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.
May 27, 2015, 4:01 PM EDT
Crazy things are happening in Minnesota.
Felix Hernandez and Chris Archer dueled. Chris Archer, by one measure, pitched better. Felix Hernandez won.
May 27, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
Game scores are interesting things. Wins — the team kind, anyway — are far more satisfying.
May 27, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
And Missouri continues to represent well.
May 27, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT
De Aza played very well for the Orioles down the stretch last season.
May 27, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
Verlander will start Sunday at Triple-A.
May 27, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT
Several reports last week had the Angels in the market for outfield help.
May 27, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
“A multimedia show featuring a virtual Selig.” Yes, that’s actually a thing.
May 27, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
He’s about 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery.
May 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Coke signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Cubs this offseason.
May 27, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT
And you think my A-Rod trolling kung-fu is the best. Heck, I’m an amateur.
May 27, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Adams hurt his quadriceps while running out a double.
May 27, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
He has three homers and is hitting .283/.353/.500 in 14 Triple-A games. At the age of 20.
May 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Last month the Rays released right-hander Grant Balfour from his $7 million big-league contract and then re-signed him to a minor-league deal.
May 27, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT
It smacked off the new video board at Wrigley Field, depriving the folks on Waveland Avenue of a home run ball.
May 27, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT
Four-year-old Adriana Aviles was diagnosed with leukemia.
May 27, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
No real clear winner, no real clear loser. Indeed, in this trade, that’s almost beside the point.
May 27, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT
Major League Baseball will likely fine Cash for his postgame comments. Because, while umpires don’t have much apparent accountability for their actions, managers do.
May 27, 2015, 7:21 AM EDT
Four walkoff wins last night.
May 26, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander took what might be the final step before a rehab assignment Tuesday afternoon at Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum …
May 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura appeared to be in for an extended absence when he landed on the disabled list May 14 with a fracture in the pinkie on his throwing hand …
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- Buster Olney: The Marlins should hire A-Rod to be their next manager 39
- Breaking down the Braves-Dodgers trade 15
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 34
- So that Juan Uribe trade to the Braves is back on … 11
- Ruben Amaro apologizes for comments about fans, admits he may have been late on rebuild 24
- Jonathan Lucroy expected to rejoin the Brewers on Monday 0
- More drama in Miami: Marlins demote third base coach Brett Butler after “confusion” over signs 35
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (133)
- Bryce Harper on Marvin Hudson ejection: “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump” (132)
- Bryce Harper ejected for second time in a week (122)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (96)