- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The player in question departed, and when he landed in his next spot, he thrived; he became a completely different player, in fact, in his production and in his impact. Quite suddenly, the player went from being a journeyman to a star. This was duly noted by a talent evaluator on his old team in a recent conversation.
"We're not that stupid," the evaluator said.
His words echo those of other decision-makers around the sport. About a half-dozen years have passed since Major League Baseball and the Players Association put some teeth into the drug-testing program -- as Kevin Frandsen, who has been suspended for 50 games, learned firsthand -- but none of us should assume that everyone in the sport is clean.
All players will continue to look for ways to get better and some will be willing to go outside the lines, and Manny Ramirez demonstrated beyond any doubt that you can get caught and still win, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
So when spikes in performance occur, talent evaluators will ask the kind of hard questions that were not asked in the '90s, namely: Is that player cheating?
"I learned," said one decision-maker. "What's the old saying? 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.' When I see an older player have a big jump in performance, I assume it's probably not real, and that he's probably found a way to get access to [performance-enhancing drugs]."
When Bartolo Colon established himself as a star years ago, there were games when he was clocked as high as 99 mph in the ninth inning. Colon won a Cy Young Award, and then because of injury and conditioning issues, he basically went away for five years, throwing fewer than 300 innings from 2006-2010.
When I see an older player have a big jump in performance, I assume it's probably not real.
"-- a major league GM
Decision-makers around the game of baseball have suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use too engrained in their thought process to simply assume a performance spike -- particularly by an older player -- is the genuine article.