED’s involved, whatsoever – is that correct?

    For those not familiar with my position, I want a liberalization of PED policy in MLB and all pro-sports. I happen to believe that a blanket prohibition and demonization of all PED’s is sophomoric claptrap. And to achieve that, pro sports is going to have to work together to identify and separate the beneficial PED’s from the dangerous PED’s.

    Where there are millions at stake, there are always gonna be players motivated to roll the dice. Many of them have nothing to lose. But by endorsing and participating in the prohibition of PED’s MLB and the other pro sports are also making the situation more dangerous. It’s not cheating if the motivation and the result produces no physical advantage other than to get healthy and appropriately strong enough to play through the rigors of a 162 Game season.

    Black markets are, by function, created by a ruling body with political interests – and are usually at odds with individual civil rights. There was a politically motivated hysteria that led to this current anti-PED environment in MLB.

    But to dismiss Brian Cashman’s comments about Colon and Cabrera is sort of petty. It’s also suggesting that scouts and baseball execs (while they can and do get things wrong) have less accurate judgement about a players abilities than the statisticians. And that’s really kind of outrageous.

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 30, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      We don’t know why Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 1996 and no more than 24 in any other season of his major league career.

      If you want to assert that Anderson hit 50 homers in 1996 because Anderson took steroids despite the complete absence of any evidence other than his performance spike, then please explain:
      - How you can separate performance attributable to body-building and use of androstendione (which did not then violate baseball’s rules) from performance attributable to steroid use.
      - Why in an era in which baseball didn’t test for steroids, Anderson’s performance spike lasted for only one season.
      - If steroid use alone tripled Anderson’s home run totals, why we don’t see many many more performance spikes of this magnitude given that perhaps half of MLB players were using steroids before MLB started testing for them.
      - Whether you also believe that Phil Bradley used steroids when his home run totals went from 0 to 26 or whether Kirby Puckett used steroids when his home run totals when from 4 to 31 and, if not, how you could distinguish those performance spikes from Anderson’s performance spike.

      Given the economic incentives and the fact that there was no non-anonymous steroid testing in baseball until 2005, everyone understands that steroid use was widespread before 2005, although the exact start of this trend is impossible to pinpoint. However, one can’t determine whether any individual player took steroids by looking at his performance: there are too many other factors including random variation.

      • alang3131982 - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM

        And to steal from a fine article by Bill at the Platoon Advantage (http://www.platoonadvantage.com/2012-articles/august/the-flaw.html):

        “1. Anderson started using PEDs just prior to the 1996 season. If he’d been using them before then, there wouldn’t be any evidence that 1996 was a result of the drugs.

        2. Anderson stopped using PEDs just after the 1996 season. Same story; if he hit 50 on PEDs at age 32 and then hit 18 on PEDs at age 33, that wouldn’t be very strong evidence that it was the PEDs that did it, either.

        3. Anderson’s PEDs-taking wasn’t motivated by money, or fame, or anything else that motivates rational actors. If you assume Anderson cheated in 1996 and stopped cheating before 1997, you have to assume he did it because…well, I can’t for the life of me imagine why he did it, or at least why he stopped doing it. Because in a league with no testing, he had no reason to fear getting caught.”

        Maybe the ball was juiced, maybe the wind was blowing out all the time, maybe pitching was incredibly diluted. It’s silly and intellectually stupid to assert PEDs result in good performance or a spike in performance. We have just as much evidence that it doesnt turn players into goliath HR hitters. What about freddy galvis?

      • bigleagues - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        You just wasted a whole lot of words on completely missing the point of my comments.

        I didn’t make an assertion one way or another whether Anderson did or didn’t experience a performance spike due to PED’s. I used Anderson as a counter to Craig’s rather strange use of Norm Cash as an example of anomalous spikes in performance. Norm Cash remained a highly productive, well above average player throughout the rest of his career – even if he never again sniffed an average above .300 for the season. Even including 1996 – Brady Anderson was an ever so slightly above average player for his career.

        Why does Craig then employ the weaker example of Norm Cash, when a more recent, more well known example for his argument exists in Brady Anderson?

        Because most of us, even those, like myself, who support a more progressive approach to PED’s, and HOF induction for the “PED ERA” players, have our doubts about Brady Anderson – as illogical, based on his contract, as his usage in 1996 and the subsequent drop in 1997 seems.

        I’m sorry if my viewpoint doesn’t fit into one camp or the other. I just don’t see things that black and white.

        I can see a scenario where Anderson experimented with steroids/PED’s 2 years before his contract, and being a health nut, freaked out at the results and decided to back off. I can see in that scenario where the person decides to leave well enough alone on a one time lapse in judgement and deny ever using anything.

        I can also see a scenario where Brady Anderson comes into his Age 32 season in the best shape of his career, more focused than in any other previous season, and have a variety of factors fall his way as he bangs out a career high 50 HR’s.

        Finally, while I do not believe in any way shape or form that taking a PED equates with suddenly becoming a better hitter.

        However, here is the distinction that is often missed or omitted by people making the arguments that you make: it is certainly possible that already good or great hitter who regularly drives the ball, may gain added core strength which helps translate into added bat speed and distance could translate into being a better power hitter. That is, more balls that would be doubles off the wall or deep fly ball outs, going over the wall and more balls that would be long singles or line drive outs turning into doubles.

        As for why production wanes – even when on PED’s?

        Well, I think it’s rather convenient that we have essentially banished Ken Caminitti from the contemporary discussion. Granted, he’s no longer with us, but he did give us quite a bit to chew on. From a 2002 SI article detailing his admitted usage and how it affects him as a player:

        After a slow start the next season, Caminiti says he returned to steroid use, this time with the help of a friend in California who supplied the drugs. He says he continued using at various times through his career, learning from his supplier how to do cycles. “I felt like a kid,” he says. “I’d be running the bases and think, Man, I’m fast! And I had never been fast. Steroids made me like that. The stronger you get, the more relaxed you get. You feel good. You just let it fly.

        “If you don’t feel good, you try so hard to make something happen. You grip the bat harder and swing harder, and that’s when you tighten up. But you get that edge when you feel strong. That’s the way I felt, like I could just try to meet the ball and—wham!—it’s going to go 1,000 mph. Man, I felt good. I’d think, Damn, this pitcher’s in trouble, and I’d crush the ball 450 feet with almost no effort. It’s all about getting an edge.”

        Though he kept using steroids—in 1998, he says, “I showed up at spring training as big as an ox”—Caminiti never again approached the statistics he generated in 1996, partly because he never played another season without going on the disabled list. His injuries were mostly muscular, including a strained hamstring, a strained quadriceps, a strained calf muscle and a ruptured tendon sheath in his wrist.

        “I got really strong, really quick,” he says. “I pulled a lot of muscles. I broke down a lot. I’m still paying for it. My tendons and ligaments got all torn up. My muscles got too strong for my tendons and ligaments.”

      • Detroit Michael - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        I thought you were sarcastically implying that Brady Anderson took steroids. Sorry that I misinterpreted your opening paragraph.

        I realize that wasn’t your main point.

  3. chip56 - Aug 30, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Craig, I get where you’re coming from on this, but I just get the feeling from listening to his interview with Kay that it’s one of those deals where Cashman has been sitting in his office for the last year and a half trying to figure out what went wrong, how they could have so greatly miscalculated on Melky Cabrera then when the failed test was announced it was almost a relief to him.

    The more telling thing was that he essentially admitted that he had suspicions last year about Bartolo Colon and was just lucky.

    • deadfish617 - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      I think you are misunderstanding the situation that lead to the trade of Melky from the Yankees to Atlanta. When he and Robinson Cano were with the Yankees, they spent a large amount of time goofing off. The Yankees believed that Cano had the talent to become a true star in the MLB so they decided that it would be best for Cano’s future and the future of the Yankees to trade away Melky. They believed that Cano would mature as a person and as a player better if Melky was not around.

      • chip56 - Aug 30, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        Yeah but you have to believe that if the Yankees had rated Melky as a potential MVP level player (Cashman in that interview said that their internal ratings had Melky as an above average 4th outfielder or a low end starting outfielder) then they would have kept him and figured out a way to curb the off the field antics of him and Cano. Or at the very least would not have used him as a throw in for Javier Vazquez.

  4. mybrunoblog - Aug 30, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    His personal life aside, Cashman is calculated and measured in what he says to the media. I appreciate the fact that Cashman was being honest. The next time a guy gets caught using PED’s and his GM says “wow, we never suspected a thing” we will appreciate Cashmans honesty that much more.

  5. stex52 - Aug 30, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    The real question is: What did he know, and when did he start knowing it? Borrowed from the Nixon era, but things just don’t seem to change much.

  6. lumpyf - Aug 30, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Norm Cash? LMAO Terrible reference. Cash admitted using a corked bat during his great 1961 season. Maybe he didn’t use PEDs but he sure as hell cheated that year. Try again.

  7. illcomm - Aug 30, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    there r fluke seasons and then impossible ones for a player with a certain history if never hitting a certain clip. melky among a few others are having/had some impossible clip lines. rookies get the benifit of the doubt, but players in the league 5 years don’t all of a sudden become great overnight. it just doesn’t happen. what cashman said was candid n very true.

  8. Kleinz 57 - Aug 30, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Big fan of Craig. Big fan of Joe. So I was a big fan of this. Nice work, gents.

  9. psunick - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    It always baffles me how the media loves it…practically salivates…when a highly regarded executive makes a controversial statement.

    Then, they pillory him for being too controversial.

    What a business.

  10. Joe - Aug 30, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Two of Melky’s top three comps at age 24, with almost identical OPS+ figures, were Johnny Damon and Curt Flood. Almost everybody with a similar batting profile turned into a regular in the majors. Melky might have been a fourth outfielder for the Yankees, but he certainly showed enough promise to be a starter in the majors. And Damon and Flood – well, they went on to put up gaudy batting averages a couple of times in their careers.

    Further, Melky’s improvement is almost entirely a creation of BABip (.379, vs. a career .309), and I don’t think PEDs are found to have a profound impact on BABip.

  11. anxovies - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    I’m not sure why you think Cashman’s comments were irresponsible, Craig. Most of us had an aha! moment on the news that Melky tested dirty during the season he was having such success in his hitting game. Colon’s stem cell treatment with a doctor who had used HGH on other athletes and his resurgence in 2011-2012 also raised suspicions about him. Was it the fact that Cashman chose to speak frankly about his suspicions where many other GMs would have demurred that gave rise to your claim of irresponsibility? There were obviously suspicions in the Yankee organization about Colon, and as one who was intimately familiar with Melky’s prospects as a hitter, Cashman had a basis for his remarks. The fact that he spoke with a candor not normally associated with baseball management should not be called irresponsible.

  12. 49ersgiants4life - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    So what did Cashman say when A Roid got caught was he not surprised or what did he have no idea!

  13. djpostl - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    I don’t see one thing wrong with what Cashman said.

    All of these cheats make life hellish for GMs most likely.

    Contracts being earned through nothing short of fraudulent means are not what any owner or GM should have to deal with. You already have to roll the dice on every other deal. Will they stay healthy? Can they handle a high pressure market or move from the NL to the AL etc…

    There are a ton of moving parts and in the PED era (obviously, even if it isn’t rampant it is still a factor these days) it is part of the equation they have to think about when evaluating players.

    If they have to stress over it then they dirty players can hear them talk about it and not get all butt hurt about it.

    And to claim “Indeed, we have all manner of fluke seasons in baseball history that have nothing to do with PEDs” is kind of a stretch.

    How the hell would you know?

    Clearly it wasn’t tested for prior to 2003-2004. And, clearly, people STILL cheat their asses off chasing a big payday.

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