The ‘What would Melky do?’ suggestions flooding into the Baseball on 5 Live studio on Sunday were an apt response to the latest bizarre twist in the Melky Cabrera drug ban saga.
You would struggle to find a player’s potential free agent market take as big a tumble as Melky Cabrera’s has over the last couple of weeks. He appeared to be on his way to a huge pay day, having by far the best year of his career this season ahead of his impending free agency.
Getting banned for 50 games due to failing a drugs test has cut his season short and there will be a lingering suspicion that he was only having such a good season because of his drug use (whether accurate or not, no one can really say for sure).
When you then add on the so-ridiculous-it’s-comical attempt by an associate to plant fake evidence on a website in an attempt to get him off the charge, the ‘buyer beware’ sticker grows even larger.
There’s little doubt he’ll find a new team (the A’s even gave Manny Ramirez a Minor League deal this offseason, after all) however he may well have to accept a one-year deal and to rebuild his stock for another shot at free agency the following offseason.
The affair has made me reconsider my stance on part of the drug-testing procedure.
When reflecting on the Ryan Braun case back in February, I felt that the players’ privacy should be respected as part of the appeals process as the system is already heavily leaned towards the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ starting point.
I still maintain that view on the basis that it is what all parties have signed up to in the current system; however what happened in the Melky Cabrera case shows why there could be a public interest in exposing such cases and why there should be greater transparency introduced to the drug-testing process.
If somebody is of the dastardly mind to want to use drugs in a way to ‘beat the system’ then it stands to reason that they’ll do whatever they can to get off the charge, even if that means using further underhand practices.
To my knowledge, MLB and the Players Association do not disclose any details of cases where players have tested positive and were subsequently able to see the potential ban quashed.
Take Joey Votto as an example. There’s no reason to suspect him of having taken drugs other than the fact that he’s a fantastic ballplayer, but for all we know he might have produced a positive test in the past year and wriggled his way out of it.
Major Leaguers have the money in the bank, not to mention lucrative contracts to gain in the future, to fund hot-shot lawyers or – if so calculatedly minded – to spend on elaborate methods to try to conceal their liability. If you were already in trouble and the risk was a slightly more tarnished reputation at getting found out against not ruining a potential $200m+ contract extension, why wouldn’t you try your luck.
It might have sounded far-fetched before, but now we know an associate of Cabrera’s spent $10k on an existing website in an attempt to make it look like the product had been bought legitimately, who knows what other tricks can be, and maybe have already been, pulled.
To even suggest such a scenario in relation to Votto could be seen as grossly unfair – just because we don’t know that he hasn’t failed an initial test doesn’t mean he has – and that’s why there should be more transparency.
We should know how many times he and every other player has been tested over the course of the year and whether any further investigations were needed in any case. That way Votto has a public clean record he can point to if anyone doubts his innocence (remember not so long ago when Jose Bautista stated the number of times he had been tested and had his honesty about this questioned).
If in time we found that the clean record was the result of designer steroids or dodging the testers, as Victor Conte would claim, then we would have evidence available to put the effectiveness of the drug-testing programme under the microscope.
As it is we have a system that, far from protecting the privacy of the innocent, appears to give drug users a chance to circumvent the system and leaves the rest suffering the insinuation of cheating with no effective way to counter it.