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Let’s pump the brakes on the “PED use got Jhonny Peralta his big deal” talk

Nov 25, 2013, 7:43 AM EDT

jhonny peralta getty Getty Images

With a respectful nod to Ken Rosenthal, our own Bill Baer and the players who have taken to Twitter in the past couple of days to talk about Jhonny Peralta, may I ask why everyone seems to think that Peralta’s new contract represents some sort of problem with the drug penalty system in baseball and the incentives that flow therefrom? Because from where I’m sitting, it’s way more complicated than that.

I get the superficial appeal of the argument that goes “Peralta got busted for PEDs and then he gets a four-year, $52 million deal. What’s up with that?!” But that argument totally ignores the nature of the current free agent market to begin with.

Here’s a shocking idea: Jhonny Peralta got a big crazy free agent contract, not because he used PEDs, thereby messing up the incentive system, but because everyone in free agency is getting a big crazy free agent contract these days.

Those shaking their heads at Peralta say things like “clearly the current drug penalties are not hurting players’ market value.” But if you swap in phrases like “being hurt,” “being average” or “severely underperforming expectations” for “the current drug penalties” it explains current reality too. Dan Haren is coming off two injury-plagued and often ineffective years and he got $10 million. Jason Vargas got four-years, $32 million as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Tim Hudson has been pretty bad and got two-years, $23 million. Carlos Ruiz got three-years, $26 million. Why isn’t anyone talking about how their deals are confounding the incentive system that’s supposed to be in place?

Probably because they’re not. They’re getting what the market — currently flush with billions of dollars in new broadcast dollars and vanishingly small ways for teams to spend money on amateur and international signings — allows. Look around at the crop of shortstop talent in Major League Baseball at the moment and tell me that talent isn’t hard to come by. Then tell me that Peralta’s deal has more to do with him being a PED user than him simply being a good shortstop in a weak shortstop market who happened to hit free agency at the right time.

The fact that a team — a smart team, by the way — is spending serious money on Jhonny Peralta right now is because he’s in the market. Increase the ban to 100 games? Sure, maybe that would work for a guy whose ban coincided with his free agency, but it doesn’t always, or even often, work that way. Say a guy gets a ban in the second year of his three year deal, comes back in year three and plays well prior to becoming a free agent. Say a player tests positive in the spring of his walk year, serves his 100 games and then comes back in late July and lights it up just before free agency. You think those guys are not going to get paid the following offseason? Of course they are. Because they’ll be active players with marketable skills and teams like to give those guys lots of money.

The only way totally eliminate the idea of guys who take PEDs from later getting paid is to give permanent bans for first offenses. But of course that’s crazy. It’d be an ultra-extreme response to a problem that no one has demonstrated calls for such a solution and which would likely end the careers of some players based on false positives or inadvertent ingestion of PEDs. And no one who grouses about Jhonny Peralta allegedly screwing with the incentive system would ever seriously make that argument, would they? I seriously doubt it.

Peralta got paid because he’s a good player at a position with scant available talent in a market that is paying through the nose for even ordinary talent. If that’s troublesome to you, you have a lot of things to worry about besides whether 50-game suspensions are sufficient to deter PED use.

  1. deedee2die4 - Nov 26, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    What owner has been charged with collusion? Selig* represents a crew of billionaires* exempt from federal monopoly laws. Do you think they were clueless, paying hundreds of millions to players not only breaking records but shattering them? Are there profits ever to be questioned?

    Now not only are a few players scapegoats but some like Crybaby McLiar* are back in uniform! How about Joe ‘I looked the other way’ Torre* as the second highest MLB exec, think he is without guilt taking millions, many rings and awards while knowing he was fielding a team chock full of cheats?

    I say MLB should lose it’s anit-trust status and let real American competition begin … Sans Selig* and the billionaires* he represents.

  2. erbaodai - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    To those guys who think there isn’t 15 better shortstop in the league:

    1. Hanley Ramirez
    2. Troy Tulowitzki
    3. Ian Desmond
    4. Manny Machado (gotta give this one, the guy is a natural SS)
    5. Andrelton Simmons
    6. Jean Segura
    7. JJ Hardy
    8. Yunel Escobar
    9. Jose Reyes
    10. Elvis Andrus
    11. Everth Cabrera
    12. Brandon Crawford
    13. Jose Iglesias
    14. Alexei Ramirez
    15. Derek Jeter

  3. joerevs300 - Nov 26, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    So basically cheaters get rewarded with bigger contracts and continue to cheat.

    Brilliant.

    If you use illegal drugs in real life you go to jail. If you do it in MLB, you get a slap on the wrist and a bigger payday for the numbers you put up.

    It must be nice to be a professional athlete.

    I find it incredible that a person would take something not knowing if it would pop illegal on a test or not. So explain to me again why a lifetime ban for a first offense would not work? Do they have ZERO responsibility for putting themselves in that situation? If you pop for an illegal drug because of a supplement in the real world, do you keep your job? Nope…say hello to the unemployment line. Not in professional sports.

    So why the double standard? It’s ridiculous.

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