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50 game suspensions are plenty tough

Nov 8, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

melky cabrera getty Getty Images

Tom Verducci had a rundown of free agent outfielders the other day. His Melky Cabrera comments: decent gamble and, because of his suspension, you can probably get him on a one year deal. Fair enough. Then:

In the meantime, I can’t believe Cabrera has yet to truly explain himself and begin to clear the air to try to reduce the taint. He needs to be fully accountable. And the fact that he could roll the dice in his free agent walk year by juicing is a reminder that baseball and the union aren’t truly serious about getting PEDs out of the game; a 50-game suspension is baseball’s equivalent of a five-minute timeout in the corner. The penalty should be at least one year.

He’s not the only one who says this, but the idea that a 50 game suspension is not enough — that it’s “a five-minute timeout” is crazy.

Cabrera lost 30% of his salary — $1.85 million — due to his suspension. And, because he was in a free agent walk year, he probably lost as much as $40 million, maybe more, due to teams being unwilling to make a multi-year commitment to him this winter. He was also effectively shunned from his team and didn’t get to be part of it celebrating a world championship.

To suggest that those aren’t heavy penalties is ridiculous. If, against that backdrop, with those potential consequences looming, a player still wants to risk taking PEDs, he’s either dumb or is someone who is unable to balance risks and rewards.

Six major leaguer players out of thousands on major league rosters were caught using PEDs in 2012. That’s not a ton. If you believe that tons more are using and not being caught — and implicit assertion of everyone who makes arguments like Verducci is here — you should be advocating for more frequent and more stringent testing, not tougher penalties. Because they’re already extremely tough and intimidating for people who operate in a rational universe.

  1. randygnyc - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    If testing was more frequent/stringent COMBINED with tougher penalties (one year for the first offense), players would finally get the message.

    Lets not forget, the $40 million or more that Melky stands to lose on his upcoming contract, would never had even been possible without steroids in the first place. From a players perspective, they can’t take the gamble of juicing for one year with the payoff being enormous generational wealth. Until they fear that the risks of getting caught are more likely, they’ll continue to cheat and lie about it.

    • paperlions - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      So….you think that taking PEDs allowed Cabrera to magically hit the ball where fielders were not standing? Because the only difference between old Melky and new Melky was a whole lot more balls finding holes. His career BABIP was .299 through 2011, and last year he was just having an extreme outlier year at .379.

      Before fabricating some convoluted “PEDs probably let you hit the ball harder and increase BABIP” theory….know that BABIP did not change during the height of the steroid era it varied within the same range it did before and the same range it has since.

      • Alex K - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        Stop that logic and reason, paper. Teh STEROIDS!!

      • paperlions - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:12 AM

        Sorry, can’t help it. I’ll try to do better or worse…whatever.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM

        “…BABIP did not change during the height of the steroid era it …”

        This is especially remarkable given that such excellent “fielders” like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada regularly wore gloves at this time.

      • scatterbrian - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        Your counter-argument is that four guys–two of them first basemen–were able to swing the tide of BABIP across the entire league? Brilliant.

      • paperlions - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        Do I need to list all of the horrible fielders staggering around LF, RF, and 1B in today’s game? Emphasis on defense has improved marginally and sporadically over the last decade….but as soon as a team has trouble scoring runs, the emphasis on defense goes right out the window.

        Granderson is a horrible CFer now, Jeter is a horrible SS and they still play him there, Weeks is a horrible 2B, Young is a horrible everything, Hamilton is a horrible fielder, Fielder is a horrible fielder (1/2 of detroits lineup are poor or worse fielders).

        Teams still sacrifice defense for power as much as they used to.

  2. randygnyc - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Edit- CAN, not can’t.

  3. im4cincy - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Reduce the taint is never as easy as it looks

    • mrwillie - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      Soon to be a popular Hollywood cosmetic surgery.

  4. stex52 - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    I get your argument, Randy. But Melky has been knocked back to where he should have been all along, he doesn’t get the big payday he didn’t deserve and he paid a big penalty. Let him make a living.

  5. mianfr - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Yeah, this really is a crazy amount of time to be suspended for, especially in a sport like baseball where you tend to make your salary in 162 increments.

    I could be wrong, but I believe in football you just lose your game checks and don’t have that $5M signing bonus from two years again tampered with.

    But I guess this is the price current Major Leaguers have to pay for the sins of the past generation.

    • kellyb9 - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      Usually a 6-8 game suspension for banned substances in football. Baseball is in line with football if you think of it as a percentage of the total games played.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        It’s a 4 game suspension for first time PED abuse, then 8 game, then a year. So you’re looking at 25/50/100% suspension for football vs almost 33/66/100% for baseball.

  6. metalhead65 - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    if the penalty is so tough then why do players get caught? randygnyc is absolutly right the reality is the reward is worth it.cabrea would not have been in a position to score that monster free agent contract had he not been using roids to begin with. ok now comes the part where you tell me that roids had nothing to do with him suddenly becoming a star player after a career of mediocrity at best before he started juicing right? make it harsh to start with and make it a year. and 2 years the second time and banned for life after that. show them you are serious with the penalties and more random testing and baseball might not have that problem anymore.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      In Texas they EXECUTE murderers. Yet there are still murders in Texas. HOW CAN THAT BE?!!! WE MUST GET TOUGHER!!!

      • historiophiliac - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM

        FYI, Tuesday was election AND execution day. Seriously.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 8, 2012 at 11:18 AM

        Torture then execution? Perhaps living in Texas prior to the crime is considered torture enough…

      • vanmorrissey - Nov 8, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        Idiocy. As stated, murderers still murder, people still commit crimes knowing the penalties. We’re only humans and can’t stop ourselves from ourselves. Making the penalty longer will make no difference whatsoever in preventing use. The 50 game suspension for first time offense was collectively bargained so you can’t get away from that. You caught what now, 7 players now all year, out of thousands tested? Either that’s a great percentage that DON’T use or your testing is flawed in letting many others beat it. Just a stupid argument on extending the penalty, stupid.

      • metalhead65 - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:20 PM

        sure there are but thanks to execution of the people who commit them there are less of them!

      • paperlions - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        Are you sure of that….you just want to believe that without checking or do you want to check….the…you know….data?

        For every year since 1990, states without the death penalty have had lower murder rates than states with the death penalty, at times that difference has been as great as 46%. In 2010, a person was 25% LESS likely to be murdered in a state without the death penalty than people in states with a death penalty.

        So….you were saying?

      • bh192012 - Nov 8, 2012 at 8:07 PM

        You have to agree, the recidivism rate on executed murderes is way lower than for the ones you try to rehabilitate.

        Also Texas executes somewhere around 20-25 murderers a year. I’m sure they have more than 20 murders per year. So clearly they are not executing all murderers. Not even decent fraction. I think they have something like 800-1000 murders per year. Which considering their diverse population which includes gun toting republicans, is moderate, ranked about 23 out of 50 states per capita. Maybe it does work? Unlike say, New Mexico which doesn’t regularly execute people, (once since 1976) and has the third highest murder rate.

        Your advice to get tougher (execute more murderers) would probably actually help quite a bit. But I’m sure you looked up the facts about this, before you posted.

    • headbeeguy - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      I dislike shoplifting and want it to stop. My proposal is to drag shoplifters behind the store and shoot them in the head, which will definitely decrease shoplifting.

      If you disagree with me, you are clearly pro-shoplifter and don’t want to address the problem.

      • indaburg - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

        I agree. Should we shoot PED users too? If that doesn’t deter them, I’m all out of ideas.

      • metalhead65 - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        ok you have convinced ped’s should be legal,just make saber metrics illegal and we will call it even.

      • thereisaparty - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:43 PM

        Making sabermetrics illegal is asking to make logic, reason, and math illegal.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 8, 2012 at 4:55 PM

        Making sabermetrics illegal is asking to make logic, reason, and math illegal.

        You must be new here, plenty of commenters would probably be all for this.

  7. RBIs Win Games - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    ESPN_baseball ‏@ESPN_MLB
    Players and executives in MLB suspect rising PED use – MLB

    There will always be people who assess the risk/reward in favor of crime. Bank executives and baseball players. There is just SO much money at stake, and even if PEDs only help marginally, that margin can make the difference–you heal quicker, you are back on the field faster, your next deal is for millions more.

  8. geoknows - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    After the suspension, Cabrera basically said, “Yep, I did it! I earned my lumps and I will take them.” I fail to see how that is not accountable.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 8, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      Exactly. I actually appreciate his honesty. He owned it without trying to blame some tainted supplement, nagging injury, attempt to get pregnant or other such nonsense

    • term3186 - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      Was that before or after the crazy fake website scheme?

  9. edelmanfanclub - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I have no sympathy for players using PEDs. They ruined baseball. My childhood watching Sammy, Mark, Barry play baseball is tainted by performance enchancing drugs. I have no sympathy for the users, they deserve the punishment. Manny Ramirez used to be my favorite player too.

  10. mississippimusicman - Nov 8, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Only issue with this article: There can only be 1,200 players on 40-man rosters at any given time, not “thousands” as stated here. Yes, that still works out to 0.5%, so it’s not a big deal, but “thousands” is an overstatement.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 8, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      40 man roster moves are made all the time though as players are waived/traded/released. The point still stands however.

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