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Apparently we’re supposed to suspect PED users for the rest of their careers

May 6, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT

melky cabrera getty Getty Images

Buster Olney has a great exercise in McCarthyism today. And if you consider my use of the term “McCarthyism” too extreme, know that one significant part of the good senator’s m.o. was to use a given person’s past mistakes and associations as proof, in and of itself, of continued wrongdoing. That’s what Olney is doing with Melky Cabrera today.

The upshot: Melky got caught cheating a couple of years ago. He’s now playing well in 2014. You can choose to believe that he’s clean, but if you choose to believe he’s a big fat cheater, well, that’s reasonable. And that’s clearly what Olney is suggesting you do, make no mistake. He uses an analogy involving a bank robber who went unpunished, suggesting that Cabrera has done the same. He makes a note to say that Cabrera is “a good friend of Alex Rodriguez,” which is gratuitous guilt by association. It’s really a mess of a column in which Olney says it’s OK to always consider someone a cheater if they cheated in the past. He even ends it with the sentence “All’s fair.”

Maybe strongly implying that a guy who did the crime and the time two years ago is still doing the crime now and telling your readers that always assuming guilt without evidence it’s not just OK, but probably the smart thing to do is “fair” in Olney’s world. But it’s certainly not a world I would choose to live in. And it’s not the world that Major League Baseball has sought to create with its drug testing system. Indeed, the entire point of the system is quite the opposite.

If Melky Cabrera tests positive for PEDs this season, I will assume his performance was artificially and illegally enhanced. Until that happens, however — or until some other evidence of his wrongdoing besides this sort of odious and baseless innuendo reveals itself — I won’t. If you have a rational and fair way to handle these things apart from that, I’d love to hear about it.

UPDATE: Many of you are referencing the notion of “not giving a past cheater the benefit of the doubt. About that:

The idea of not giving Cabrera the benefit of the doubt is valid. If questioned, no, of course you can’t blithely assume that someone with a dark past is on the up and up. The issue, however, is why are we constantly questioning and whether that questioning is even reasonable.

Some in the comments used an analogy to someone with a criminal record or to a philandering husband. To that I say, sure, if a guy who once cheated on his wife is late getting home with a sketchy explanation or if someone who was convicted for embezzling money suddenly has $100K in the bank, obviously you can’t forget what they did in the past.

However, we don’t, for no reason whatsoever, question past cheaters or past criminals constantly, forcing them to defend themselves when there is nothing to suggest they’ve reverted to their old ways. To do that is patently unreasonable and, depending on the circumstances, offensive. If you can’t live with a cheater, you divorce him, you don’t take him back and then suspect him all the damn time. If you don’t think the sentence served by the embezzler is sufficient, you ratchet up the penalties, you don’t keep him under police surveillance. The same goes for baseball players and PEDs: they did the time for the crime. If that is not enough for you, institute lifetime bans or quit watching baseball altogether. Don’t sit in constant, baseless judgment.

Melky Cabrera is a professional baseball player doing things now that are not unusual for professional baseball players to do in the space of a month or so. Especially when, even if you pretend that anything good he did in the past was via PEDs, the guy was signed by the best team in baseball when he was 17, was touted by scouts and put up good numbers at a surprisingly young age. Was he ever as good as he was in 2012 for the Giants? No, but it’s not like he was pre-super soldier serum Steve Rogers, either. It’s totally reasonable to expect a clean player to do what Cabrera is doing now without suspicion.

If Melky’s name shows up on some email from a drug dealer or he’s mentioned in the next Biogenesis-style scandal, even obliquely, or even if he suddenly develops ADD and has some doctor get him a therapeutic use exemption after all of this time, fine, your questions about him are reasonable and you don’t have to grant him the benefit of the doubt. However, we do not and should not think that good baseball performance is necessarily illegally enhanced performance without anything more. Even if the guy, in the past, took PEDs. To do so is to engage in ridiculous McCarthyist garbage and stretches the notion of “benefit of the doubt” to crazy extremes.

  1. clydeserra - May 6, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Don’t they test you more after a failed test?

  2. jrob23 - May 6, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    yay, another PED article from TMZ esque blogger Craig!

    • SocraticGadfly - May 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      I’m waiting for him to post another picture gallery full of false comparisons about who’s disrespecting the game.

  3. mikhelb - May 6, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Cue up comments on how a PED user should get a free pass but Lueke should not… and I am one of those who if given the opportunity would demonstrate how much I despise rapists and overall criminals who happened to get the short end of the stick regarding penalties.

    Melky is still associated with Angel Presinal in the DR, Presinal was banned from MLB after a suitcase with PEDs and parafernalia was decomissed in customs. Other players who still train with Presinal are David Ortíz and Robinson Canó, you know, a guy who tested positive in 2003 and a guy whose name came up in the Biogénesis investigation when an employee of him bought “stuff” from that clinic.

    But the point stands: in MLB certain players should have to bear the burden of guilt by association and suspicion without proof, and be treated as guilty even after they “paid their dues” with the law. Double standards gallore.

    • thetoolsofignorance - May 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      I don’t get this. One the one hand you seem to want that bastard Lueke to get severely punished. On the other you seem to want someone who hurt no one but himself to be punished likewise. All crime is crime in your world? Where’s pine tar, then?

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        And Melky DIDN’T get a free pass. He was caught and suspended. Lueke pled his rape conviction down. Its not even remotely a similar comparison between the two.

  4. bh192012 - May 6, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    “However, we don’t, for no reason whatsoever, question past cheaters or past criminals constantly, forcing them to defend themselves when there is nothing to suggest they’ve reverted to their old ways.”

    I’m not sure I get what you’re saying here. Does Buster have a daily article about it? Is he never allowed to speak of Melky’s transgression? Of course you question past criminals sometimes. After you serve your punishment, generally you don’t reset fully back to original status. You’ll get questioned more often. People will suspect you more. It’s a function of them learning you might have a particular criminal tendancy. It’s a very natural thing to be more suspicious of previous offenders.

  5. chip56 - May 6, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    “Some in the comments used an analogy to someone with a criminal record or to a philandering husband. To that I say, sure, if a guy who once cheated on his wife is late getting home with a sketchy explanation or if someone who was convicted for embezzling money suddenly has $100K in the bank, obviously you can’t forget what they did in the past.”

    Well, Melky’s had average seasons and bad seasons but the only other time in his career that Melky has played this well was the year he was busted for PED use, so isn’t that akin to a former embezzler who is usually down on his luck showing up at your door flush with cash?

    • mackstrong2013 - May 8, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      I know you said that in hopes it would be accurate, with no real idea of if it was. Unfortunately, Melky had a pretty damn good season in 2011, No evidence of PHD, still hit almost HR and drove in almost 90 while hitting over 300

  6. musketmaniac - May 6, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    I love the arguments that ped bring. But here’s one for the cheap seats. The American Way is to cheat. we’re a nation of cheaters, built this country from lies and thievery. Cheated the British out their taxes, cheated the French out Land twice. Stole Texas from Mexico, forced Russia to sell us Alaska. Everything great about Americans comes from underhanded ways we’ve cheated and lied are way thru history. robbed our own people of land to run rail roads west. oh and have I mentioned what we did to those Indians.

    • djandujar - May 6, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Totally agree with the statement above. America has been a criminal operation since the day it was first imagined.
      And baseball is a game of cheating, stealing, deceiving. That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do.

    • anxovies - May 7, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      And you didn’t even have to mention the Rockefellers, Goulds, Morgans and Madoffs to make your point.

  7. djandujar - May 6, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    I enjoy the game of baseball regardless of who’s using or who’s not. I wouldn’t encourage my kids to use the dope. But that’s the job of parents. They should be their kids’ role models. Not dumb jocks.

  8. joerevs300 - May 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Suspend players for life and your PED problem is 100% solved.

    They’ll know if they cheat, and are caught, it’s a death sentence to their way of life.

    Will some people still cheat? Of course. The allure of money will simply be too strong.

    Players in every single major professional sport (to include, and stop snickering…bowling, golf, cricket, etc) ALL use PED’s. It’s simply a matter of if the spinning wheel is going to land on their name or not.

    The integrity and importance of baseball died about the same time as the Sega Dreamcast did. Which just happened to be when McGuire and Sosa had a HR competition, as well as to see who’s head could get the biggest before it exploded. Baseball certainly didn’t give a flying rip when attendance, money and viewership were all up. And they still don’t care…

  9. dbar1212 - May 10, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Of course you should suspect him and every other player who has been convicted of taking PEDs. Every time the police have a rape case, for example, with no suspects, the first place they look is among known offenders in the area, and that’s often where they find their suspect. There’s lots of repeat offenders out there. Obviously, it’s one of the reasons they keep DNA records. Since buying that stuff in DR is legal, it is also a reason to suspect Melky Cabrera, and a number of Latin players have been caught, though obviously any player could go there and buy it. That said, I’m open to the possibility that he isn’t guilty. But why aren’t they testing known offenders every week during the season to prove they aren’t guilty? If they aren’t going to suspend them for life as they should, they should at least test them more often than other players–kind of like being on probation. In looking at the averages of some players this year, I really suspect either they aren’t testing them regularly, the players know when the testing will be and take their PEDs in between tests, or there’s a new PEDs out there that slips through the test. For example, there’s an American League catcher who had been caught years ago taking PEDs, had a MLB average of about .200, and this season is hitting well over .300, and I suspect him of taking it even more than I suspect Melky Cabrera. It’s not fair to the clean players that these cheaters aren’t being caught.

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