Jul 23, 2013, 2:02 PM EST
Though the sea change we’re experiencing in Major League Baseball’s drug testing regime is undeniable, the “we should get tougher!” crowd easily has the loudest voice in the grand shouting match that is our current baseball discourse. And easily the most fashionable get-tough argument in that crowd is the one which goes “players should have their contracts voided if they test positive!”
Let’s unpack that, shall we?
It’s pretty easy to see the logic when the player involved is named Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez and they are owed hundreds of millions of dollars that they may not be worth. The price is paid for a cheater’s ill-gotten gains! He’s out his deal! The team is out from under the specter of his unholy presence! Everything is right with the world!
But what if the player is Andrew McCutchen? Or Matt Moore? Or Jered Weaver or Sal Perez? Or some other star who is on a team-friendly deal? We still happy voiding that contract then? I’m guessing the team’s owner and GM aren’t. They know that no player is 100% a creation of PEDs and that even if one of those guys took something he shouldn’t have, he’d still be more than worth the money on his contract once he serves his 50 games. And he certainly doesn’t want to lose him because a bunch of sportswriters decided back in 2013 that everyone needed to “get tough.”
Question: Are we good with punishing the team even more than the player?
Let’s take that to the next step. Say you’re Matt Moore. You’re having a lights-out season just as guys like Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are raking in gigantic bucks on contract extensions. And here you are, like a yutz, making an average of $2.5 million over the next four years because you went for the security of the pre-arbitration deal. If contracts are voided upon a positive test, might you not at least consider taking a shot of testosterone, taking a very small 50 game suspension, getting your contract voided and then peddling your wares to the highest bidder? Sure, you might take a haircut from what Justin Verlander got because you’d be seen as something of a bad seed, but you’d make orders of magnitude over what you’re making now. Especially if you play the apology-come-clean game as well as Andy Pettitte did.
Question: Do we want that incentive there? And what does that mean for the pre-arb players who didn’t sign Moore-type deals? If Bryce Harper or Mike Trout tested positive tomorrow, what does their void look like? Are they free agents too? Or do the teams violate the 13th amendment and not pay them at all?
Oh, and then there’s the matter of the incentives some owners may have to slip a mickey to an overpaid player in an effort to get out from under. Now, I’m not saying an honorable and honest businessman like Arte Moreno would do such a thing to a nice, upstanding man like Albert Pujols. But then again, George Steinbrenner is gonna be in the Hall of Fame some day and he literally paid spies to dig up dirt on one of his overpaid players once, and it’s not insane to think that can’t happen again.
One response I anticipate is that we make the contract voiding an optional thing. At the team’s discretion. In this case the team will clearly choose to void Alex Rodriguez’s deal but not Moore’s. But why should teams get a choice here? Why should what is supposed to be punishment for wrongdoing for which we are supposed to have zero tolerance suddenly be transformed into a cost-benefit analysis for a team? Or a windfall? Wouldn’t we then be saying “cheating is bad, mmm-kay, and you’re going to be punished severely. At least as long as you don’t have a team-friendly contract. If you do, well, we’re willing to let it slide a bit.”
That’s not what the drug testing program is supposed to look like and those odd incentives are probably a large part of the reason why the league and the union have never suggested actually doing it. Separate and apart from the fact that the union is not interested in doing anything to undermine the concept of guaranteed contracts in any way.
Maybe that’s the real thing to watch here, actually. What the league and the union say, not sanctimonious worrywarts who are looking for new ways to get tough. If and when league or union sources start to chatter about contract voiding being on the table I’ll start to take it seriously. For now it’s just bluster from people who don’t feel guys like Ryan Braun have suffered enough.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:15 PM EST
It will be Harvey’s first game action since he underwent Tommy John surgery 16 months ago.
Feb 26, 2015, 6:06 PM EST
Santana hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to injury.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:17 PM EST
“I think hanging it up is going to be harder for guys than they realize, after being out of it for a year.”
Feb 26, 2015, 3:40 PM EST
But it’s a very different kind of battle.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:18 PM EST
Milwaukee out, Toronto in?
Feb 26, 2015, 2:06 PM EST
Shame on A-Rod for making the reporters obsess about him.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:34 PM EST
Maybe THIS is the year he finally stops swinging at everything
Feb 26, 2015, 1:19 PM EST
Wainwright has been diagnosed with an abdominal strain.
Feb 26, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
It’s been two and a half years, but it still leaves a “dirty taste” in his mouth.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:47 AM EST
Pena once looked like a potential star for the Reds and Red Sox, but then washed out by age 26.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
He also (a) wants to emulate Greg Maddux; and (b) asked Sandy Koufax about his curveball.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Welcome to 2002, Ruben Amaro!
Feb 26, 2015, 10:49 AM EST
It’s still early, but …
Feb 26, 2015, 10:23 AM EST
Two weeks ago Francisco Rodriguez was said to be holding out for a two-year contract.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:04 AM EST
The Marins are protecting their investment.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:37 AM EST
Even if Mike Lupica thinks they will be soon.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Spring training is starting poorly for Toronto.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:29 AM EST
I am confident that Major League Baseball will help Josh Hamilton find the help he needs. I do hope, however, that whatever else they do to him does not contribute to the tendency to treat addicts as miscreants.
Matt Kemp thinks the Padres have the best outfield in baseball. I don’t think he’s right about that.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:32 AM EST
He’s forgetting, it seems, that outfields also play defense.
Feb 25, 2015, 11:05 PM EST
Mark Ellis told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle late Wednesday evening that he is retiring from baseball after 12 major league seasons.
- Francisco Rodriguez re-signs with the Brewers 8
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended 255
- Pirates open to massive extension for Andrew McCutchen 16
- Report: Josh Hamilton had a relapse this offseason that “involved at least cocaine” 85
- Yankees don’t plan on having to pay A-Rod’s $30 million in home run milestone bonuses 49
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks 130
- Rob Manfred says a return to a 154-game season could happen one day 66
- Report: The Yankees were “fuming” at how A-Rod handled his early arrival to spring training 113
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended (255)
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks (130)
- Report: The Yankees were “fuming” at how A-Rod handled his early arrival to spring training (113)
- Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada reportedly signs with the Red Sox for $31.5 million, plus $31.5 million in penalties (106)
- Gregg Zaun says young players should be physically abused and hazed by veterans. So they can learn respect. (105)