Friday, March 14, 2014

1 comments Bob Nightengale Discusses Jhonny Peralta, Seems to Be Just an Excuse for More Teeth Gnashing Over PED Use; Goose Gossage Still a Hypocrite

We currently have 9 teams in our BotB Fantasy Baseball League and I'd like to have one more. If anyone wants to join then the ID is 69631 and the password is "eckstein." I'm holding off finalizing the league (the draft is tomorrow) for a few more hours until I see if we can get one more team.

When we last left the "Jhonny Peralta is a cheater" teeth gnashing, Mitch Albom was giving everyone a lecture about caring. Now Peralta has signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals, the modern day standard for "playing baseball the right way," and Bob Nightengale wants to talk about Peralta and the evolving relationship baseball has with PED users. In reality, it seems he wants to give retired players a chance to talk about what terrible cheating PED use is. What's interesting is Nightengale starts off the column showing Nelson Cruz as an example of a player hurt in free agency by PED use, but then goes on to talk about Jhonny Peralta is now making more money after his PED use in free agency. Bob tries to have it both ways and show how Cruz was hurt in free agency by PED use while showing how Peralta has benefited from his PED use. I'm not sure there is a right answer, but a good teeth gnashing session requires Nightengale only focus on the player (Peralta) helped by his PED use rather than focusing on Cruz, who seems to have been hurt slightly by his connection to PED's.

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta, his eyes dancing, broke into an expansive grin hearing the news that his buddy finally got a job.

Tim Keown is frustrated upon hearing another foreigner has taken an American baseball job. 

Finally, free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz found a team, signing with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday and set to join his new team Tuesday, a week after their camp opened.

So here is an example of a PED user having difficulty finding a job (for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with PED's...which is an important point). Jhonny Peralta did not have trouble finding a job after getting caught having used PED's. It's so hard to write a narrative when there isn't a clear narrative to write.

I informed him Cruz received a one-year deal for $8 million.

Peralta slammed his eyes shut.

"Oh, no.''

Yes, that sounds hideous. Only $8 million on a one year deal. I wish I lived in a world where this was bad news. I get upset when a local restaurant raises prices by a dollar all across their menu or there aren't any beers on special.

Yep, only $8 million for the finest right-handed power-hitter on the free-agent market, just three months after turning turning down the Texas Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer.

It turned out to be a $6 million blunder.

What's weird is that the rest of this column is talking about how it's unfair for PED users to benefit from PED use, yet it's clear that Nelson Cruz was hurt by his link to PED's. So what gives? I know the focus is on Peralta, but when hearing ex-/current players complain about PED use benefiting players why is the fact Nelson Cruz didn't come close to getting the money he wanted on the free agent market and Rafael Palmeiro was essentially black-balled not mentioned? These are two players who clearly did not benefit fully from their PED use and suffered some sort of harm as a result. No team wanted to sign an old and cheating Palmeiro.

The first-round draft pick compensation proved to be a deterrent. So was his age, 33. There were those hamstring issues. His outfield defensive deficiencies.

It's almost like players shown to have used PED's are going to be judged like every other baseball player when it comes time for free agency.

And, of course, that cloud that hovered over him all winter: the 50-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs during his involvement with the infamous Biogenesis clinic in South Florida.

The bottom line is PED use will be factored in, but MLB teams are going to consider a player who has used PED's the same way they consider any other player...can that player provide a benefit to the team at a price that team finds acceptable? Players who are on a team with a PED user will support him, while players not on that player's team will be critical of him. It's just how it goes.

Cruz suddenly symbolizes baseball's drug policy at its finest. His involvement in the Biogenesis scandal and the resulting 50-game suspension likely cost him tens of millions of dollars in future earnings.

And Peralta has discovered that in some quarters, he symbolizes everything wrong with the system.

Again, maybe this is the result of MLB teams treating these PED users like they treat every other free agent. Cruz had injury concerns and first round compensation tied to him at a position where power can be found, while Peralta hits well for his position and didn't have injury concerns. Plus, the Cardinals play the game the right way, so that's the perfect spot for a cheater like Peralta.

If anything, this mix perhaps best captures the current state of baseball's ever-evolving relationship with the players it believes cheats the game.

Peralta, 31, returned from his suspension to help the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs. And then he received a four-year, $53 million contract.

The truth is that teams don't care about PED use and players only care about PED use when it's not one of their teammates who got caught using PED's. Otherwise, these players support their teammate.

That still eats at some veteran players.

Yea, teeth gnashing!

I completely get why players would be angry at other players for using PED's and then being rewarded. I do, but I also love some good teeth gnashing over PED use by ex-players like there wasn't a large amount of players using "greenies" and other amphetamines back in the 1970's.

"I'm a big believer that players are worth every dollar they get,'' Boston Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes told USA TODAY Sports. "You can't say that anybody is overpaid. But this is different.

"This is like if somebody was to rob a bank, eventually got caught, served five years in jail, got out, but still got to keep all the money.

Jonny Gomes is a member of the player's union. Get this changed. If enough players feel this way then the player's union should do something and say that if a player is found to have used PED's then he is prohibited from earning future money. Of course this opens up a number of issues, namely why wouldn't a player be allowed to continue playing baseball and getting paid for doing so if he has paid his penalty? Using Gomes' example, that's like saying because a person robbed a bank he/she can't ever have a job once the jail sentence has been served.

"That's how I compare it. And I like Peralta. I'm not mad at that guy. It's just that when a guy like (free agent shortstop) Stephen Drew is still at home, and this guy has that contract, it's a little tough.''

This is a good example of a non-PED player being treated like a player who has been proven to use PED's. Drew has injury issues, first round compensation and wants more money than some teams are willing to pay...just like Nelson Cruz. So I would submit that Cruz and Drew are being treated in similar fashion and isn't that what players like Jonny Gomes wants? He wants there to be an even playing field where a guy serves his penalty and then doesn't get a benefit from using PED's? Cruz took $6 million less after declining the same $14.1 qualifying offer that Stephen Drew declined. So perhaps Drew could find a job if he took $6 million less than the qualifying offer he declined.

So it's interesting to me that Gomes brings up Stephen Drew, because I find him to be comparable to Nelson Cruz (in terms of situation as a free agent) and as proof that players who have used PED's are treated like every other MLB player after their sentence is served. Maybe that's not right, but why should Jhonny Peralta suffer a larger penalty of losing his chance at earning a contract after his penalty has been served? After all, these are the punishments the player's union and the owners agreed upon.

New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage told USA TODAY Sports: "It's a shame you get rewarded for cheating. There is no punishment. You get slapped on your wrist, you get suspended, and then you're wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.''

"Nothing pisses me off more than guys that cheat,'' Cleveland Indians pitcher David Aardsma tweeted, "and get raises for doing so."

Arizona Diamondbacks player-representative Brad Ziegler actually mockingly thanked the owners for "encouraging PED use,'' in his tweet, saying it's time to severely increase the penalties to eliminate the temptation of cheating.

I get it. I get the teeth gnashing. Unfortunately there is a lot of bitching going on and very little actual effort to provide a solution other than, "Take their money and don't let them make money ever again." It would be easier to take Gossage, Aardsma and Ziegler seriously if they had a real solution to this issue rather than complaints that someone else needs to think of a solution. Simply stating these players can't ever make money again essentially means these PED users are banned for life from baseball and that's not at all the penalty agreed upon in the CBA. Also, I don't recall David Aardsma telling Barry Bonds he is pissed off that he was cheating back when he played with Bonds in 2004. I'm sure Aardsma had NO CLUE Bonds was using PED's.

He lost $1.85 million during his suspension, and most important, he says, the game of baseball was taken from him.

Still, after earning $6 million in the final year of his three-year, $16.75 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, Peralta more than tripled his contract with the Cardinals.

What's wrong with Peralta accepting a contract he's offered? Blame the system and the teams. The same system that the current players agreed to, of course.

Peralta has always been well-liked by his teammates. New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who played with him in Cleveland, calls him one of his favorites. Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter and first baseman Miguel Cabrera consider him one of the game's gentlemen.

As always, it's easier to point a finger and get angry at a player who isn't on your team.

Peralta said he was actually thinking of appealing his suspension. He knew that if he lost the appeal, he would be facing a 100-game suspension, but he didn't want to let down his teammates.

The decision became easy July 30. It was the day the Tigers acquired shortstop Jose Iglesias, preparing for Peralta's suspension.

And we know if Peralta had appealed the suspension then he would have been treated as a pariah just like A-Rod, right?

Peralta returned from his suspension in time for the final series of the season, playing left field. He hit .417 in the Tigers' Division Series victory over the Oakland A's, and found himself coveted during the winter as if Biogenesis was nothing more than a herbal store. He was negotiating with the New York Yankees and Mets, he said, before the Cardinals lured him with their $53 million deal.

It's the Cardinals money. If they want to spend it on Jhonny Peralta, let them. What I also find interesting is these ex-/current players talk about Peralta benefiting from his PED use, but they are assuming his statistics with the Tigers were a result of using PED's and not Peralta's natural talent. I have a few thoughts on this issue that I think guys like Zeigler, Aardsma, and Gossage are neglecting to consider:

1. If Peralta's performance was based solely on his use of PED's then Peralta may benefit from his free agent deal, but the Cardinals are not going to benefit. So the Cardinals may be taking on a lot of risk by paying a player who used PED's to enhance his performance to such a lucrative deal. Again, it's their money and their risk.

2. If Peralta's performance wasn't solely based on his use of PED's then $53 million may be the fair market value for his services and he hasn't benefited from using PED's.

3. These positions aren't totally mutually exclusive, but these ex-/current players can't complain that Peralta is benefiting from his PED use while also complaining the Cardinals will benefit from signing a player who has used PED's. Either the PED's helped Peralta play better or they didn't. If Peralta is a fraud and won't be at the talent level from when he used PED's then the Cardinals are going to be stuck with an underperforming shortstop who is expensive. If Peralta isn't a fraud and he still is at his form when he used PED's then $53 million could be his fair market value and he hasn't robbed a bank or gotten a raise for using PED's.

So the position that Peralta is stealing money also assumes the Cardinals will pay negatively for signing Peralta. So why be angry with the Cardinals if they just took on an expensive, underachieving player? They got played for fools in that situation. Just like the position that Peralta is stealing money isn't an accurate point of view if Peralta continues to play at a high level.

"It's B.S. I don't understand why teams even sign these guys,'' Gossage says. "These GMs get so desperate, they don't care. They wish everybody was on them (PEDs) so they can perform better.

You mean these GM's want to re-visit the 1970's? Again, if the assumption is that Peralta was on PED's and got a big contract because of this, then there also should be an assumption of a decline in performance. So the Cardinals won't benefit from Peralta's great performance and Gossage shouldn't be angry with them.

"I know you can't come out and publicly say you can't sign these guys, but I wouldn't want them on my team. Back in the day, if you did something like that, nobody would sign you. You'd go back home and dig a ditch.''

Funny, I don't remember Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, Dale Berra, Hank Aaron, or (WAIT, WHAT IS THIS?) Goose Gossage digging ditches after quitting baseball.

Read those comments by Tom House...but I'm sure he's lying, right?

But no, the better part is Goose Gossage says taking "greenies" isn't cheating. Oh okay, I guess if you claim it isn't cheating then that means it's true. I remember that time I got caught with beer in my car in high school and I insisted that Coors Light isn't beer. The principal just laughed, opened up a cold one with me and then we began to search the school for kids smoking in the bathroom.

Said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak: "Uh, that would be collusion. You can't set legislation. You can only follow it.

"There is a penalty. He paid for it. Can you imagine if he was still unsigned? The players association would go nuts.''

But no, but no, the players want stiffer penalties for PED users and collusion against PED users. They just forgot to mention in the CBA and haven't thought to seriously propose this. It's not like the players want it both ways or anything. They don't want stiffer penalties and PED users to be blackballed on the free agent market, while criticizing owners for colluding against certain players.

"I'm surprised there were players that didn't want him signed,'' DeWitt said. "I don't think you want to exclude yourself from a category of players who have ever done anything wrong. It wasn't like there weren't a lot of bidders out there. He fit a need that we had.

Yeah, but collusion is okay in certain circumstances. And also, Peralta should have been prevented from earning a free agent contract, but this is totally different from a lifetime ban for the first PED offense of course. Peralta can still play in the majors, he just can't make money and benefit from his PED use. So Peralta doesn't benefit, he'll just play for free over the rest of his career and have the earnings he made while on PED's taken away. So while the player's union would freak out over a lifetime ban on the first positive test for PED's, this is essentially what these ex-/current players are suggesting.

"I think he's going to fit in real well here,'' says Cardinals veteran outfielder Matt Holliday, a vocal critic of players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs. "There is a penalty for it. And he paid his penalty. He took it like a man. That's the rule.

Everyone is a critic until they have to be in a locker room with a player who has used PED's. At that point, the player has done his time already and we should all move on.

Miami Marlins infielder Rafael Furcal, who spent the past two years with the Cardinals, actually helped persuade Peralta to sign with the Cardinals. He told them he'd not only be accepted by the fans, but may not hear a negative response all season.

"It's St. Louis, man,'' Furcal said. "They have the best fans in the world. They never boo people.

I like how one team's fans being "the best fans in the world" can be seen as another team's fans cheering for a group of players who are cheaters. I guess it all depends on the perspective.

"A-Rod and Braun were more involved,'' Peralta said. "There's more attention on them. They tried to fight. They tried to be tough. But people didn't like what they say.

"We'll see how people react once they see me. They'll see what kind of person I am.

"Hopefully, they will forgive me.''

I think there is a better chance of the fans forgiving Peralta than there is of ex-/current players who live in a world of their own hypocrisy of forgiving players who have used PED's. Ex-players like Goose Gossage live in a world where they think "greenies" aren't PED's and aren't cheating, while current players want stricter penalties and the owners to collude with each other to prevent PED users from earning money playing baseball again...except that's not what these players want at all. They support a lifetime ban on the first positive test for PED's, they just don't want that player to earn money in the past or future from having used PED's too. Because that's so different from a lifetime ban.

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