The Skip Bayless, ESPN, Derek Jeter PED “Controversy”

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Let’s just say for a moment that a veteran, workmanlike shortstop named Jerry Deter was enjoying an unprecedented career renaissance and was playing in an all-around fashion at age 38 that he did at 28 after two years of noticeable and statistical decline. Deter, no star and certainly not a denizen of hot nightclubs, name restaurants and totem of fans, would be under scrutiny from all corners wondering how he did it.

Would he be under suspicion of using drugs to facilitate that comeback? Would he be accused outright? And would there be this righteous indignation for simply asking the question?

On a day when veteran righty pitcher Bartolo Colon, enjoying a career comeback of his own, was suspended for 50 games for failing a PED test, ESPN broadcaster Skip Bayless stirred the pot by suggesting that Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter is a possible example of a player who has rejuvenated his career in a similar fashion by using PEDs. There was a response of anger from Jeter fans who, by and large, don’t like Bayless to begin with or even know who he is. Jeter was asked about it and replied in with a prototypical Jeter head shake and trademark coolness. What’s lost in the story is that Bayless didn’t accuse Jeter of anything. All he did was ask the question as exhibited in the quote below:

“I am not saying he uses a thing,” Bayless said. “I have no idea. But within the confines of his sport, it is fair for all of us, in fact you are remiss, if you don’t at least think about this.”

The “How dare you question Derek!!!” dynamic is all tied in with what Bayless was trying to do. Jeter is still the smoothest guy in the place who’s equally at home with a roomful of grandmothers and old-school baseball men as he is in a nightclub surrounded by adoring women; the man who honors his mother and father but still has the sly smile of someone who knows something you don’t and may have just done something you’d like to do; who could craft a life in politics after his Hall of Fame baseball career; who plays every game like it will be his last and doesn’t comprehend those who don’t follow suit; and has had the ability to navigate and deflect controversy with a deft flick of his wrist and an easy sincerity that Alex Rodriguez was never able to muster. He didn’t start sweating or have the shifty, darting eyes of one who’s trying to hide something when asked about Bayless. No one would believe him capable of using PEDs; nor would they think he’d tear down everything he built in the interest of having a few memory lane years of what he once was.

I would be shocked if Jeter was caught using anything stronger than painkillers that have been okayed by MLB. But in this day and age when players are reverting to the bygone era when time was the great equalizer and players can’t perform as well or better at age 38 as they did at 28, is it crazy to wonder? No.

ESPN is at the point where they don’t care what their personalities say as long as it generates buzz, drives ratings and conversation. The main thing is not to get sued and Bayless didn’t say anything worthy of getting sued. With information available at the click of a button, the days of loyalty to one particular writer, broadcaster or website are over. Readers click randomly and haphazardly with a small percentage regularly searching for one particular thing. ESPN writes and discusses that which begets webhits and target the right demographics. This, in turn, allows them to sell advertising based on those factors. And they’re not alone. People want to read about Tim Tebow, Bryce Harper, Lolo Jones, and Tom Brady on a daily basis, so you’ll see stories about those people whether they’re warranted on that day or not; then there’s legitimate news such as Roger Clemens’s return to the mound, and the failed tests of Colon and Melky Cabrera.

The only evidence against Jeter is this sudden return to his glory days. Jeter’s never been one to complain about injuries nor has he used them as an excuse when he’s not playing up to his lofty baseline. There’s never been a statement of, “Oh, by the way, I was playing on a tender hamstring; badly twisted ankle; achy shoulder…” He just plays. Jeter could be healthy again after an unknown malady; he could be on a hot streak; or he could be doing something he shouldn’t be doing. We don’t know.

It would be a stupid thing to do after all these years and a shortsighted choice to make—a line that Jeter would not cross—but is it a fair question to ask as all players are under suspicion? Yes.

And there are peripheral reasons that Bayless did this because I don’t think even he believes, as I don’t, that Jeter is guilty of anything at all other than playing well at an advanced age for a baseball player.

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The Diabolical Schemes of Melky Cabrera

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When flipping through the annals of world-conquering genius, we see the luminaries.

Stewie Griffin

Dr. Evil

Scott Boras


Emperor Palpatine


Dick Cheney



Billy Beane



Now we can add a new name and image to the list:

Melky Cabrera


Lazy. Complacent. Mediocre. Overrated.

All are words that have, in the past, described the now-suspended Giants’ outfielder Cabrera. After the revelations of an elaborate plan for reasonable doubt as to his guilt in having used PEDs to achieve career-heights never thought possible, we have a new word to describe him: diabolical.

Reported by the NY Daily News, this website plot is bordering on ludicrous and was the combined attempts at a desperate post-crime cleanup and planting the seeds of ignorant innocence. It was done in a hurry prior to inevitable charges being made public and has a Tonya Harding aura of ineptitude as the plotters run into each other like a scene from a slapstick, tragicomic farce.

In this case, Cabrera is being portrayed as having “created” a website to imply that he unknowingly used a supplement that had ingredients he was unaware were in the product or weren’t allowed under MLB’s rules. A “paid consultant” but not an “employee,” Juan Nunez of Cabrera’s agents Sam and Seth Levinson is cast as the person who paid $10,000 to build the site without the knowledge or approval of the agency.

It’s all ambiguity; opaqueness of pretense; and furtive, clumsy altering of perception. If Cabrera’s people had managed to pull this off, the player would’ve been seen as “innocent” but still guilty in a justifiable crime sort of way. By admitting that he was kindasorta guilty and presenting evidence from an expert witness (paid for his services) that the substance he purchased was technically illegal under baseball’s guidelines and unwittingly ingested by the player, it certainly wasn’t prevalent enough in the supplement to account for Cabrera’s amazing production and performance in his first 4 ½ months with the Giants. He still would’ve been suspended, but might’ve gotten paid based on his production in 2012. Therefore, Cabrera’s numbers are “real”; therefore, there’s no reason not to think that this is the real Melky Cabrera; therefore a team interested in an outfielder who can play all three positions reasonably well, can run, hit, hit for power, perform in the clutch, and is just entering his prime at age 28 is worth the amount of money that he would’ve gotten from someone as a free agent if he didn’t fail a drug test at all. Figure Cabrera would’ve gotten a $50-60 million deal from some misguided baseball soul who wanted to make a splash by signing the All-Star Game MVP and a top-5 finisher in the NL MVP race.

The undertones in the linked piece on the NY Daily News is that Cabrera was the one who formulated this ridiculous cover-up.

Cabrera “created” the website.

Cabrera’s “scheme.”

It’s nonsense. If anything, there was a wink-and-nod with Cabrera taking stuff given to him without knowing what it was so he could say he didn’t know what he was taking and he could pass any lie-detector tests administered by those who allege the opposite.

The intent is to lay the foundation for plausible deniability. Like the idea of Cabrera being the mastermind behind anything, it’s neither plausible nor deniable. Now Cabrera has greater fallout to deal with and he’s going to be dealing with it alone because the same people who hatched this ruse are going to abandon him as toxic and no website, real or not, is going to wash away the residue of this burgeoning case of poorly executed sleight of hand.

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The Hypocrisy of the Melky Cabrera Aftermath

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Amid the shock (really?) and indignation (really?) at Melky Cabrera’s failed PED test and admission that he took a banned substance, few if any have acknowledged the juiced up elephant in the room that was present while Cabrera was being celebrated for dedicating himself to physical fitness and fulfilling his so-called “potential”. That elephant being a wondrous jump in production that was so unlikely and unexpected that it should’ve been asked months ago: is he taking anything to account for the newfound success?

Instead of the preemptive suggestion that the foundation of Cabrera’s career year was the result of hard work and more than a little luck, there’s the postscript from people like Joel Sherman saying that there were “whispers” that he failed a test in late July. Then why didn’t you report it Joel? Or plant it as an anonymous story somewhere? Considering who you work for and your nonexistent journalistic ethics, you know how to do that, don’t you? Of course you do.

Mr. Twitter Tantrum and thin-skinned re-tweeting maestro himself Jack Curry continued his skill at stating the obvious by speculating on how much money Cabrera cost himself as a free agent at the end of the season without accounting for the fact that Cabrera wasn’t a particularly highly regarded player before and if he hadn’t used, he wouldn’t be putting up the numbers he is now; objectively, it was worth it for him to try and get away with it in the interests of getting paid.

Jon Heyman, after the fact, said it was “too good to be true”. Yeah. No kidding.

And Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi sounded like the conservative dad shaking his head at “kids today” by saying Cabrera’s predicament was “disappointing”. Was it “disappointing” when Alex Rodriguez got caught and admitted to drug use? Or did A-Rod’s use and the Yankees’ silence as an organization regarding it fall under the auspices of supporting a “family” member because he was a Yankee? In hindsight, judging from his increased injuries and declining numbers, is A-Rod’s fragility and slowing bat attributable to age or was he taking boosters as a Yankee and getting away with it?

A-Rod was a mentor to Cabrera and has talent that Cabrera could never dream of having, drugs or not. They’ve worked out together and A-Rod pushed Cabrera to get in shape. I haven’t seen anyone saying that perhaps Cabrera emulated A-Rod to the point of doing what his mentor once did and had justified with contracts that, by the time he’s done, will have netted him around half-a-billion dollars.

The hypocrisy and bottom-line self-righteous idiocy is profound.

The reality of this kind of statistical jump and era of drug availability and use can’t even be mentioned for fear of a raging freakout similar to Raul Ibanez’s in 2009 when it was asked how a good player suddenly morphed into an MVP candidate in his first half-season with the Phillies. Ibanez was never caught having used anything and his numbers fell precipitously after that first half. But Ibanez was a very good and underrated player before he got to Philadelphia and had consistent power numbers throughout his career, so the cloud of suspicion was purely circumstantial. Without in-depth research to the whys of his decline, it could be explained that the pitchers in National League were challenging Ibanez with fastballs the first go-round through the league and once they discovered how to exploit his decreasing bat speed and that he had to start his swing earlier to account for it making him susceptible to off-speed stuff, they got him out when he guessed wrong. It’s probably more due to that than any drug use.

But at the time, it was fair to wonder.

Had Cabrera found a way to circumnavigate the test or simply gotten lucky and not been tested, this would’ve continued along with the media and fans nodding appreciatively at Cabrera’s rise; he’d have finished with a career season, maybe a batting title, MVP votes and possibly a championship ring. Then he’d have gotten paid handsomely this winter as a free agent.

Instead he got caught.

Mentioning Ryan Braun in the same sentence with Cabrera is ridiculous. Braun is an All-Star player and MVP candidate without drugs. Cabrera isn’t. Braun legally stickhandled his way around a suspension for PEDs and Cabrera confessed. All that does is make Cabrera a more honest person than Braun, but not a talent in Braun’s class. With players like Cabrera, it’s as if we’re not even allowed to stop and say, “Wait a second…”; as if what should be a little obvious given the history of this player is somehow wrong. It’s not an accusation. In the end it’s just a question. And in the end, considering how Cabrera blossomed into an All-Star (and the MVP of the All-Star Game), it was a legitimate question because Cabrera didn’t blossom into anything. He used PEDs and got busted. The explanation for Cabrera is in front of us and the question could have been asked when he was being celebrated in May and the Royals, Braves and Yankees were savaged for letting him go.

Now we know why, should’ve suspected months ago and openly said it. But no one—including me—did. The pompous and judgmental head shaking is only making it worse. At least I’m not doing that.

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