The Hypocrisy of the Melky Cabrera Aftermath

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

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.

//

Advertisements

2012 National League Central Predicted Standings

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series
Wins Losses GB
1. Cincinnati Reds 91 71
2. Milwaukee Brewers 87 75 4
3. St. Louis Cardinals 77 85 14
4. Pittsburgh Pirates 77 85 14
5. Chicago Cubs 73 89 18
6. Houston Astros 60 102 31

Cincinnati Reds

Dusty Baker’s teams have a tendency to win when his job is on the line or his contract is coming to a conclusion—and this is the final year of his contract.

GM Walt Jocketty made a bold move in trading a large portion of the Reds’ farm system to get an ace-quality starter in Mat Latos and bolstered his bullpen by signing Ryan Madson and trading for Sean Marshall.

Offensively, the Reds have some question marks but were second in the National League in runs scored last season and first in 2010. Scott Rolen’s injuries are an issue and shortstop is likely to be manned by a talented rookie Zack Cozart.

But with a deep starting rotation; a very good bullpen; Joey Votto in the middle of the lineup; the emerging Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs; and the additions from the winter, the Reds are a championship threat.

Milwaukee Brewers

If Mat Gamel hits and Aramis Ramirez posts his normal numbers, they’ll have enough offense without Prince Fielder. Alex Gonzalez is a good pickup offensively and defensively to replace the limited Yuniesky Betancourt; Zack Greinke is sure to have a big year heading towards free agency; and the bullpen is superlative with Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.

The questions surrounding the Ryan Braun failed drug test and technical knockout of his 50-game suspension are not going to go away.

Braun has to hit from the beginning of the season to the end and he’s still going to be hounded with a press contingent waiting for a reasonable answer as to how he failed the test in the first place. A slow start will be the death knell to his season and probably the Brewers’ playoff hopes.

And don’t forget how much vitriol their arrogance engendered throughout baseball last season. When the world-at-large was pulling for a Tony LaRussa –led team, you know their oppenents were despised.

There’s a 2006 Mets feeling about the Brewers that they missed their chance and we know what happened to the Mets in the aftermath of their upset loss to the Cardinals.

St. Louis Cardinals

It’s idiotic to base one’s hopes for a repeat championship on the idea that losing the generation’s best manager (Tony LaRussa); hitter (Albert Pujols); and a magician of a pitching coach (Dave Duncan) are going to be easily covered with Mike Matheny (never managed before—ever); signing Carlos Beltran and shifting Lance Berkman to first base (they’re older players); and Derek Lilliquist (um…).

You cannot dismiss the contributions of those three men—all of whom are Hall of Famers.

As respected and well-liked as Matheny is, there’s a learning curve to manage.

The Cardinals have starting pitching, but their bullpen is still a question mark and Matheny’s handling of said bullpen is going to be an issue.

Beltran and Berkman will make up for Pujols’s production to a degree, but if you’re banking your hopes on David Freese being the same star he was in the playoffs and Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker, you’re dreaming.

This team is rife for a big fall and major turmoil.

Pittsburgh Pirates

We’ll never know what the Pirates’ 2011 season would’ve become had they not been so horribly robbed in that play at the plate and egregious call by Jerry Meals in the 19-inning game against the Braves in late July. Those who think that an entire season can’t hinge on one game are wrong.

The Pirates did many good things mostly as a result of manager Clint Hurdle’s simple mandate of discipline and not taking crap.

They’ve locked up key players Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata and acquired cheap, high-ceiling veteran starters A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard.

They’re not ready to contend, but they’re getting better and if things go well, they have a shot at third place.

Chicago Cubs

Those expecting a Theo Epstein arrival/revival and immediate rise to championship-level status as happened when he took over the Red Sox need to take a step back.

The Red Sox had a lot of talent and money to spend when Epstein took over in 2003; the Cubs are trying to clear onerous contracts of declining veterans like Alfonso Soriano and already got rid of Carlos Zambrano (and are paying him to pitch for the Marlins).

A large part of my analysis isn’t simply based on what a team has when the season starts, but what’s going to happen as the season moves along. The Cubs are going to be ready to deal with Carlos Marmol, Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd possibly on the move.

It’s not going to be a quick fix to repair this organization.

Houston Astros

There’s a perception that simply because they hired a stat-savvy GM in Jeff Luhnow and he’s at work rebuilding the system that the Astros are “guaranteed” to have success in the near future.

Are you aware of what happened to similar thinking baseball people like Paul DePodesta and Jack Zduriencik?

The Astros neglected their minor league system for so long that they’re tantamount to an expansion team. Luhnow brought in high-end talent like Fernando Martinez cheaply; he’s scouring the scrapheap with Livan Hernandez for big league competence while he cleans up the mess; and he’s hired like-minded people to help him.

But it’s not a guarantee and his “success” with the Cardinals minor league system is based on perception depending on your own beliefs and/or biases on how to run a club rather than bottom-line reality.

Here’s what we can agree on: in 2012, they’re going to be terrible.

Click here for a full sample of Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide (this link is of the Blue Jays) of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.

//

Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun Wins by Split-Decision

All Star Game, Ballparks, Basketball, Books, CBA, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

You’ll hear both sides debate the Ryan Braun drug test issue like the conservatives who think guilty is guilty regardless of how the evidence is gathered and liberals ranting and raving that the rights of the innocent are protected when the rights of the guilty are upheld.

Did Braun take a substance to help his performance or did he get caught using something else that wasn’t a PED, but was on the list?

It all goes back to the fine print of the rules and the clumsy, self-serving, stupid way this whole case was handled.

You can read it in detail here on NYTimes.com; briefly, here’s what it comes down to:

  • Braun took a urine test.
  • There was no nearby FedEx center open for the test administrator to drop the sample off, so he took it home and stored it in his fridge.
  • He shipped it on the next Monday.
  • There was no evidence of tampering on the sample, nor to the bag in which it had been placed.
  • Braun had elevated levels of testosterone and failed the test.
  • But then, the story was leaked.

The final bulletpoint is the key to the whole thing.

Braun had rights. Those rights were undermined. That fact has made this an important decision to stop the prevalent whispers that come out in what’s supposed to be a confidential process.

Baseball can proclaim that the revelation of the 2003 list of PED failures helped bring about a “cleaning up” of the game; that in the end, something good came out of the failure to adhere to the rights of the players who, in spite of their supposed guilt, shouldn’t have had their failed tests revealed in the first place.

The union should’ve destroyed the list and didn’t, so it’s their own fault.

But everyone—players, agents, union reps, front office people, owners and MLB executives—were either directly involved in the PED use or just let it go for their own ends.

Once the groundswell of protests at records being demolished and dwarfed, they reacted.

It’s pure marketing and pandering to customer desires: they wanted more scoring, they got more scoring; as people got angry at the overt manner of players bulking up and shattering records, baseball outlawed steroids and HGH and started testing for them.

It’s similar to the angry reactions to repeated stories on ESPN and other “sports news” outlets for continually talking about Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin regardless of whether the players warrant that level of coverage—it’s what the paying customers want.

Confronted with a public outcry and governmental intervention at activities that it both tacitly encouraged and turned a blind eye to, baseball enacted testing and levied harsh penalties for using a list of drugs that might or might not have been prototypical “performance enhancers”.

Is there a place for, “Well, he was guilty anyway so what’s the difference?”

In reality, yes, there is a place for that.

But in the legal system where Braun is part of a union and the union and regulating committee have entered into a binding agreement as to how it should be handled and Braun is vehemently voicing his innocence and won’t back down, there was no choice other than to exonerate him.

The rules of the treatment and testing program can be read here on a PDF file.

When would it end if innuendo, speculation and public response were the determinative factors in whether an individual saw his reputation and ability to make a living compromised by something that hadn’t been handled properly? If one link in the chain is corrupted, the whole thing has to be tossed out.

Braun and every player in the MLB Players Association have rights—rights that were negotiated and are legally binding.

He’s the reigning National League MVP and the validity and perception of his entire career up to now hinged on this decision. If there was any doubt as to its accuracy, he had to be found not guilty.

When the union agreed to the testing program in order to keep labor peace and “clean up” the game, there was no provision that a failed test would be out in the media five months in advance of his hearing so the player had to hide in his home and keep silent on an allegation that he denied.

Being innocent until proven guilty is relevant and if baseball is angry at someone, they should be angry at whomever decided it was a good idea to let the media know that Braun failed the test in the first place because since the other procedures—agreed to by the union—had been followed, the tipping point was that the public knew about Braun’s failed test before his appeal had been heard.

If it hadn’t been leaked, Braun would undoubtedly have lost his case.

It isn’t so much that Braun is “innocent”, it’s that people with knowledge need to keep their mouths shut. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the person who leaked the story to begin with.

Don’t think that these dropped nuggets aren’t intentional and strategic in an attempt to preclude a player from winning a case such as this and it was the overthinking and attempts to be clever on the part of baseball that has again sabotaged their attempts to be aboveboard.

It was a circular circumstance that got Braun off.

It’s appropriate because there are few entities that are as adept at the circular firing squad as Major League Baseball.

//

Ryan Braun’s MVP is Suddenly Not Kosher

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, AKA the Hebrew Hammer, saw the Kosher status of his Most Valuable Player award called into question when it was revealed that he tested positive for a banned substance.

Braun may not be the Chosen One of 2011 for much longer.

You can read the details here from the New York Times.

Braun is proclaiming his innocence, but that matters little in the world of rapid judgments and suggested punishments before an allegation has been proven to be accurate.

As long as the case is hovering over Braun, it diminishes the MVP award in terms of perception; but we don’t know what the other players were using—nor what Braun used to test positive. It might’ve been an over-the-counter supplement that had an ingredient that he wasn’t aware was banned.

Like the “war on drugs”, it’s pure cherry-picking of what’s okay and what’s not. MLB players can’t use amphetamines anymore, but until the new collective bargaining agreement, there wasn’t an attempt to test players for human growth hormone so players switched from anabolic steroids to HGH.

Chemists and performance specialists have little interest in the rules and regulations of a sport when it comes to drugs; their mandate is to help their clients play better; they do this by formulating the substances based on what works and how best to mask them to prevent a positive test. With the new testing procedures, these same chemists are trying (and presumably succeeding) in coming up with something new to stickhandle their way around the tests.

Some are saying that once his appeal is denied, Braun should be stripped of the MVP award.

Much like the instantaneous reaction to the Armando Galarraga perfect/imperfect game where, in the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call, there was consideration given to an overturn and awarding Galarraga an after-the-fact perfect game, there are other factors to gauge.

Since there was video evidence as to the gaffe, giving Galarraga a perfect game wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but where would it end?

If there was a call in a game that was judged to be wrong and it cost a team a victory, how would that be handled? Would the win be taken away from one team and given to another? Would they replay the game from the time of the mistake?

And what about the gamblers who were already paid upon the game’s result? (That’s the big one whether baseball admits it or not.)

People bet on the MVP as well. Would the winnings for those who selected Braun be demanded back? Would anyone give it back? I wouldn’t. Would the new winner—presumably the player who came in second, Matt Kemp—be tested and scrutinized as well?

These things have to be considered before automatically saying, “take away his MVP”.

Braun’s production wasn’t appreciably better in 2011 than it had been in previous seasons—he didn’t hit 73 home runs after a career-high of 49 as Barry Bonds did in 2001 at an age where players decline, not set records; he wasn’t injury-prone and possibly facing the end of his career as Mark McGwire was. There’s no glaring statistical anomaly to say Braun just started using whatever it was he’s said to have used that may or may not have helped him along.

Of course, he might’ve been using various substances throughout his playing career.

We don’t and won’t know.

He also might be innocent.

The fallout from this will be more scarring than the Hebrew ritual of circumcision; more annoying than performing a Bar Mitzvah like a moderately house-trained monkey in front of a group of people one doesn’t know, singing songs in a language he doesn’t understand.

Those things pass into memory.

If Braun is found guilty and stripped of his MVP, that will endure forever.

And there won’t be a catered affair in celebration of his downfall.

//