Quote of the Day

Buster Olney’s contribution to the post-Sosa world, couched in the notion that the clean players like Raul Ibanez should be outraged at the steroid users:

Ibanez and others should say out loud that as far as they’re concerned, cheating should not be tolerated. Insist that the drug-testing penalties be given sharper teeth. Demand that one positive test means a voided contract and a year out of baseball, and a second strike means a lifetime ban.

Question: given all of the below-market early deals these days, might such a thing not actually create an incentive for some players to take steroids, at least for one season? Would Evan Longoria — who’s scheduled to make $550,000 this year — be better or worse off financially if he had his current contract voided, spent the rest of this summer and next spring playing for the Long Beach Armada (note: Longoria is from Long Beach) and was allowed to re-enter the game as a free agent just before the 2010 All-Star break? Sure there’s some risk there, but I submit that he’d stand to make a minimum of a hundred million dollars more by getting his current contract voided and sitting out a year than he would be to walk the straight and narrow with the Rays. So too would many other 0-6-year players, actually, at least assuming that “voiding the contract” didn’t mean that the team still retained control over the player. Which it would pretty have too, wouldn’t it?

Of course, I may be overestimating the extent to which Buster is thinking this one through . . .

UPDATE: To be fair, this quote came in the course of Buster’s thoughts on the Jerod Morris–Raul Ibanez affair, and to his credit, I think Buster gets it right for the most part.

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Comments

  1. Richard in Dallas said...

    It sounds better to me than what’s in place, except for the part about entering free agency.  How about an added provision that they restart their service time upon re-entry, still bound to the team they were with?  That way, they could actually LOSE in excess of $100 mil by testing positive, but with a chance to start over (once).

  2. J.W. said...

    I was just reading the Olney post and I understood what he was saying to mean teams ought to have the option to void a contract for a PED infraction. That a positive test would be grounds for termination. I realize that’s not what he wrote, and what he wrote clearly suggests that a postive test would mean instant contract voiding, but clearly he was thinking of players like Giambi circa 2005. (Not that Jason tested positive per se.)

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Wow, that is WAY too harsh.  I can’t imagine that even the most ardent anti-PED person would claim that such a sanction fits the crime.  Moreover, such a thing would have to be agreed to by the players in collective bargaining, so it ain’t bloody likely to begin with.

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Note: I was referring to Richard’s post, not yours J.W. 

    But if Buster is saying that it’s an option to void, it’s equally unpalatable to me. If we’re going to take the position that PEDs are a wrong that must be punished, fine, but we shouldn’t allow it to transform into a means for ownership to get out from under its bad financial decisions.

    Jason Giambi taking steroids is not worse than Evan Longoria taking steroids simply because one has a team friendly contract and the other does not.

  5. kranky kritter said...

    I am totally down with that level of punishment. First infraction you lose a whole season, your salary, and possibly your contract at your team’s discretion. 2nd instance you are done. Period.

    That’s perfect. The sh!t would cease.

    A related thought while listening to the umpteenth rendition of sports talking heads blathering about whether PED users should gain HoF entry: if yes, then only posthumously. That way, players are eventually inducted because they meant alot to the ongoing story of the game of baseball, and so can’t rationally be excluded. It leaves no coherent story to tell in the long run.

    But posthumously because they don’t deserve to experience being celebrated with the game’s highest honor, because they cheated.

  6. kranky kritter said...

    we shouldn’t allow it to transform into a means for ownership to get out from under its bad financial decisions.

    Hmm. I view it as allowing management to get out from under a contract that circumstances had proven was either entered into in bad faith by the player or not fulfilled in the proper expected spirit of sportsmanship.

    Especially in a case like Giambi, you can argue that Giambi’s bad conduct created expectations on the part of the Yankees that were reasonable based on the assumption that his performance was legitimate. That his past performance while an Athletic was most likely illegitimate is something that Jason Giambi should bear the responsibility for, not NYY. And I say that from a comfy perch in Red Sox Nation.

  7. cy said...

    I think what Richard was suggesting (and what makes the most sense) is that you would pick up where you left off. So Longoria would be out a year and come back next year with the exact same service time as he has right now. He would reach free agency after the same amount of MLB service time but one extra year of “real time.”  This would likely amount to something like $5-$10 million in lost salary over his career – he would basically lose a pre-peak or post-peak year of free agency, depending on how you look at it.

  8. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Kranky said:  “Hmm. I view it as allowing management to get out from under a contract that circumstances had proven was either entered into in bad faith by the player or not fulfilled in the proper expected spirit of sportsmanship.”

    Well yeah, but how wasn’t Evan Longoria’s contract entered into on the same fraudulent basis?  It would have been in my hypothetical, yet the owners would never dare void it because they know that even with a PED suspension in the rear view mirror, Longoria is worth way way more than his current contract is going to pay him for the next several years.  Such a proposal is an exercise in financial opportunism masquerading as ethics.

    As for service time, isn’t someone’s clock already stopped when they’re suspended anyway?  And isn’t service time irrelevant for guys who have already reached free agency? Manny’s contract, for example, expires after a set date on the calendar, not some service time calculation.  It’s one thing to say you want to increase the amount of suspensions, but all of this contract manipulation business creates all manner of perverse incentives.

  9. Slugger O'Toole said...

    The idea of voiding the contract is a terrible, terrible concept. Think it through- A team evaluates a player prior to free agency, they have ample time (six years) to review that player and decide if he is worth their investment. The due diligence definitely includes checking for signs of PED use (ie past failed tests, medical records and consulting trainers who are experts on these things)if after that time they sign a player and he is banned for failing a drug test, they have not done their work. Period.

    By allowing them the option to void contracts as a result you are inviting teams to sign suspected PED using players as their contracts have possible outs in them. The logic being “Well, I think player X is using, so let’s sign him, if his stuff doesn’t test, great, if it does we just opt-out and get someone else with the money” You also invite teams to unload their worst contracts by those slipping players PED’s.

    Maybe you’re thinking that such a thuggish, Machiavellian tactic is below the MLB owners, but remember, this is the group that fought tooth-and-nail against the end of the reserve clause and even when it was declared void they colluded to stop players from having the same rights as your average worker does. I seriously doubt that slipping a few drops of deca into a routine shot would be beneath anyone standing to free themselves a $100M bad investment.

    It would be the height of irony if a player actually did fail a drug test due to a tainted B-12 shot.

  10. Richard in Dallas said...

    Cy – No, I meant back to square one.  When your suspension is over, if you are good enough to play without the juice, the team you were with gets your rights back just like they had them the day after you signed out of the draft, except they don’t have to pay you a bonus, because they already own you.  Your service time starts over – day one.  If you’re in the bigs, you’ll make the Major League minimum, whic is about 7 times the national average (not bad for a cheater).  When you’re arbitration eligible, you can climb back on the money train, if you’re really good enough.  You might still have 3-5 years left to make multiple millions before you break down and can’t produce any more, but you’re still set for life.  If you don’t like what’s happened to you, and wish you could have scored the huge bucks, look in the mirror and remind yourself that you COULD HAVE STAYED OFF THE JUICE!!!

  11. Sam in San Diego said...

    Umm so many people put all the PED onus on the players here. Sure they are the ones using the drugs but the owners are more than happy to employ a home run bashing beast, as the old commercial goes “Chicks dig the long ball”

    People need to stop thinking the players are the only culprits here, the owners stood to gain plenty by the implicit or even explicit use of PEDs by players.

    It is all about getting an edge, sure doing illegal things should be punished but to get so high and mighty about all this is just rubish.

    Cheats will cheat no matter the measures put in to stop them, mistakes will be made and the punishments shouldn’t be too draconian. Now can we get back to actually talking baseball and can someone just release the whole list of 104 so we can stop the trickle trickle leaks everytime someone wants to make a cheap buck.

  12. Bob Tufts said...

    During the Congressional testimony in 2005, the Garibaldis and Hootons told us that steroid addiction killed their sons.

    If this is medically accurate, why has baseball eliminated the treatment/EAP component and gone directly into the punitive stage?

  13. Richard in Dallas said...

    Bob – As a deterrant, I would hope.  It would be nice if the enforcers could stay far enough ahead of the offenders, maybe nobody would feel enough pressure to succumb, then treatment wouldn’t be necessary.

  14. kranky kritter said...

    I think granting discretion to the party on the receiving end of the bad faith is fair.

    Unjust compensation for top-performing players with low service time is in my mind an issue best addressed separately.

  15. Richard in Dallas said...

    Let’s just pretend that Manny Ramirez is a commercial airline pilot.  Drug testing is done, and he shows up positive for some illegal substance that will alter his performance.  Do you think he will EVER be able to earn a living flying an airplane again?  What I propose for baseball players is MUCH more lenient, and they may actually still have an opportunity to get rich playing a game….

  16. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Richard, I love you and everything, so please take this in a spirit of good faith when I say that that is the most ridiculous analogy ever.

    Manny puts no one’s life, health or safety at risk by taking drugs.  And while I’ll grant that PEDs inject some unfairness into the game, no one has even been able to quantify the nature of the advantage they give.

    If you want to be moral about it and say drugs are bad, therefore anyone who does drugs should be drawn and quartered that’s your perogative, but don’t there’s no way I’m ever buying an equivalence between PEDs and airline pilots on heroin.

  17. Peter said...

    While my kneejerk reaction, especially in the wake of the Giambi deal, both of A-Rod’s deals, and Manny’s current deal (and heck, his last one – remember when the red sox couldn’t GIVE his contract away? Imagine if his PED revelation had been back then) is definitely that ownership can get hosed royally, I’m not sure contract voiding is the right answer.

    The biggest concern I’d have is with transparency, especially while the drug testing isn’t handled by an outside authority like USADA – imagine if the Yankees, realizing nobody was going to pay A-rod 150 million, let alone the 275 they gave him, spend, say, ten million of the money they could save to get A-Rod’s vitamins spiked with something that will trigger a positive test. Call it crazy but the player’s union has shown a history of (sometimes deserved) paranoia towards ownership.

    There’s no way you’ll ever collectively bargain the automatic voiding of contracts unless players all get an opt out clause when ownership lets them down and doesn’t build a good team.

  18. Richard in Dallas said...

    Craig – I beg to differ about PED’s not putting anyone’s life in jeopardy.  What about the overly ambitious, less talented player that feels the need to do whetever everyone else is doing to keep up?  You know my concerns about that, and that is NOT a ridiculous analogy.  While the immediacy of the effect is not as great, the result can be the same…..

  19. Craig Calcaterra said...

    But the differnce there is that the airline passenger is completely ignorant of the pilot’s status and completly dependent upon him to ensure their lives.  The minor league player—while certainly in a crappy situation—has the choice to not do drugs. And indeed, if PEDs are as dangerous as you suggest, it would be a terribly stupid decision for him to do those drugs merely to keep playing baseball.  Unlike the passengers in a plummeting plane, the minor leaguer has options.

  20. Richard in Dallas said...

    I can’t argue with the options part of your statement, but would add to it that the passengers also have an option – stay home, because you never know about these things.  The minor leaguer’s option may be to give up the path to millions and dig ditches to pay the rent on his efficiency apartment on the wrong side of town.  The players that do these drugs are sold a bill of goods by SOMEONE, be it ownership, trainers, coaches or dare I say, parents.  Like a frequent ranter, er, poster here, these guys believe that this stuff is safe because of what they’ve been told by significant people in their lives.  If the penalties are severe enough, maybe they’ll get the message before it’s too late for them……

  21. MJ said...

    The biggest concern I’d have is with transparency, especially while the drug testing isn’t handled by an outside authority like USADA – imagine if the Yankees, realizing nobody was going to pay A-rod 150 million, let alone the 275 they gave him, spend, say, ten million of the money they could save to get A-Rod’s vitamins spiked with something that will trigger a positive test. Call it crazy but the player’s union has shown a history of (sometimes deserved) paranoia towards ownership.

    Owners would never do that.  It’d be akin to one of them hiring someone to dig up dirt on one of his players, lets call him Wave Dinfield, so you can void his contract because he’s not playing up to par.

    That’d never happen wink

  22. MJ said...

    Btw, what’s with Olney backing off previous statements of his how all parties (media, ownership and the players) were complicit in the steroid problem?  Now it seems like everyone just wants to blame the players while ownership/media/selig gets off scott free?

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