Pettitte and HGH

I have to perform a dirty job. While my colleagues here at IIATMS get to write glowing tributes to Andy Pettitte, I instead need to examine the only true blemish on Pettitte’s career: his brush with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). I can’t escape this assignment: I do most of the writing here on PEDs.

Let’s give it a shot. Let’s try to perform a “rational” analysis of Pettitte and PEDs. Let’s see if we can answer the $64 question: should Pettitte’s admitted use of human growth hormone (HGH) affect his candidacy for admission to baseball’s Hall of Fame?

To understand Pettitte’s use of HGH, I’ll ask three simple questions. Did he cheat? Did he lie? Did he performance-enhance?

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When A Trip To The Gas Station Goes Wrong (Part I of a Series on Anti-Doping)

Doping is on my mind of late. Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is up for renegotiation this year, so baseball will have the chance to reconsider and refine its anti-doping program. This program isn’t bad overall (ESPN gives it a B+), but it needs improvements. We’ll talk about these needed improvements in later posts.

If you ask many critics of baseball’s anti-doping program (including U.S. Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain), the program should not be improved — it should be scrapped, and replaced with a program run by an “independent authority”. The Mitchell Report, baseball’s investigation into performance-enhancing drugs, also recommended that baseball’s anti-doping effort be run independently. The obvious available independent authority is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the agency that operates the anti-doping program for U.S. Olympic sports. USADA runs its program under the anti-doping code adopted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and it’s no surprise that WADA is a chief critic of baseball’s internally-run anti-doping program. WADA has made it clear many times: it wants to take charge of the anti-doping effort in baseball.

So, when we consider how to improve baseball’s anti-doping program, the first question is whether we should turn the operation of this program over to USADA and WADA. From my standpoint, the answer to this question is obvious. Can we learn from the approach WADA and USADA take to anti-doping? You bet we can. But should we let these agencies take over baseball’s anti-doping program? No. No way.

I’m going to illustrate my point by telling you two doping stories. The first story involves Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo. Mayo plays in the National Basketball Association, which (like Major League Baseball) has an anti-doping program run independently of WADA. The second story involves cyclist Alberto Contador, and I’ll tell his story in a later post. I’ve picked these stories more or less at random, and neither story paints a completely positive or negative picture of anti-doping. But the two stories illustrate the difference between the WADA and the MLB approaches to anti-doping. Once I’ve told both stories, we can contrast, and compare, and decide if WADA jurisdiction would truly be best for the game of baseball.

Ready? Let’s begin.

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It must be February. We must all have cabin fever. We must be giddy at the thought that pitchers and catchers will soon report. We cannot entirely be in our right minds.

Because the Red Sox and the Yankees are actually saying nice things to each other.

Let’s start with Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. In a breakfast appearance at New York’s Hard Rock Café last week, Cashman said that the Red Sox currently have a better team than the Yankees.

In baseball terms, that’s a nice, big, wet kiss thrown in the direction of “the nation”.

In response, here’s Red Sox President Larry Lucchino:

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The Accidental Budget

Just think! It wasn’t long ago when we were wondering how to fit a Cliff Lee megacontract into the Yankees’ budget. I was projecting a 2011 record-breaking payroll of around $230 million, maybe more. Guys in the press were writing about how the Yankees might sign Cliff Lee AND Carl Crawford.

That’s not the way things panned out. So far, the Yankees’ big free agent signings are relief pitchers Rafael Soriano and Pedro Feliciano — solid ballplayers both, but neither near as expensive as a Lee or a Crawford. So the way it looks now, the Yankees’ 2011 opening day payroll will be lower than it was last year.

Now is a good time to update my projection of the Yankees’ 2011 payroll, given the Yankees’ signing of Soriano and Andruw Jones:

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Continue reading The Accidental Budget

Chastised, but Not Discouraged: More on ‘Roids, Greenies and Public Perception

Earlier this week, I wrote that “performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) may be the most difficult topic in sports to discuss intelligently.” Then I went on to prove my point in my own discussion of amphetamines.

No, no. I’m being too self-critical. In fairness to myself, much of what I wrote WAS intelligent. Some of what I wrote was not so intelligent. Some of it was incomplete. Some of it got wrong what others, like Rob Neyer, have written on the subject.

So. Allow me to add to my earlier discussion, to set things right and to make amends where necessary.

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‘Roids and Greenies

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) may be the most difficult topic in sports to discuss intelligently.

Witness the discussion of PEDs that has accompanied this year’s voting for Hall of Fame candidates. Most baseball writers (let’s call them the “Zero Tolerance Camp”) state that they will never support Hall of Fame induction for any player who has admitted to using anabolic steroids (for example, Mark McGwire) or who has tested positive for anabolic steroids (for example, Rafael Palmeiro). This year, a new faction emerged: writers who refuse to support players that are suspected of having used anabolic steroids (for example, Jeff Bagwell), even if there’s no real evidence supporting those suspicions.

Zero Tolerance Camp members include Jeff Pearlman, Howard Bryant, Terence Moore and Tom Verducci. I have great respect for some of these writers, in particular Howard Bryant, but I’m frustrated that these writers never ask themselves the hard questions. For example: is use of anabolic steroids all that different from any other form of cheating in baseball? Do anabolic steroids really confer such an enormous advantage that the only rational response to their use is to ban all users (actual or suspected) from the Hall of Fame?

A different group of writers is pushing back against the Zero Tolerance Camp. These writers (let’s call them the “Tolerance Camp”) argue that anabolic steroid use appears to have been commonplace in baseball during the so-called “Steroids Era” of 1994-2004, and that we cannot fairly exclude just those few steroids users who confessed or got caught. These same writers argue that we cannot fairly expand “zero tolerance” to include suspected PED users, since we cannot accurately decide for ourselves (in the absence of confessions or other proof) which players were steroids users and which were not. And we cannot simply exclude 10 years of baseball history from the Hall of Fame.

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Is The Gap Shrinking Between Baseball’s Rich and Poor?

By one measure, the gap between baseball’s rich and poor shrunk in 2010.

Right before Christmas, Major League Baseball announced that $404 million in revenue sharing moved from baseball’s richest teams to baseball’s poorest teams in 2010. This is a drop of 6.7% from the $433 million in revenue sharing that changed hands in 2009. While the formula for computing revenue sharing is complicated, the aggregate amount of revenue sharing depends on two factors: total baseball revenue and the differences in revenues between baseball’s largest and smallest grossing teams. Total baseball revenues increased in 2010, so the drop in revenue sharing must have been caused by baseball’s rich becoming a bit less rich, and baseball’s poor becoming a bit less poor.

Is this good news for those of us who’d like to see greater economic parity in baseball? Perhaps. But a one-time drop in revenue sharing is not enough to signal a trend. In the words of the sabermatricians, we’re dealing here with too small a sample size to reach a meaningful conclusion. Besides, if the gap was truly shrinking between baseball’s richest and poorest teams, we’d have seen improvement in the financial fortunes of baseball’s poorest relations, like the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Florida Marlins. We saw no evidence of any such improvement in 2010.

More likely, the drop in total revenue sharing is explained by the story of a few baseball teams:

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Lee Is A Philly (Again)

Cliff Lee shocked the baseball world today by turning down the Yankees and Rangers, and signing instead with the “mystery team” in these negotiations, the Philadelphia Phillies.

For Yankees fans looking for a bright side to this story, the news could have been worse. At least Cliff Lee did not sign with the Rangers (or the Red Sox). At least the Yanks will face Cliff Lee only in interleague play, and perhaps in the World Series. Also, we won’t have to read any snarky MSM stories about how the Yankees used their money to overwhelm the rest of baseball and grab yet another $20 million plus free agent. Instead, we’ll have to read the snarky stories about how the Yankees weren’t able to sign Cliff Lee even with all of the money they offered him.

Our focus now will shift quickly to the Yankees’ so-called “plan B” to improve the team for 2011. For the moment, I advise deep cleansing breaths and a rational approach. The Yanks did manage to win 95 games last year without the help of Mr. Lee.

For those who are historically inclined, this is the second time in 150 years that a Lee spurned the Yankees. Maybe we should have seen it coming.

More on this story will follow here in the upcoming days and weeks. Continue reading Lee Is A Philly (Again)

Cliff Lee’s Worth (The “No Panic” Edition)

Don’t you just love the mainstream media?

The MSM narrative is that the Yankees are “reeling” from the BoSox signing of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Never mind that the Yankees never tried to sign either Crawford or Gonzalez, and have no pressing need for a new first baseman or left fielder. The MSM perceives that the Yankees have reacted with “knee-jerk panic” to the dual Boston signings, and that the team is now “desperate” to sign Cliff Lee away from the Texas Rangers. This desperation is evident to the MSM in the team’s decision to extend a 7-year contract offer to Cliff Lee. Apparently, no team offers a seven year contract unless the management of the team is not right in the head. This seven year offer is described in one article as “insane”.

Of course, the Red Sox (betraying no reported sense of panic or evidence of insanity) just signed Crawford to a 7-year deal, and is close to signing a similar deal with Gonzalez. *sigh*

Let’s get rational here. The Yankees have offered Cliff Lee a 7 year contract at $23 million per year. Sure, we know that baseball performances are unpredictable, and the performances of pitchers are particularly unpredictable. But is the Yankees’ offer too good, too rich, for too many years?

The evidence is otherwise. Assuming that Cliff Lee can turn in a more or less expected performance over the next seven years, the Yankees have not offered to overpay for him. In fact, if Cliff Lee follows his predicted path from this point forward, the Yankees’ current offer of 7 years at $23 million per year will be a good deal for the Yankees. Moreover, even if Cliff Lee does not perform quite as well as expected, the Yankees will still be getting a reasonable deal at 7 years/$23 million. Sure, there’s a risk that the Yankees could regret this contract … but that risk exists in every long-term baseball contract, and the Yankees are better able to afford this risk than any other team in baseball.

So … while we all may worry that Cliff Lee may spurn the Yankees’ latest offer, we should not worry about the financial consequences if Lee says “yes”. There is no panic evident in this contract offer. The only thing I see evident in this offer is that both the Yankees and Cliff Lee are savvy negotiators and have on the table an offer that reflects Lee’s true worth as a ballplayer.

To prove my point, let’s go to the numbers.

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