Jul 23, 2013, 2:02 PM EDT
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.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT
A.J. Burnett feels great and wants to pitch again for the Pirates before the end of the season.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Chris Davis homered twice against the Blue Jays on Friday to move past Nelson Cruz for the major league home run lead.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton will rehab at Double-A and should rejoin the big league squad soon.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
Wil Myers will make his long awaited return to the Padres’ lineup on Friday night after missing nearly three months with a wrist injury.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
The Astros want to sign Dallas Keuchel to at least a four-year extension, but the two sides won’t negotiate until the season is over.
Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
James Paxton will sit for a few days while his fingernail heals, then resume rehabbing with Triple-A Tacoma.
Sep 4, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Corey Kluber will miss 10 days after tweaking his hamstring in a side session.
Sep 4, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
Brad Ausmus could soon be out of a job as the Tigers sink in the AL Central.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:03 PM EDT
Brown may be done for the year.
Sep 4, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT
Any further concussion-related problems could force the former MVP into retirement
Sep 4, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT
Jay missed the past two months with a wrist injury.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
Viva abuse of the forfeiture laws
Sep 4, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
The Matt Harvey controversy is a lot like the Stephen Strasburg shutdown of 2012. But Sandy Alderson is not going to do what Mike Rizzo did, someone close to him says.
Sep 4, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT
Gloves? Who needs a glove?
Sep 4, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Adding a 30-homer bat to the lineup.
Sep 4, 2015, 12:44 PM EDT
He’ll miss at least one week.
Sep 4, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT
A good move by ESPN.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:33 AM EDT
Teixeira suffered the injury on August 17.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
Just when you thought the Mets would enjoy a smooth, controversy-free final month of the regular season.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT
Headed for a quick divorce.
- Sandy Alderson is not going to “roll over” for Scott Boras and shut down Matt Harvey 64
- Dodgers are already fed up with 6.56 ERA-pitching, excuse-making Mat Latos 50
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 58
- Bryce Harper walks in all four of his plate appearances, scores four runs 24
- ESPN pulls Curt Schilling off broadcasts for rest of regular season and Wild Card game 146
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff 145
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 74
- The Marlins are going to change everything except their biggest problem this offseason 53
- ESPN pulls Curt Schilling off broadcasts for rest of regular season and Wild Card game (146)
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff (145)
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired (107)
- David Ortiz tweets his happiness about the Deflategate decision (101)
- Why Mike Mussina keeps getting hosed in the Hall of Fame voting (90)