Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Crime still pays in MLB
By Buster Olney
Melky Cabrera was suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2012 and lost about a third of his salary, or about $1.8 million of the $6 million that he made. Then, when he went into free agency, he signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
According to "Outside The Lines," Cabrera now faces a 100-game suspension, meaning that he could lose about $4.4 million in salary. So in the end, Melky Cabrera could be busted twice in two years -- and still walk away with $15.8 million for his work in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Does crime pay in Major League Baseball?
Heck yeah, it does.
And this will continue to be the case until the Major League Baseball Players Association steps up and aggressively pursues tougher penalties for those caught. Many players want this to happen, and have talked about making it happen -- and it may well happen for next year.
It’s very possible that Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others will have to do the perp walk of public shame -- and along the way, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
• It’s worth remembering this: A lot of players in a lot of sports have used performance-enhancing drugs, in following their competitive instinct to get an edge. Through the years, the methods have evolved, from scuffing a baseball to corking a bat to wide receivers and defensive backs covering their hands with stickum to hockey players bending their sticks, and finally, to athletes taking drugs.
So if MLB develops the information necessary to determine, once and for all, that Braun used performance-enhancing drugs, Braun’s name can be added to the legions of rule-breakers.
But if suspended, Braun will forever own a special place among the cheaters: He will be the Lance Armstrong of baseball. Being a cheater, well, that’s like being part of a graduating class: Everybody gets a diploma. But if Braun is suspended, he will be baseball’s valedictorian of illicit behavior.
Because not only did he deny the use of performance-enhancing drugs -- as Rafael Palmeiro and many, many others did -- but Braun’s defense was to attack those in the system. It’s one thing to say I didn’t take steroids, but Braun’s side went after those within the chain of custody, most notably attacking the professionalism of Dino Laurenzi, the collector.
Braun had a public defense when he tested positive prior to the 2012 season, and there also was a vicious private defense aimed at Laurenzi. And think about all the people that Braun may have lied to along the way, in the Brewers’ organization, to other players.
It’s worth reviewing what Braun said on the day he spoke (here’s the videotape of a portion of that statement).
Here's a of full transcript of Braun's comments on the day he won his appeal in spring training 2012, and I've pulled out another key section that was not included in the video above.
In my [testing] case there was an additional third person, the son of the collector, who just so happened to be the my chaperone on the day that I was tested. The day of the test we had a 1 o’clock game. I provided my sample at about 4:30. There were two other players who provided their samples that day within 10 minutes of mine. The collector left the field at about 5 o’clock. There were at least five FedEx locations within five miles of the stadium that were open until 9 p.m. and an additional FedEx location that was open for 24 hours. There were upwards of 18 or 19 FedEx locations that were open between the ballpark and his house that he could have dropped the samples off at.
When FedEx received the samples, it then creates a chain of custody at the FedEx location where he eventually brought my sample to. It would have been stored in a temperature-controlled environment, and FedEx is used to handling clinical packaging. But most importantly, you then would become a number and no longer a name. So when we provide our samples, there is a number and no longer a name associated with the sample. That way there can’t be any bias -- whether it’s with FedEx, while it’s traveling, at the lab in Montreal, in any way -- based on somebody’s race, religion, ethnicity, what team they play for, whatever the case may be. As players, the confidentiality of this process is extremely important. It’s always been extremely important, because the only way for the process to succeed is for the confidentiality and the chain of custody to work.
Why he didn’t bring it in, I don’t know. On the day that he did finally bring it in, FedEx opened at 7:30. Why didn’t he bring it in until 1:30? I can’t answer that question. Why was there zero documentation? What could have possibly happened to it during that 44-hour period? There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.
The key words in that statement are there at the end: "There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector ... that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened."
If Ryan Braun was lying when he uttered those words -- if it’s proved that he was a user -- well, he has earned a special kind of scorn.
Braun, who is making $8.5 million this year and guaranteed $117 million from 2014 through 2021, stands by his spring training statement.
• Alex Rodriguez has made a lot of poor career decisions -- a lot of them -- but if Major League Baseball confirms the details in Tuesday’s Biogenesis story, then this would be the worst of them. Most superstar players are welcomed back for reunions, for Old-Timers Day, that sort of thing, but it’s hard to imagine teams ever welcoming back Rodriguez into their big tent without the passage of a whole lot of time. Because it means that he lied, and then lied again and again and again.
From ESPN Stats & Information, a timeline of Rodriguez's PED-related events
2003: Reportedly tests positive for steroids
February 2004: Traded to Yankees
April 2004: Samples seized from Las Vegas laboratory
December 2007: Denies using steroids in "60 Minutes" interview
February 2009: Sports Illustrated reports he tested positive for steroids in 2003
February 2009: Admits to PED use
January 2013: Linked to Biogenesis clinic in reports in Miami New Times
April 2013: New York Times reports Rodriguez purchased documents from Biogenesis clinic
Tuesday: ESPN reports MLB seeking to suspend Rodriguez, others
The Yankees owe Rodriguez at least $118 million over the next five years. The thing that complicates that total number is his $10 million signing bonus -- $6 million of it has already been paid, leaving $4 million to be paid over 2013 ($1M) and 2014 ($3M), so the actual guaranteed total is $118 million remaining on his contract.
This doesn’t include the potential $30 million he could earn by reaching various home run milestones. He’ll earn an additional $6 million for tying Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list, as well another $6 million for passing Bonds.
• Jhonny Peralta may face a lengthy suspension. A couple of Padres are in the middle of this, writes Chris Jenkins.
Around the league
• Here’s the video of Yasiel Puig's two homers from Tuesday night. As Ned Colletti once said, you can’t take your eyes off him. Puig pulled off a lot of firsts, as ESPN Stats & Info detailed, in his spectacular second game in the big leagues:
A. First Dodgers player to have a multihomer game within his first two career games.
B. First Dodger with at least five RBIs in a game within his first two career games since Spider Jorgensen in 1947.
C. Second player with a two-homer, five-RBI game within first two games of MLB career, joining Dino Restelli, 1949 Pirates.
D. Second Dodger with two HR and five RBIs from the leadoff spot. The other was Tommy Brown in 1950.
E. Third Dodger to have at least two hits in each of his first two games since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. The others were Dick Gray in 1958 and Larry Miller in 1964.
• From Elias: John Mayberry Jr. became the first player in major league history to hit two extra-inning home runs in one game, including a walk-off grand slam. Before Mayberry, the last player to hit a game-tying home run in extra innings and a walk-off homer was Mike Young of the Orioles against the Angels on May 28, 1987.
• Mike Aviles was ejected after a game ended.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Mike Matheny is not ready to talk about moving Matt Holliday in his lineup.
Dings and dents
1. Jake Peavy has a rib-cage injury.
2. Josh Beckett is being shut down.
3. Hanley Ramirez was activated.
1. Tim Lincecum shut down the Blue Jays, as Henry Schulman writes.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:
A. Pitched well behind in the count: The Blue Jays were 1-for-6 when ahead in the count against Lincecum. Entering this game, opponents were hitting .321 when ahead in the count.
B. Threw his curveball 22 percent of the time (Blue Jays were 0-for-3 against his curveball). In his first 11 starts, Lincecum threw his curveball 5 percent of the time.
2. The Royals lost again: That’s 11 straight home losses, and counting.
3. The Rockies rallied.
4. Yoenis Cespedes was "the man" for Oakland, but the Athletics’ bullpen blew the lead.
5. Mark Teixeira hit another homer.
• A Twins pitcher had another strong start.
• The Tigers roughed up Matt Moore.
• Alberto Callaspo insists he doesn’t have the yips.
• A young Mets outfielder has not been playing.
• From Elias: In St. Louis on Tuesday, Arizona’s Tyler Skaggs (born July 13, 1991) started against the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha (born July 1, 1991). It was the first game since 1986 in which each starting pitcher was 21 or younger and the two were born within 20 days of each other. The last such instance was when the Indians’ Greg Swindell defeated the Brewers’ Juan Nieves in Milwaukee on Sept. 6, 1986. The two starters were born three days apart in 1965.
Wacha and the Cardinals lost in extra innings.
• Wrigley Field night games may increase.
And today will be better than yesterday.