Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Here We Are Again

Robinson Cano (until yesterday, a future Hall of Famer) got popped for a masking agent for steroids yesterday.

Performance enhancing drugs are still a big problem in major league baseball. They're a big problem in every sport. It's a cat and mouse game where the mice have always been very, very successful.

The reason is simple: money.

Jason Giambi is the poster child for how profitable it is to cheat. He was 26, playing for the Oakland A's, and his stat line was .293/20/81. That's for a first baseman, which probably has higher power numbers than any other position. And he never showed more power in the minors.

That's who he was, a guy who was going to hit 20 home runs and 80 RBIs a season. Medium power, better batting average.

The average time for a pro athlete to start declining is age 28. So he was hitting like this near the peak of his career, athletically speaking.

Then he started taking performance enhancing drugs (lots of them). Puts on ridiculous amounts of muscle (you always hear people say "that guy can't be cheating--he trains like a maniac" when someone gets caught cheating, but one of the most important aspects of steroids is that it greatly improves your ability to recover, so you can train much harder). Two years later, he starts putting up stats lines like this:

In 1997, he was making $205,000. In 2001, he signed a 7 year, $120 million dollar contract with the Yankees.

In fairness, once his rookie deal expired, he would have made about $2 million a year. That's still one hell of a raise, though. Who wouldn't cheat with that kind of money in front of them?

The question: is there any way to stop this? Is there a way to remove the financial incentive to cheat?


How about this? If a player tests positive for a performance enhancing drug or a drug that's in the class of masking agents used to hide usage of same, in addition to the player being suspended (currently, that's 80 games for the first violation), you take two additional measures:
1. The player, for the rest of his career, is no longer eligible for the All-Star game or consideration for any postseason awards.
2. For the rest of his career, the player's maximum salary is capped at $2 million a year.

If they get caught, they lose the two things that make cheating so tempting: accolades and money.

Make no mistake, some players would still cheat. But the stakes would be incredibly high.

Yes, there would (rarely) be "honest" players who test positive, but there are institutions in this country (the jury system, for one) that are far, far more problematic, and no one's trying to get rid of them. And the appeals process (even now) for positive tests is exhaustive.

It'll never happen, but I think it would work. At least the risk would be more equal to the potential reward.

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