'Cheat, Cheat, Never Beat?'

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

'Cheat, Cheat, Never Beat?'

Except that perhaps that old playground axiom should be revised to "Cheat, Cheat, Never Beat!"

The big sports story this afternoon was that former New York Yankees (2002–2009), current San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended 50 games after testing positive for abnormally elevated levels of testosterone, indicating usage of performance-enhancing drugs, just over a month after being named Most Valuable Player in the 2012 All-Star Game.

Second in the National League in batting average while leading the league with 159 hits, Cabrera has been having such a trememdous season that I've been routinely asking my buddy Marty, who wears pin-striped boxers:

"Tell me again who the Yanks got in exchange for Melky?"

(Answer: Javier Vázquez and Boone Logan.)

In his first year with the Giants, the switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic was having what is popularly known as a "career season." The player who is just four days past his 28th birthday, was headed for a huge payday in the off-season, making $6 million on his one year 2012 contract.

Cabrera quickly issued a statement which read, in part:

"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down."

For their part, the San Francisco Giants' statement read:

"We were extremely disappointed to learn of the suspen­sion of Melky Cabrera for violating Major League Base­ball's Joint Drug Prevention & Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outlined by Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants will not comment further on this matter."

Given how carefully such statements are prepared, the team seems more disappointed with the suspension than with Cabrera's cheating.

As a matter of pure self-interest, this increases the chances of my favored Los Angeles Dodgers to not only gain a post-season berth, but win the National League's Western Division out-right.

As of tonight, the Dodgers have a one game lead over the Giants after having fallen three games behind a fortnight ago.

I want to win the West, but just as I don't want to gain an edge by having the San Franciso team plane crash in the Rockies, this isn't the way I want the Dodgers to beat the Giants, because one self-centered pendejo decided to dope himself.

There was little to compare with the excitement of the 1998 baseball season with Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa jockeying to break the single season home run record held by Roger Maris... until the final two months of the 2008 season when Manny Ramirez, fire-sold from Boston to Los Angeles, single-handedly carried the Dodgers to their first post season series victory in 20 years!

Problem was, all three of those players were drug cheats... as were the iconic Borry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Raphael Palmeiro... never mind Jose Canseco!

With the revelation today about Cabrera, I fully understand Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin when he appeared on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" this evening and angrily said:

"I thought we were past this."

I did too, but some numbnuts seem ne'er to have gotten the word, and perhaps Larkin's suggestion that "a stronger deterrent may be needed" needs exploring.

(OtBB regular and old Giants fan "Hampton West" thinks "the guy should be banned from baseball.")

If so, I have a suggestion: the name Howard Porter may be forgotten today, but his Villanova basketball team, runners-up to UCLA in the 1971 NCAA basketball finals, had their wins forfeited when it was discovered that Porter had signed a professional contract midway through his Senior season.

More recently, Heisman winner Reggie Bush sur­rendered the coveted trophy and his USC team had the wins from the two seasons he played for the Trojans va­cated over violations similar to those committed by Porter

That, of course, was on the collegiate level, but professional athletes are, first and foremost, all about the money... start applying some sort of sanctions against a team, stripping them of some of the wins contributed to by drug cheats and preventing the team from getting to the play-offs, and I daresay that there would be a significant increase in self-policing of performance-enhancing substance users!

Clues and a Call...

My pal Marty and I talk a lot of sports and decided that today's news should have come as no surprise.

"Cabrera's a career .275 hitter going into this season," I pointed out. "Suddenly the Bay Area breezes are gonna add 64 points to his batting average?"

Marty agreed, adding:

"Remember that skinny guy for the Orioles, Brady Anderson, .250 lifetime hitter hit 50 home runs that one year and never had more than 24 in any of his other 14 seasons? Too bad there wasn't drug-testing then."

I agreed... we should have been more skeptical of the season Melky Cabrera had been having.

Major League Baseball needs to stop tinkering with its proven product... the relocating of the Houston Astros to the American League West next season means six straight months of interleague play!... and get serious about the integrity of the game before they decimate the fan base they fought so hard to regain following the strike-shortened 1994 season.


1. Ray Overton said...

With the money at stake for these players, finding ways to improve performance, both legal and illegal, is going to continue to occur. With all the hand-wringing going on about performance enhancing drugs in the most recent era, people forget that drugs to improve performance have been a part of sports locker rooms for about as long as there have been sports.

While the quality may not have been the same as today's testosterone-boosting treatments, descriptions of bowls of amphetamines ("greenies"), massive and frequent injections of cortisone (over and above recommended dosages) have regularly been documented by players (especially after they have left the game). And it doesn't matter what drug is chosen, the results are the same - short term gain for the players with long term effects after they leave the professional levels.

Melky is just the latest to be caught. We're foolish to think there won't be others. The rewards are just too great for average players to not be tempted.

That's your analysis, Ray, and likely a cogent one. Now, what's your solution? A permanent ban from the sport business? Forfeiture of the doping player's team's games?

I'm stuck on this one... naïvely, I thought that the exposure of Manny Ramirez, Ryan Braun's close-call, and the lingering stories involving Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds... never mind the cautionary tales of Lyle Alzado and Ken Caminiti... would have made an impact on some of these clowns.

Come the off-season, it will be extremely instructive in learning who is interested in signing Cabrera and for how much.

2. EastEnd68 said...

The fine should be related to how much a player is making; i.e., 100 days pay for a 50 day suspension. That might mean something to these high priced ball players.

The Taylor Law... except that basabool players are not Public Employees! Still, that is one of the brighter ideas you've had... I like it!

But if we really want an idea of how committed the Major League Players' Association is to the integrity of the game which provides their livelihoods, let's see how they react to a proposal that first time offenders of the Drug Policy are suspended for 50 games without pay, and, retroactively to the start of the season, paid the Major League minimum salary (currently just under $500,000) for the games they do play over the entire schedule!

3. Ray Overton said...

It would be great of the MLBPA, NBAPA, NFLPA, etc., would all commit to doing things for the "good of the game." However, I think we all know that their role is to "Show Me The Money." It is to their benefit that their members make more.

The only way to truly make changes is for fans to speak loudly with their wallets and stay home. Until that happens, there is no real incentive for professional sports and professional athletes to change.

Must be the heat, Ray... we're too much of a like mind of late.

4. Hampton West said...

I'm really disappointed in the Giant front office and fans – I watch many Giant games and whenever Barry Bonds shows up the fans cheer and the TV commentators point him out. It's a sort of "yeah, he cheated but he is our cheat." Sorry, I don't buy into that. I've seen on some of the Giant blogs: "Well, every one does it, it's only that our guy got caught." Sorry, not everyone does it! In fact, most players don't; it's like cheating on taxes, some people do it but the vast majority doesn't. Bonds was a cheat and the front office should not allow him in the building – Melky should be banned - period - and to prevent this from happening in the future teams should forfeit games past the point they are aware their players are juiced. I know it won't happen but if a team had to forfeit games it won with juiced-up players the issue would fade away pretty quick; the team, not the league, or the collective bargaining agreement, is now responsible. You cheat, your wins are now losses. A dream? Of course - but if my team can't win by playing by the rules, I'd rather see them lose.

I'm with you... but as you said, it's a dream.

5. EastEnd68 said...

Looks like Dodger ownership wants to win also – what a trade.

I don't like it, even through A-Gon's Dodgers' debut was, it is furiously to be hoped, a harbinger of what is to come.

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