Obviously, given the fact that he ended the year suspended, and bizarrely attempted to create a website that would make it look as though he had inadvertently taken a banned substance, a link between the Jays’ big off-season free agent splash, Melky Cabrera, and PEDs is hardly shocking.
Seeing a reference to his “cocktail of drugs,” perhaps is, though.
Reading him called a “slugger” definitely is, and it’s about there where one might start wondering– fairly or not– about how players’ drug use is being characterized in the explosive new Miami New Times article that implicates Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, and many others in having procured performance enhancing drugs from an allegedly corrupt anti-aging clinic in Miami.
Here’s the section of the piece pertaining to Cabrera:
Although A-Rod is the biggest name in Tony Bosch’s records, he’s far from alone. Melky Cabrera is mentioned 14 times throughout. A switch-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Cabrera had enjoyed a steady but fairly middle-of-the-road career until signing with the San Francisco Giants last year. Suddenly, he began pounding the baseball, whacking a team record 51 hits in May alone. Three months later, he nabbed more votes than any outfielder for the All-Star Game and won the game MVP after going two for three at the dish.
Cabrera’s dream season screeched to a halt in August, though, when MLB announced a 50-game suspension after his blood tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Cabrera quickly admitted he’d used a banned substance and didn’t fight the suspension. But what substance did he take?
It might be what’s listed in a 2012 notebook from Bosch’s office. Under a heading labeled “Melkys/Mostro,” Bosch writes, “April 4th drop off, has enough meds until May 4… next visit deliver and infuse $9,000 to RPO and $900 exp. and charges. Call him for expense. Missing this mo. troches and pink cream.”
Another document in the files, labeled simply “Mostro” — his nickname for Cabrera — and dated December 21, 2011, lists his regimen: a cocktail of drugs including IGF-1.
(There’s also an odd, handwritten letter by Bosch in his notebook that seems to refer to Cabrera’s suspension for elevated testosterone. Addressed to a “Juan,” Bosch rails against Cabrera, writing that “in helping him, I put my business and all my doctors at risk by fabricating patient charts and phony prescriptions.” He adds that the slugger should “man-up” and pay $9,000 he owes, adding, “I am on the ‘line’ here!!”)
IGF-1 certainly sounds like a complicated, medically-engineered compound, huh? But according to a two-year-old article by Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports, it’s actually a naturally occurring substance harvested from deer antlers, which acts like human growth hormone. It’s classified a performance enhancing drug, but studies have shown that these sorts of substances don’t produce the kind of anabolic effects that steroids do (i.e. increased muscle mass), though they do aid in recovery times. (Studies like the ones cited in this, admittedly, old piece from Sabernomics, and mentioned in the TeachPE.com guides to both HGH and IGF-1).
Now, I don’t want to downplay it too much, or to pretend at all like I have a handle on the medical science here– obviously TeachPE.com, or whatever else I quickly Googled, isn’t exactly the most compelling resource on anything– but I think it’s important to have a little bit of perspective on just what Melky might have been doing, given that people will be quick to paint him with the “filthy fucking cheater” brush they’ve already taken out of their holsters, readying themselves to smear all over A-Rod’s face.
Or… I guess you can’t not call him a cheater, but I just worry about us losing the distinction between this kind of stuff– which Andy Pettitte has been allowed to entirely skate on, for example, and which may well have a clinically-administered, safe, “clean” future– and the Barry-Bonds-turning-into-the-Stay-Puft-Marshmallow-Man kind of stuff that’s so closely associated with PEDs in most minds.
I don’t know. At one point I might have joined in on the crusade here, because I do find it somewhat objectionable to think that players may be forced to turn to drugs in order to just maintain a roster spot, but it’s all so damn murky, and so many people want to talk about it like it’s black and white that I just don’t have the wherewithal to get righteous about it.
We just don’t know how much this stuff actually helped a guy like Cabrera– there is a very strong case to be made that his crazy 2012 numbers, which are not high power numbers traditionally associated with PEDs, were inflated by BABIP, which was about the same, league wide, during the steroid era as it is now. We also have a hard time coming up with arguments about why it isn’t objectionable that, in order to keep their roster spots, players need to work their bloody balls off to stay conditioned, and take cortisone shots, get Adderall exemptions, and consume a host of supplements and products that go right up to the edge of the artificial boundary we’ve created between what’s fair and foul. And we certainly don’t give a shit when it’s players in a sport with numbers that aren’t so bizarrely sacred, despite spitballs and greenies and the exclusion of black players that helped produced the best ones of the revered past.
“I use the spray all the time,” then-Bengals safety Roy Williams said in Wetzel’s piece. “Two to three times a day. My body felt good after using it. I did feel a difference.”
And I’m sure that admission was met with all outcry that the New Times piece is today, right?
Which isn’t to suggest that two wrongs make a right and we therefore shouldn’t care at all, but… I’m having a really hard time getting up in arms about any of this. Especially on Cabrera, perhaps, because we already knew he was doing something he shouldn’t have during this period. And, shit, maybe because he now plays for the Jays. But I don’t think so.
I mean, I don’t want baseball to become the All Drug Olympics or anything, but it’s harder for me to get angry about the stuff that doesn’t turn players into gargantuan, cartoonish versions of their former selves, and the whole witch hunt thing is just really, really tiresome. Especially since it’s not like there’s an end in sight.
Players– who are admired when, in other ways, they push themselves right up to the edge– will always look for a way to beat the tests, and the science of both doping and testing will keep evolving. I don’t want to be so apathetic about the question that I find myself becoming of the mind that they shouldn’t even bother to test at all, but… yeah… this is a thing that happened. It almost certainly happens a lot, and it probably shouldn’t. Those who fail tests should be punished, and the program should be continuously expanding to have the best, most reasonable list of banned substances possible. But can’t we just leave it at that and skip the retroactive witch hunting, the insufferable character assassination, and the flat out wrong assumption of cause and effect that comes with all this stuff?
Do we really have to act like it’s the fucking heaviest and scream “cheater!” in the faces of everyone involved until the end of time? Because I just can’t…
Image via CBS Sports.