Melky Cabrera and the Most Costly Failed Drug Test of All Time
Major League Baseball announced yesterday it would be suspending San Francisco Giants’ outfielder and All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera for 50 games following his testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance testosterone. The news will be all over television screens, newspapers, and the minds of baseball reporters, fans, and executives—for a day or two at least. But with Cabrera in the midst of a career year and eligible for free agency this offseason, it could well haunt him for the rest of his life.
Cabrera is hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 60 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and a league-leading 159 hits for the Giants this season, his first in San Francisco. He came to the team from Kansas City after being traded for left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez in November and quickly signed a one-year, $6 million deal to avoid arbitration. Cabrera enjoyed similar success playing for the Royals in 2011, hitting .305 with 18 home runs, 87 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. In the prime of his career at age 28 and coming off two great seasons at the dish, Cabrera was sure to receive a multi-year, big money contract this winter. The failed drug test and suspension will change that.
The statistical surge in his breakout season last year came in large part as a result of increased power numbers. Along with career highs in home runs (18) and OPS (.809), Cabrera hit 44 doubles, 16 more than his previous best. It’s impossible to measure what effect his use of testosterone had on those numbers, and even more difficult when it comes to its impact on his even more dramatic spike in batting average. It’s hard to argue that being bigger or stronger helps put the bat on the ball. Nonetheless, teams in need of a good hitter this offseason will be deservedly wary of giving a long-term contract to a player whose output may (or may not) have been significantly affected by his violating the sport’s drug policy.
Before this development, Cabrera might have been looking at a deal along the lines of those signed by (the arguably overpaid) Torii Hunter (five years, $90 million) or (the definitely overpaid) Aaron Rowand (five years, $60 million). But his current prospects will be closer to a few other outfielders on the list of players suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Namely Mike Cameron, Jose Guillen, and Manny Ramirez. It’s important to note that none of the players on the list of PED suspensions has ever signed anything longer than a two-year contract after failing a drug test. Most had to play it one year at a time for the rest of their careers, as teams were unwilling to grant them anything long-term both for PR reasons and the aforementioned suspicion that their stats would shrink absent the drugs. By failing this drug test the Melk Man has gone from being a name close to the top of every team’s letter to Santa to one who will be lucky to have more than a team or two willing to take a short-term flyer on him in the hopes that he can sustain his production. When things are all said and done, this one failed drug test could end up costing Cabrera more than $60 to 70 million and a whole lot of the peace of mind that comes from knowing where your next paycheck’s coming from.
And hey, that’s just the effects it’ll have on Cabrera and his wallet. Let’s not forget that baseball is a team sport, and that the 50 game suspension comes at a time when the 64-54 Giants are just one game behind the Dodgers in the NL West and deep in the midst of a playoff (and maybe even pennant) run. But the team only has 44 games left in the season, meaning Cabrera will also miss the play-in game should the Giants capture a wild card spot and at least part of their division series (if they make it that far) regardless of the nature of their playoff berth. That is, assuming they get one at all without Cabrera, who has been a large, but ultimately indefinable part of the team’s success. One thing is certain, the San Francisco front office comes off looking like a bunch of future-telling baseball geniuses, as the team traded for Hunter Pence in July. Without Pence, the team would be left with an incredibly shallow outfield. I mean, they were already shallow back there in the grass, that’s why they were willing to let go of Tommy Joseph, one of their top two or three prospects to get Pence in the first place.
Before I sign off, I’d like to note one more thing. As soon as the report of his failed drug test was released, Cabrera released a statement through the players’ union to apologize and admit his mistake, saying, ”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 I 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.” Whether his words and regret are genuine or not, at the very least, Melky didn’t make excuses or try to hide behind lawyers, his union, or an appeals process. For that at least, I give him credit.
Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.
Posted in: MLB
Tags: Aaron Rowand, Drug Test, Failed Drug Test, free agency, Hunter Pence, Jonathan Sanchez, Jose Guillen, Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Ramirez, Melky Cabrera, Mike Cameron, MLB, PED, Performance-Enhancing Drugs, San Francisco Giants, Testosterone, Torii Hunter
Steroids and why they matter in baseball
I’ve found it rather interesting that in the midst of Barry Bonds’ perjury trial and the news that Manny Ramirez abruptly retired instead of dealing with a 100-game suspension for another positive PED test (his second in three years), that some people have developed a rather nonchalant attitude towards steroids as it pertains to the game of baseball.
Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or in sports forums, people continue to utter the statement: “What’s the big deal? It’s only steroids. I like home runs! Steroids make the game more exciting!”
Honestly, I have rationalized at least part of this argument in the past. I couldn’t care less if someone wanted to take steroids – including athletes. Do you know what the yearly average is for deaths caused by steroids? Three. As in: three people. For comparison sake, tobacco kills 5.4 million people per year, which is a shade more than three.
That’s not to say I condone the use of steroids. When the day comes where I have children of my own, I’m going to make sure they understand how dangerous steroid use is. The potential side effects of misusing steroids are well known and if a doctor does not prescribe them, the risk just isn’t worth the reward in my eyes. We’re talking about highly dangerous stuff here, especially for those who don’t know what they’re doing.
But if a groan man wants to sink hundreds of dollars into drugs that will make him bigger, stronger or heal faster, then whatever. It doesn’t affect me and quite frankly, this country is dealing with way more pressing issues at the moment.
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Manny: “I’m at ease” with decision
If you thought Manny Ramirez might have some regret about the way he abruptly retired instead of serving a 100-game suspension for his second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in the last three years, well then you just don’t know Manny.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com by phone Saturday from his home in Miami. “God knows what’s best (for me). I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”
I’ve never met God but from what I’ve read about him, I don’t think he would have approved of Manny’s actions over the past three years. This is a man who tested positive twice for performance-enhancing drugs and instead of serving his second suspension and remaining committed to a team he signed a deal with this offseason, he just up and walked away.
Hey, if he wants to go to Spain with his old man, good for him. But we’re not talking about someone who tried to play and in the end couldn’t physically endure another season so he retired. We’re not talking about someone whose heart just wasn’t in it anymore a la Ken Griffey Jr. in his final year. We’re talking about someone who quit just so he didn’t have to face punishment after he broke a rule.
If he can rest his head on his pillow at night and not have any regrets, then so be it. But if it were me, I wouldn’t have gone out like that and I’m sure many other fans feel the same way.
Manny Ramirez tests positive for PEDs again, abruptly retires
In a rather shocking development, Major League Baseball announced on Friday that Rays’ outfielder Manny Ramirez has decided to retire.
As has always been the case with Manny, there’s more to the story. Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reports that Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in spring training and he would have faced a 100-game suspension had he not retired. After he served a 50 game suspension in 2009, it would have been Manny’s second suspension for PEDs in the last three years.
“Rather than continue with the process under the program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player,” a statement from MLB said. “If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter.”
Wow. Manny finishes with a .312 career batting average, 555 home runs and 1,831 runs batted in. As previously mentioned, he was a 12-time All-Star, a nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a two-time World Series champion and he also led the AL in RBI (1999), batting average (2002) and home runs (2004).
But even given his outstanding numbers, his career has definitely been marred by these two positive PED tests. Manny has always kind of been given a free pass because he’s goofy and entertaining. But Roger Clemens is vilified for his (supposed) use of PEDs. Barry Bonds is a monster. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are cheaters. What about Manny? This is a guy that was suspended for 50 games in 2009 for a positive PED test and then two years later he tests positive again? Did he think he wasn’t going to get caught the second time? Did he think baseball would leave him alone after the first positive test?
“Should we test Manny again?”
“Nah, dude isn’t stupid enough to try it again. Let’s just go on the honesty policy…”
And now Ramirez just ups and retires instead of serving the 100 games. What a slap in the face to the Rays. They made a financial commitment to him, he made a commit to them that he would play and then he turns around and retires a week into the season after an 0-6 start and a positive PED test. What a joke.
But hey, that’s just Manny, I guess. The term “Manny being Manny” has always allowed him to come and go as he pleases. He’s going to leave the game just as strangely as he came into it.
Rays in talks with free agent Johnny Damon
ESPN.com has confirmed reports that the Rays are talking with free agent Johnny Damon about a contract, although no deal has been signed yet. The Rays are looking to fill their vacant DH spot and Damon could also play part time in left field as well.
Damon, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero are among several prominent veteran designated hitters still on the market. The Rays have been open-minded in their search, according to sources, but have only a limited amount of money to sign another bat.
The source said that while a Damon-Rays union “certainly could happen,” the two sides are not yet close to an agreement.
The 37-year-old Damon hit .271 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs with the Detroit Tigers last season. He has 2,571 career hits in 16 seasons with Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, New York and Detroit.
Speaking of Man-Ram, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com writes that the Rangers are pursuing the former Indian/Red Sox/Dodger/woman’s fertility drug user/White Sox to potentially DH for them. The plan is to use Michael Young as their primary DH, but he could also play first base and move Mitch Moreland into a part-time role. Of course, Moreland proved to be the only Ranger that could hit Giant pitching in the World Series, so maybe it would be best if Texas leave Moreland right where he’s at.
Getting back to Damon, I can’t see the Rays signing him unless he comes cheap. He can’t play the outfield on a regular basis because he has the arm strength of a tyrannosaur and he’s not worth more than a couple of million at this stage in his career. He’s a good clubhouse guy and he would certainly be nice to have in the playoffs but the Rays need to be frugal here.