trippingolney

Oh, fun. More of this Buster Olney-driven madness, dredging up the ol’ PED issue with respect to Melky Cabrera.

So here’s what’s what:

On Tuesday morning at ESPN.com, Buster Olney decided to contemplate the potential of Cabrera being an all-star — particularly with respect to his PED suspension two years ago. He benevolently gave fans his permission to either care or not care about this — to “take his performance at face value and prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt,” or to be supremely suspicious of his history and of the fact that this seeming return to form *WINK* is coming in a *COUGH* contract year, with numbers that “very closely resemble those he put up the summer he was suspended.”

Get it?

Other players hate PED cheats, he explains, and they especially hate guys getting rich off cheating, so the suggestion is made that Cabrera won’t be voted to the all-star game by the fans, may not be voted by his fellow players, and may end up being left off the roster entirely by manager John Farrell as well. “If Cabrera makes the team, he will have earned his selection through his production,” we’re told. “If Cabrera is left off the team, he will have earned that, too.”

This is a sentiment that, of course, can fuck right off. Is Cabrera more likely to be cheating now than anybody else, just because he was caught once before? Even though he’s under more scrutiny, faces more severe punishment, and is tested more often? Even though his 2013 dip in form and this year’s subsequent return are far more easily attributable to the goddamn tumour he had removed from his spine?

Ugh. No, of course he’s not. Of course he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

So Jose Bautista responded to this, as did Richard Griffin in a piece from the Toronto Star.

Bautista expressed concern for Melky’s ability to negotiate should comments like these get blown up into something bigger, and summed up the rational position quite perfectly: “It’s not my place to say what is right or wrong. I can tell you what my opinion is, not the general opinion of the (other MLB) players. I think if you did something wrong and you were caught and you pay your dues, that should be it. (Failing once) doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be doing something that’s illegal or not allowed.”

Griffin zeroed in on Olney’s stuff about it being a contract year, explaining that “Cabrera is the wrong guy to pick on in trying to make a case that cheating is worthwhile. Down the road, with that suspension in his background, he will likely never get the huge deal he might have expected if the stats were clean. See Nelson Cruz with the O’s.”

He’s right, but I’d add that no player is really the right guy to pick on here. The CBA allows what it allows. If you’re upset about that, your issue is with it and with the two sides who agreed on it.

But evidently the money thing really sticks in Olney’s craw, as he addressed it — and the comments from Griffin and Bautista — a second time, in today’s column at ESPN.com (Insider Olney):

If any player takes PEDs and gains an unfair advantage over his union brethren, that means he’s holding a position somebody else should hold, and making money somebody else should make. Just because somebody doesn’t make as much as Ryan Braun doesn’t mean cheating isn’t worthwhile, and it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Cabrera made extra cash through his past transgression.

In fact, it’s almost certainly a lock that he already has benefitted from cheating. He made $3.1 million as an extra outfielder with the Braves in 2010 and had such a mediocre season that he was cut free; the Braves agreed with the Yankees’ assessment that he was essentially an extra outfielder. He signed with the Royals for $1.25 million in 2011 and became a star, at a time when he reportedly became a client of Biogenesis. He was suspended in 2012 while playing for the San Francisco Giants, and the Blue Jays then signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal before anybody knew about Tony Bosch and Biogenesis.

And if all that information impacts the market assessment of Cabrera, well, too bad. These are all plain, simple facts, and while Cabrera served his suspension, that doesn’t mean his history is whitewashed.

We seem to see from this insanity the lone track that Olney’s mind is on when it comes to Cabrera. In his world, because prior to this year Melky has only supposedly been good in seasons in which there is evidence of PED use, the fact that he’s playing well now must be highly suspicious. Forget how little we know about how much whatever he was taking — he only tested positive for high levels of testosterone, let’s not forget — actually impacts performance. Forget that, by many accounts, he was out of shape with the Braves and his play improved when his conditioning improved. Forget that he may well have blown the theory apart last year if he had played like this, which he couldn’t because of the goddamn tumour he had removed from his spine. Forget that his breakout year in Kansas City came in his age-26 season — an age at which you might entirely expect a player to really start putting it together as he heads towards his peak years. Forget that, though he certainly did have some intervening down years, he was a talented enough hitter to get a full season’s worth of at-bats for the New York Yankees as a twenty-two-year-old, and put up a .360 on-base in the process!

Nope, it’s just correlation, causation, couching the whole thing with bogus insistence that you’re just exploring different possible opinions here and not really taking a side (sprinkled with garbled nonsense like “almost certainly a lock”), then light a cigar and put your feet up.

Worst of all is how this is evidently only relevant now that he’s playing well. Because, y’know, why acknowledge the fact that there are all kinds of guys who we know took PEDs that still entirely sucked? Do that — acknowledge that these substances aren’t magic elixirs turning ordinary men into baseball gods — and we might be able to take the first step towards actually having a real, adult conversation about the stuff. Trouble is, the whole subject is murky as fuck, and the difficulty we have in wrapping our heads around it — around the arbitrary moralities, the lines drawn in the sand, the problems of the CBA and of the testing, the science behind the drugs and how they impact performance, the influence of all kinds of other variables that impact performance, and the near impossibility of coherently grappling with all the strands that lead in and out of each of these murky spheres of the topic  – makes it awful easy for writers to reduce the issue to a dull-headed question of whether you’re for or against “cheating.”

Emphasis on awful.

Comments (16)

  1. Would it kill baseball columnists to have to pass a rudimentary course on math to understand the basic concepts of probabilities? I’m not looking for advanced mathematical analysis, but come on…

    Then again, the vast majority of readers just want someone thoughtlessly braying what they think so that they can turn around and bray it online elsewhere…

  2. Olney… World class troll

  3. What is your stance on his All-Star eligibility, Andrew?

    • He is eligible to play, he is eligible to be an All-Star. There can be no second class players because of this. It’s nonsense. Should Michael Pineda forever be banned from All-Star games? And it’s the same thing — he’s not the only one cheating, he’s the only one doing it badly enough to have been caught. We know of all kinds of guys who’ve loaded up or done illegal things to get better grip in recent years, but they haven’t been formally caught — do we act like Pineda is the ONLY one and punish him as such when we know that’s stupid? No. He gets his punishment, and then he’s back in the pool with the assumption that, unless he’s caught, he’s not doing it again. The whole thing is rooted in a bullshit notion that once a guy is caught once it’s such a moral failing as to stain the rest of his life. He’s a CHEATER. But it doesn’t take a lot of thought to see how completely overly simplistic that is. I don’t condone cheating, but I condone taking a reasonable approach to it. Much of the chatter about it feels like it puts it on the level of murder. It’s ridiculous.

      • I do appreciate your point but it just bugs me that these guys lucky enough to play a game for a living and make millions doing it would risk the wonderful life they’ve been gifted with. Then again, perhaps it’s the threat of losing that life that drives them toward cheating.

        You know, no one ever talks about the well-paid doctors, trainers, nutritionists, psychologists, coaches, managers etc.. that are supposed to be monitoring and knowing everything about these high caliber athletes. Where is there punishment for letting this happen. IMO there is no excuse for not knowing everything single atom that goes into the bodies of these huge investments.

        Would you want to see more deterrents for cheating, Andrew? Chat?

        Anyway, let’s enjoy some baseball. Go Jays.

        • I honestly don’t really care much what they do. It’s such a fine line at times. Substances move on and off the list of what’s banned. We don’t bat an eyelash at cortisone shots or ligament replacement surgeries. There are a lot of ways performances are enhanced artificially, and in addition to that, we know very little about how much the drugs that are out there actually have an impact, at least as far as baseball goes. Too much guesswork and too much murk for me to be able to reconcile taking a hard stance on anything like this, for me.

  4. On one level, though, Olney is right. When you get caught, you’re gonna have the stank stick to you – especially when you get caught in such a spectacular fashion. Melky was leading the league in hitting, during a pennant race, there was the fake website stuff, and only two years ago…he’s not gonna get the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion. At least not yet. Hell, Ortiz was only MENTIONED in the Mitchell Report and he’ll get steroid heckles until the day he eats his last clubhouse spread.

    I don’t think Melky is using, but certainly don’t have any real qualifications to back that up and it could be tainted by homerism. It’s not like the fear of getting caught again stopped Manny, Guillermo Mota and Eliezer Alfonzo from doping again. I want to believe…but I’m also not gonna go to the wall saying Melky is clean, either. I’m just gonna hope.

    This is all said with the understanding that there really isn’t any definitive study on whether taking PED’s makes you a better baseball player…of course, a lot of that could be down to a lack of “volunteers” to provide information.

  5. I want to sodomize Olney with a broken bottle.

    Cabrera comes back strong from a potentially life threatening ailment and rather than congratulating him… he pretty much lays out a PED accusation while not actually saying it in order to avoid potential litigation.

    I’ll suspect Cabrera when he fails a test. Until then he’s clean.

    We’ve dealt too much with this ish the last few years with all the accusations at Joey Bats and Edwin. Some pretty openly from the media too.

    • You’re dumb.
      “I’ll suspect Cabrera when he fails a test”
      So a failed test would only cause you to suspect that he may test positive for something?

      There is a difference between accusing people who have no reason to be accused other than their stellar performance and those who have been caught, and suspended for knowingly taking a banned substance.

      • And either created, or had his people create a fake website to make it look like he was innocent.

        I understand Andrew’s point, but there’s a huge gulf with someone thinking Joey Bats or EE is cheating, and Melky…who, you know, has actually been caught.

        • Just because he was caught once, how much more likely does it make it that he’s doing it again? Any more likely than anybody who hasn’t been caught? I honestly don’t think so. I think there are lots of guys who haven’t been caught, and lots of guys who have, and the likelihood of anybody doing it probably isn’t that different no matter which group they’re in.

          It’s very, very easy to single a guy out because he’s been caught and get outraged about that, and getting caught up in that sort of righteous indignation makes people completely miss the entire issue.

  6. I think it’s the man in white that explains Melky’s 2014 resurgence.

    ESPN’s been down this road before whether it was the Bautista witch hunt or the man in white that no one shall speak of – going back to that for a moment, wouldn’t John Farrell have immediately blown the lid on that when he left the Jays? How is there no follow-up article on ESPN called “We were wrong..”

  7. Stoeten – 

    a simple rule: ignore arguments that contain the word ‘should’. as in, Cabrera was making money that others (his ‘union brethren’, a number of of whom have been caught cheating) ‘should’ have been making? on what planet does that begin to make sense? MLB salaries are not a zero sum game. right there, Olney lost me (this time – he’s lost me plenty of times before, and i mourn the death of the old ESPN baseball today podcast).

    Olney could also, of course, replace the name Cabrera with Ortiz. but he wouldn’t dare do that.

    dude’s got zero integrity.

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