Posts Tagged ‘actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances’

Got Melk—Under Drug Testing Program, That Is

This is just what the San Francisco Giants don’t need, though it probably did the Washington Nationals—who just squared off against the Giants in San Francisco—a small favour: Melky Cabrera, the MVP of this year’s All-Star Game, suspended fifty games for a positive testosterone test.

The announcement came practically on the heels of the Giants announcing contract talks with Cabrera would go on hold until season’s end. Cabrera, of course, was enjoying a very respectable walk year, with a .906 OPS and a National League-leading 156 hits, 51 of which came in May alone (tying Randy Winn’s team record for any month, and breaking Willie Mays’ team record for May, since the Giants came to San Francisco in the first place), a significant factor in the Giants at this writing sitting tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

Got melked by a positive testosterone test . . .

Cabrera’s suspension begins at once. If the Giants get to the postseason, those games will be included as part of Cabrera’s suspension. If they don’t, Cabrera will finish serving the sentence at the open of the 2013 regular season.

Give Cabrera credit for this much: He ducked nothing and manned up at once when handed his sentence. “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 organisation, and to the fans for letting them down,” he said in a formal statment.

The Giants landed Cabrera in the off-season in a swap that sent Jonathan Sanchez (P) to the Kansas City Royals. He signed a single-year deal with the Giants rather than go to salary arbitration.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

CONTINUING THE CUB SHUFFLE—Theo Epstein’s work on remaking/remodeling the Cubs continued Wednesday with the execution of Oneri Fleita as vice president of player personnel. “All of us with the Cubs owe Oneri a debt of gratitude for his tremendous service to the organization over many years. Oneri has impacted countless people here in a positive way, and we wish him well as he continues his career elsewhere,” said Epstein in a statement. Fleita had been in the Cubs’ organisation since 1995; he was actually given a four-year contract extension in 2011, before Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were brought aboard. The Cubs also canned manager of baseball information Chuck Wasserstrom, who’d been with the Cubs for 25 years; and, reassigned statistical analysis manager Ari Kaplan to become a consultant to owner Tom Ricketts.

THE BOSTON BRISTLE, CONTINUED—Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry says none of the players who wanted to meet with the brass in that July New York sit-down actually called for manager Bobby Valentine’s execution. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports—whose colleague, Jeff Passan, wrote the article that launched this week’s  hoo-ha over the meeting—argues that, whatever you do or don’t think about Valentine’s style vis a vis a rickety Red Sox clubhouse, Henry must tell one and all that Valentine’s his man through the end of his contract (it expires after 2013, specifically) at least, “that employees do not fire managers.”

Tell everyone this isn’t working because bad contracts and worse attitudes have fouled the place, but will not any longer. Tell them that it will be addressed this winter, that the talented [general manager Ben] Cherington is under orders to see to it, no matter the cost in discarded mistakes and malcontents. Now what? Tell them none of this will be tolerated any longer. 

That’s a pretty point. But what do you say about a manager who, yes, walked into a fragile enough situation to begin with—and after assorted Red Sox brass, perhaps unaware of what other assorted Red Sox brass thought, told assorted Red Sox players last winter that the divide-and-conquer Valentine wasn’t even a blip on their managerial radar—chose almost from the outset to inflame rather than inspire his players?

Will John Henry’s hammer drop on Bobby V., his rickety clubhouse, or both . . .?

It wasn’t the players who threw Kevin Youkilis under the proverbial bus right out of the chute, questioning his heart in hand with his physical condition, possibly as revenge for Youkilis, supposedly, being the one who dropped the proverbial dime on the chicken-and-beer contingency of last September. (Enough say that was the precise moment Valentine lost much of his clubhouse.)

It wasn’t the players who filled out the wrong lineup card against the Minnesota Twins shortly after the Youkilis yak—though it was one player (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) who caught the blunder in time enough for its correction.

It wasn’t the players who made a starter out of setup man Daniel Bard only to learn the hard way Bard would be in over his head in that role.

It wasn’t the players who finked on now-traded Kelly Shoppach, who took his complaint about playing time to Valentine for a private discussion about it.

It wasn’t the players who took poor Will Middlebrooks’s “nice inning, kid” barb from Valentine public. (Though it may have been one player, post-Tommy John patient John Lackey, out for the season while he recuperates from the procedure, who took that remark to Henry privately. Emphasis on “privately.” Lackey may have his troubles otherwise, but he wasn’t looking to make a press pump out of it.)

It wasn’t the players who betrayed Clay Buchholz’s private request for an extra day’s rest and threw in a subtle implication that Buchholz’s heart, too, should be deemed suspect.

It wasn’t the players who decided Jon Lester absolutely needed to stay in, on a day he clearly didn’t have it, for an eleven-run beating from which no one could find anyone to step in for him before it got past a five-run first-inning flogging.

And it wasn’t the players who told the Boston Herald, ““I hear a lot of (players) say, ‘Why doesn’t anybody talk about this other team like that? Why don’t they talk about anyone else?’ I just say, ‘It’s just because this is who we are. We’re the Red Sox.’ And maybe it’s because of who I am, too. They have to understand, I’m here. There’s going to be a lot of bullets thrown my way, and they can become collateral damage.”

The Red Sox players aren’t quite innocent. But if Henry were to heed Brown and deputise Cherington to clean house, the housecleaning probably has to include the manager, too. If Valentine has a few too many of the wrong players to lead, high-priced or otherwise, a few too many of the right players (high-priced or otherwise) have the wrong manager to lead them. And what would make someone think that cleaning out the Red Sox clubhouse would give the divide-and-conquer Valentine a better shake at anything . . .  other than possibly blowing up a cleaner clubhouse, perhaps while shrugging that off as just a case of collateral damage from the “bullets” thrown his way?

Valentine has his talents as a manager. Unfortunately, they’re not suited for just any old place. And Boston, for better or worse, isn’t just any old place.

ABOUT THOSE TRADE-DEADLINE PICKUPS—In a word, says SweetSpot’s David Schoenfeld, they’ve been duds thus far, to a considerable extent:

Ryan Dempster—After all the hoopla about where he’d go (or want to go), before he finally consented to go to Texas, Dempster as a Ranger has been nuked for 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings in three starts, two of which saw him reached for eight runs each.

Anibal Sanchez—As a Tiger, he’s been a pussycat: 1-3, 7.97 ERA since going to Detroit, 19 runs in 20.1 innings, and by the way he got lit up Monday, too.

Zack Greinke—Until he beat the Indians Tuesday night, Greinke came off a five-walk game and the Angels hadn’t won in his previous three starts since joining them.

Hunter Pence—Struggling when the Phillies dealt him to the Giants in the first place, Pence through Tuesday had a .445 OPS.

Ichiro Suzuki—The good news: He’s been a better Yankee than Mariner this season. The bad news: He’s not exactly pushing the Empire Emeritus closer to the top.

Jonathan Broxton—In four innings with Cincinnati, he’s burped up four runs. Not to mention one loss and one blown save in one of his gigs.

The good news? Hanley Ramirez isn’t putting up a better OPS in Los Angeles than he did in Miami, but he has driven in eighteen runs since joining the Dodgers. Omar Infante (to the Tigers) and Shane Victorino (to the Dodgers) are doing well in their new environs. Chris Johnson also has eighteen ribs since joining the Diamondbacks. And Paul Maholm, not exactly the most glittering name on the non-waiver trade block, has allowed only three runs in his first two Atlanta starts, building himself to a total of eight runs in his previous eight starts.

Braun, with Brains

As regards the Ryan Braun hoopla, a thought or three:

1) There remains a presumption of innocence in law, in regulation, and in plain fact, if not necessarily in the proverbial court of public opinion. And public opinion’s consistency is, and has usually been, only slightly more reliable than the consistency of the average public office holder.

2) Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, stresses that baseball’s stringent enough drug testing policies were designed in part to prevent a rush to judgment. Never mind that it will do nothing of the sort in actual fact, considering that rushing to judgment is precisely what enough professional baseball analysts and elements of public opinion are doing.

3) Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who resists few opportunities for even an abbreviated grandstand, thought he was being funny when he called for a do-over of the National League Division Series in which the Milwaukee Brewers out-lasted the Arizona Diamondbacks. It would appear the thing McCain can resist even less than a chance for a grandstand is the chance to point the way to wisdom by taking positions exactly opposed to it.

4) Braun is taking risk enough in taking the offencive since his positive drug test was made news by T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN. If his appeal is denied, if he cannot convince arbitrator Shyam Dyas that the test was indeed erroneous, he’s going to look foolish at best.

Does he fit the (actual or alleged) profile?

5) Those who observe that Braun doesn’t fit the stereotype, actual or alleged, of those who have been known to use performance-enhancing substances, actual or alleged, have a pretty point. Aside from his physical appearance, Braun in 2011 actually experience nothing of the kind of statistical spike from his career averages that one might think somewhat typical of the PED (actual or alleged) user. Since the positive test occurred during the postseason, there is, as Jayson Stark reminds us, no evidence–none–that Braun was doing something untoward during the regular season, which is what the Most Valuable Player award addresses. Consider:

a) He hit 33 home runs on the regular season, which happens to be one home run higher than his career seasonal average to date.

b) He had 77 total extra base hits, which happens to be two higher than his to-date career seasonal average.

c) He hit one more double (38) than his career seasonal average.

d) He scored eight more runs and drove in five more than his career seasonal averages.

e) His 2011 on-base and slugging percentages were higher than his 2010 figures, but neither of the 2011 percentages was his career peak.

f) ESPN’s Home Run Tracker determined that Braun’s average home run distance in fact shrank during 2011–to 407.3, from 408.2.

6) It is not unreasonable to conclude that Braun won his Most Valuable Player award on the square, or at least on grounds nothing much different than his career thus far.

7) It was further reasonable, even before the October test result became known, to question Braun’s MVP on the grounds that a player who was worth 7.7 wins above a replacement-level player should not have been considered the most valuable player above another player, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was worth 10.0 wins above a replacement-level player. Had the Dodgers not been a turmoil-wracked team, the turmoil not exactly residing in their clubhouse, destined for a near no-show in the National League West otherwise, Kemp and not Braun would have been the National League’s most obvious MVP.

8) Those who clamour for the revocation of Braun’s MVP may be clamouring for not just a slippery slope but a snapped elevator cable. If you want to revoke Braun’s MVP before there is final and incontrovertible proof that he cheated, that he derived an unreasonable performance advantage, never mind that you’d be arguing he “cheated” his way to practically his career averages, are you prepared to revoke previous hardware awarded previous performers caught or confessing to have used actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances during the period the hardware recognised?

9) You’d be very hard pressed to argue that Braun enjoyed any kind of competitive advantage untied to his core ability, considering the Brewers required a complete five-game set to push the Diamondbacks to one side—with only Game Five being a close-game win—and move on to lose the pennant in a six-game set to the Cardinals. Both Brewer wins in the set were reasonably close; the Cardinals won one close game (Game Three) and ran away with two games (Game Two and Six) that looked close only for brief interludes (they led 5-2 after four in Game Two; they had a 5-4 lead after two in Game Six, before a four-run outburst in the top of the third to which the Brewers had few if any answers the rest of the game).

10) Braun could very well enjoy a sad last laugh, and it would do nothing toward dissipating the syndrome of denying the facts their precedence over a juicy story.