Grumble, grumble, outrage!

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

37 thoughts on “Grumble, grumble, outrage!

  1. Sandy

    So, Brien, now you care about whether an action violates federal law? When we were discussing steroid use and I made the comment that steroids were banned in baseball because their use without a prescription violated federal law, you dismissed that notion as unimportant. Why the double standard?

    I agree with you on this silly suggestion by Griffin, but I'd like to hear an explanation for your inconsistency when it comes to applying federal law to the MLB workplace.

    • BrienJackson

      1. Hall of Fame voting is neither a workplace nor labor law matter.

      2. As far as the workplace is concerned, the mere fact that a substance is illegal under federal law does not give an employer an authority to unilaterally impose drug testing or workplace punishments outside the bounds of a binding collective bargaining agreement. That would be, wait for it…illegal.

      • Not to speak for Biren, but if a player were to be busted for PED use, Major League Baseball would have no legal responsibility. If salaries were to be suppressed, MLB would be sued. There is no connection between the two.

      • Sandy

        Your earlier suggestion that federal law was subservient to the CBA was not limited to Hall of Fame voting. I made the case that steroid use in baseball was banned because it was illegal, and you said that it was not, since the issue had not been collectively bargained. That was, and continues to be, utter nonsense. You are now moving the goalposts.

        • ChipBuck

          Steroids weren't banned because they're illegal. They were banned due to political pressure and a public relations stance. Everyone knew what was going as it was happening. They turned their heads because the money was rolling in. Don't pretend like steroid use wouldn't have continued if everyone had kept their mouths shut. Had legality been an issue, steroids would've been banned and testing would've been implemented decades ago.

          • Sandy

            Chip, Brien has said that steroid use was not banned in baseball until testing was implemented, thereby taking every user off the hook. I'm simply pointing out that that statement is incorrect, regardless of whether there was testing in place. Brien can fairly claim that MLB looked the other way, and he can reasonably claim that without testing, players would continue to use steroids. But he has claimed that their use was permitted during the 1990s and early 2000s, which is simply not true.

          • ChipBuck

            I've had a few discussions with Brien on this, and I agree with him. Whether the rule was on the books, it wasn't collectively bargained; testing didn't exist; and clear punitive measures weren't in place to enforce the rules. Essentially, MLB stood by and ignored it, thus making the rule virtually non-existent.

            For example, if you tell your child not to eat cookies before dinner, and he ignores you. Does the "no cookies before dinner" rule really matter if you don't punish him? Of course not. He'll go on continue eating the cookies before dinner because he knows you'll allow him to do so without punishing him. The same thing happened with steroids in baseball. Inaction created a sense of permission.

          • BrienJackson

            Permitted as a matter of fact and practice, if not a damn near formal sense. Your contention is that steroids were against the rules because they were against federal law, which of course falls apart once we get to other areas of the legal code, and because Fay Vincent said so, even though Vincent was far from a consensus builder.

          • To put a finer point on things, steroids themselves are not illegal. Taking prescription medication without a prescription is illegal.

        • forged

          Huh? Those two things (steroids and AJ's salary) are apples and oranges as far as topics go.

          Hall of Fame voting is based on rating the best players of a particular era by the rules they played in. Baseball didn't choose to test for steriods until after what they deemed was sufficient evidence was present to suggest it was a major problem for baseball. (It isn't obligated to test for steriods … they just happen to be illegal without prescriptions in the US.)

          The HOF voting is being discussed in other articles because there is a large debate about what to do with the players that may well have been using supplements that weren't tested for, but are deemed performance enhancers. (My own personal take is documented in other comments on this site is pretty much: if they let Gaylord Perry in and other players who took Greenies, they really can't complain about the suspected steroid user crowd like Bonds and Clemens.)

          On the other hand, suppressing salaries is something you have seen baseball having been taken to court (multiple times) over accusations of collusion around salaries in the past.

          In short, baseball doesn't really have to test for drug usage or performance enhancers. They are now doing the latter because they want to even the playing field for players and because there might be long-term health implications for taking certain PEDs. (A more realistic view is that public opinion pressured them into doing it, but I'm guessing my previous statement is closer to their public reason they are giving.)

          • Sandy

            My point is not about the Hall of Fame voting. It is limited to Brien's earlier claim that steroid use was permitted because its prohibition had not been collectively bargained. That is wrong. Steroid use was not permitted. The CBA is not the controlling authority when it comes to such an issue; federal law is.

            This bothers me so much because I think that if steroids were permitted, that would allow all the players who used steroids to clear their consciences (at least, those who now care about such things). One can say that steroid use was rampant, which it likely was. One can say that so many players used that we should let the best ones into the Hall of Fame, which may happen. But those who used were breaking the law. They were cheating, even if that cheating was tolerated.

          • BrienJackson

            And this is why your argument simply does not hold water.

            1. If there was no testing mechanism nor any way whatsoever for baseball to punish "rulebreakers," how exactly can you possibly say the activity wasn't, in fact, permitted by baseball? Keep in mind that there is *deliberately* no enforcement mechanism in place.

            2. You can't simply waive your hands and define anything that violates federal law as "cheating," unless you're willing to say any and every violation of federal law amounts to cheating in your workplace, which I'm quite sure you probably wouldn't. This is just a way to work around the fact that steroid use was absolutely condoned by just about everyone in Major League Baseball, at least implicitly.

          • Sandy

            So you think that because MLB was tolerant of steroid use that means it was permitted? That's the slippery slope argument — that because a lot of people look the other way, and a lot of others are doing it too, it's allowed. No. I don't accept that rationalization. Players certainly knew they were cheating, that what they were doing was NOT allowed — that's why so many of them went to great pains to hide their steroid use.

            Every violation of federal law does indeed constitute cheating if it aids one's competitive position, since that's what cheating refers to. If you break the law to gain competitive advantage, you are a cheater, regardless of whether your employer or the media cares about your transgressions.

          • BrienJackson

            This makes no sense whatsoever. If everyone involved in the competition agrees implicitly to the acceptability of the behavior, it's just flat-out absurd to call it cheating (at least in the sense of attempting to scapegoat a small percentage of offenders after the fact) by any meaningful definition of the term.

          • Sandy

            But not everyone involved in the competition agreed to the acceptability of the behavior! I highly doubt that every player during the "steroid era" was using steroids. Labeling a cheating behavior as permissible does a disservice to those who didn't cheat.

          • This logic assumes that everyone who chose not to use them themselves a) disapproved of other players choosing to use them and b) approved of the owners implementing a drug testing policy to enforce a ban, which is basically the definition of facts not in evidence (and pretty well contradicted by the lived history of the era).

          • Sandy

            With regard to (a), I feel confident that most of the players who weren't cheating disapproved of the players who were cheating. Why would they endorse the actions of others when those actions diminished their own achievements and threatened their own pay? Few spoke up at the time, likely for fear of reprisal, but simple self-interest (and a basic understanding of ethics) suggests that most disapproved.

            With regard to (b), you keep suggesting that somehow testing is a factor in this debate. It's not. Testing is not required for cheating to be wrong on the merits. Testing is only required for implementing a system of punishment.

          • BrienJackson

            On a), well, that's nice. I don't know what to tell you, I guess. It's your right to make that assumption, but you have no basis for it beyond imputing an assumption of thought onto another group of people, despite the fact that the union adamantly rejected drug testing up until 2002.

            As for b), you're just being over pedantic. If there is, by design, no means to enforce a rule or to ensure a person isn't "cheating," than it's beyond fair to say engaging in a certain behavior isn't cheating, because the system is designed to ensure they can't be punished for it.

          • Sandy

            I'm not being pedantic. We just don't share the same code of ethics. I don't mean this as a personal attack; it's simply my conclusion based on this lengthy conversation. I don't think there has to be a formal system of punishment in place for something to be wrong. This is a basic concept that we teach children at a very young age.

            That players who were using steroids hid that fact reinforces the notion that they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they were intending to cheat. It's a perfectly reasonable and well-supported assumption.

          • forged

            I missed a turn somewhere. (I might be reading too fast, if so I apologize.)

            When did Brien state that steriods to get ahead in sports was a good thing?

            There is ample evidence that the media and everyone else involved with MLB turned a blind-eye to steriods for a long-time — despite the fact that the way steriods were being used sure sounds like it was illegal by the United States.

            An employer doesn't have to drug test its employees (current or prospective). If federal laws have been violated (and it very likely was) then the law agencies should enforce the laws.

          • danrizzle

            I think when Brien says it was "in fact permitted" that means the following:

            1) MLB players were taking illegal substances.
            2) MLB knew about it.
            3) MLB did nothing about it.

            Even if there is a rule on the books that says conduct is prohibited (which is arguable), then if that rule is uniformly not enforced (or in this case even enforceable because there was no enforcement mechanism), then MLB permitted it as a matter of fact by its own inaction. It's like travelling in the NBA. Against the rules, but yet permitted.

        • BrienJackson

          "Your earlier suggestion that federal law was subservient to the CBA was not limited to Hall of Fame voting."

          No, you're just conflating the enforcement powers of Major League Baseball with those of duly empowered law enforcement agencies.

  2. Tom N.

    How is it bad that the Pirates are getting a pitcher that they want, but otherwise would not have been able to afford? Would it be better for the Pirates if a pitcher that they believe makes their team better was forced to be glued to the Yankees bench?

    The Yankees are going to end up paying $70 million for 1 good year and 2 poor years of AJ Burnett. That sounds like the Yankees are being adequately punished for offering a terrible contract, doesn't it?

    Also, what about all the times the Yankees rescued other teams from the terrible contracts that they've been under, giving those teams much-needed salary relief?

    "has always required the presence of better pitchers on his own staff to be most effective."

    This literally makes zero sense.

    • BrienJackson

      And if you adjust for the fact that he only pitched for the Yankees for three seasons, the Yankees will end up paying an AAV of ~$23 million for his time in New York.

      • ChipBuck

        Totally!

      • jay_robertson

        So the Yankees spent CC money – for….AJ? I guess I'm slow today – I don't see how that adversely impacts any teams, large or small, except the Yankees. Although it did have had a POSITIVE impact on every team that was bidding on AJ and missed out, due to the Yankee's "outrageous" contract.

        Every team that got "cheated" out of AJ's services needs to send the Yankees some form of revenue compensation.
        Or at the very least, a thank-you card and a box of stale Valentine's Day candy.

        • hmelawyer

          It had a further positive impact on every other team: Absent a limitless payroll (which this year we have seen does not exist) the effect of the Yankees paying Burnett's contract for little value inhibited them from pursuing players who may have been better and thus promoted competitive balance.

      • forged

        Thanks for pointing that out Brien. That's actually a much better way to think about the contract than having to think about the fact that the Yankees are paying for him to pitch for the Pirates this season.

  3. ChipBuck

    Um…didn't Burnett sign a 5 year $82.5M contract, and not an $88.5M one? Secondly, how are better pitchers on the staff going to make him look more effective? Wouldn't that make him look by comparison? Look, Griffin, either you're effective or you're not. Plain and simple.

    Honestly, my favorite lol moment, other than his rampant disregard for logic and rational thought, was that he said Burnett was "barely .500." Nice to know where he stands on the stats argument.

    • BrienJackson

      I assumed the better pitchers thing was a reference to the way Halladay supposedly helped him in Toronto.

  4. I'm sure it would have been better for the Pirates to just keep getting rejected by players who actually have a choice.

  5. Hippeaux

    Nice catch, Brien. What a ridiculous article. Leaving aside the pseudological inconsistencies (like, if Roy Halladay was the reason Burnett was good in Toronto, why didn't Sabathia make him better in New York?), what really bothers me is the suggestion that Selig should wield autocratic power over the league, ala David Stern (who, at least, had a tiny bit of justification because the league owned the Hornets). Also, the suggestion that Burnett's was a contractual standard-bearer flys in the face of all evidence. There have been only four contracts as large or larger than Burnett's handed to starting pitchers since '09. Cliff Lee and Sabathia are obviously not comparable to A. J. Nor, in my opinion, is Jered Weaver. So, yes, the following season the Red Sox overpaid for John Lackey, but Lackey did have a far more consistent track record than Burnett at the time. I think, rather than arguing that A. J.'s contract raised the market on "inconsistent pitcher with great stuff," we could actually see it depressing it, as recent years have seen somewhat comparable pitchers (Edwin Jackson, Brett Myers, Erik Bedard, etc.) treated with extreme skepticism when they hit the open market.

    • GabeLezra

      This is a really good point. The combination of the AJ and the Lackey deals have depressed the market if anything.

  6. SRW

    Don't worry about anything Griffin says… Toronto fans don't take him seriously either. At least not the ones who know anything about baseball.

    • Here’s more proof that Griffin is a douche. In an article ranking the 30 teams for 2012, he listed the following people as stars: Torii Hunter, Orlando Hudson, Alfonso Soriano, Coco Crisp. He listed the following people as stars under 25: Trevor Plouffe, Chris Davis, Josh Thole. Some of these guys were productive players once upon a time or popular prospects, but stars? Hell no! And those are not the only player I want to mention, but the rest are more debatable.

      I don’t have a link because a friend of mine has the actual physical newspaper article and showed it to me.

  7. williamjtasker

    Did Griffin complain when the Blue Jays unloaded Vernon Wells? Just asking.

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