Will Melky Cabrera’s 50 Game Suspension Work

In case you missed it, Melky Cabrera was suspended this week for 50 games for using a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED). To his credit, Melky didn’t try and make excuses, he just accepted the suspension.

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.

Unfortunately, Melky’s suspension has opened up a can of worms that needed to be opened eventually. As I write this, the San Francisco Giants are only half a game out of first place in their division and one game out of the second wild card playoff slot. ESPN currently puts their chances of making the post-season at 47.9%. The question has begun to be asked, if Melky, arguably the best player on the Giants behind Buster Posey (who is excellent), hadn’t been cheating would the Giants be in contention?

To put it another way, are the Giants going to benefit from Melky’s cheating? Should they? Is 50 games even enough given that he could play this post-season if the Giants play more than 5 games?

Punishing Melky

Let’s start with the individual. Is 50 games enough? For Melky that is almost $2 million dollars of lost money and is reputation is damaged. He new the risks and still took testosterone. If he does it again, it’ll be twice as long at 100 games. A third offense is forever.

For many, especially those that suffered against Melky this season like the Diamondbacks, 50 games seems insufficient. I agree that it is, but I also believe in giving people a second chance.

What if we escalated the punishment to this:

  • First offense: Half a season plus one post-season. Ineligible for next two All-Star games. More severe but far from career ending. Also removes some perks that might occur depending on the timing. If you are caught early in the season, still can’t help your team at the end of it.
  • Second offense: Two years from the date of suspension. For any border-line player that was using steroids to hang-on to playing status, this may as well be a death sentence for their career.
  • Third offense: Banned from the game, just like gamblers.

In addition, for any offense, your team has the option to invalidate any contract so they aren’t obligated to pay you after your suspension ends. During the suspensions, in order to be reinstated, regular testing must take place to prevent abuse while under suspension. If the player is not signed to a contract, the testing must take place at their expense.

Fair and more of a bite. Of course, what about punishing the Giants?

Punishing the Team

The Giants may, or may not, have known about it. They may, or may not, be providing an atmosphere encourages PEDs. The problem is that no matter what the club does, if a player wants to take drugs they can do it without the club knowing or encouraging.

So what can be done? Do we vacate wins like they do in college sports? Dale Murphy, my childhood hero and favorite player of all time, takes a hard line against cheaters (rightfully so) and has advocated this drastic approach.

There are problems. How many wins? That entire season? The previous season? How is that fair to the other players? How does it differentiate between an All-Star leading their team and a bench player?

What if we used a stat to pick the number of wins to vacate? There is a stat for that, Wins Above Replacement (WAR). It measures the number of wins a player has contributed to their team over an average replacement player.

Melky’s WAR this year, 4.7, five if you round up (ESPN lists 4.6). Dropping five wins drops the Giants another 2.5 games back in each race. Likely not enough to make everyone happy.

What if we dropped those five wins and charged the Giants a roster spot for the next 30 days. Think about this for a minute. For the next month, the Giants will have one less roster spot than any of their opponents. That likely means one less player to come off of the bench as the bullpen likely won’t be shrunk.

That will hurt the team. That will likely cost them at least a win over that month. This will hurt the Giants and their ability to compete.

More importantly, this approach takes the quality of player into effect. Is it enough? Let’s implement it and find out. Until we see how teams respond we’ll never know for sure.

What would you do if you were in charge?



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