Mitchell’s Damocletian Sword

As we enter the hot stove season, I can’t help but wonder what kind of toll the specter of George Mitchell’s steroid report is taking on general managers. There hasn’t been much talk in the press about this, so I wonder to what extent those in the game consider it a story. Leaks suggest “big names” will be implicated, but what kind of penalties, beyond public approbation, they’ll be subject to is unknown. Just yesterday, the SF Chronicle (it this the only paper still on this story?) reported that Jose Guillen of the Mariners, along with the retired Matt Williams and Ismael Valdez, acquired HGH. So what protections, if any, are teams looking for when they talk about signing or trading for a player, especially a marquee player? Are they worried about damaged good and inflated stats? How have contracts changed since Giambi? It’s a tough position for the GM; the presumption has to be that players are innocent, and it’s a competitive market, but execs have to enter agreements with eyes wide open. I wish the press were on this a bit more, rather than harping about the relative dignitude of certain contracts.

66 comments… add one
  • it’s an interesting situation they’re in as GM’s because many of them probably have well-founded suspicions about certain players. There are numerous players I suspect were connected to steroids but my suspicions are basically superficial. General managers, on the other hand, actually work with these people, hear stories, etc.

    Nick-YF November 7, 2007, 12:31 pm
  • “As we enter the hot stove season, I can’t help but wonder what kind of toll the specter of George Mitchell’s steroid report is taking on general managers.”
    How does “none” sound?
    The GM’s should be asking themselves one question: Will this player help or hurt my team’s chances of winning?
    And history bears out that question and the associated answer. Not one player has been affected in earning a salary by a link to PED’s. Not Sheffield. Not Bonds. Not Byrd. And that won’t, and shouldn’t, change one iota.
    That doesn’t mean it’s right (and I think blood testing should be the standard), just that GM’s won’t care one bit.

    Anonymous November 7, 2007, 12:31 pm
  • “Not Bonds.”
    Seems to me that he is now being affected. There should be a much larger market than there is for someone as good as he is. If not for the baggage, we’d be talking about the Yanks signing Bonds.

    Nick-YF November 7, 2007, 12:33 pm
  • And look at the tarnished career of Paxton Crawford. ;-)
    I saw a story the other day basically saying GMs said they were not changing their m.o. because of the Mitchell report. I’m guessing they either already have players they suspect and thus stay away from, or they know the lag time between the report and the institution of any kind of stringent HGH testing system (because you know there will be at least a year of practice testing with no punishments) will be long enough to make any long-term deals worth it.
    As long as some big-name Red Sox get busted so we’ll know it’s fair. That’s all I’m concerned about.

    Paul SF November 7, 2007, 12:45 pm
  • Where would Bonds play in NY? LF is covered (twice). DH is taken.
    I think Bonds is rightly looked at for what he is – an older player without a position. The Giants have been paying WAY more than necessary. Now Bonds will get 10-15 million. That’s hardly a sign of a PED stigmata.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 12:47 pm
  • I don’t even think GM’s stay away from players because of suspected PED. Name one case where a guy was blackballed but whose performance demanded a contract?
    Sosa, maybe, but then he walked away and looked like an old platoon DH last year. Palmeiro looked finished. Who else?

    Pete November 7, 2007, 12:51 pm
  • 12:31pm is me in case the blatant criticism couldn’t be properly attributed.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 12:55 pm
  • Pete, I think the answer to that question is difficult. Certainly, with the Mitchell Report looming, with the supposed new era of accountability in place, it’s fair to ask whether the new situation is changing general managers’ way of evaluating players.

    Nick-YF November 7, 2007, 12:56 pm
  • Problem is, Nick, I think that time has passed. It’s a historical report, not a status report. And the players that used PED’s already have contracts or have established performance in the last two years presumably off of them.
    Weren’t there concerns about Giambi? That didn’t affect his bloated contract one bit. Same deal with Bonds. And Sheffield. And Byrd.
    GM’s value players based on expected performance. And there’s no better predictor of future performance than past performance, PED’s be damned.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 1:02 pm
  • true enough, Pete.

    Nick-YF November 7, 2007, 1:05 pm
  • thing have changed a whole lot vis-a-vis PEDs since Giambi signed his contract. Im not sure that he gets a contract like that now after all of the controversy he has gone through.

    sam-YF November 7, 2007, 1:07 pm
  • Sure Sam, but if I’m a GM all I have to do is look at his recent performance. The PED issue isn’t important because the truth shines through in the numbers.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 1:14 pm
  • By the way, YF’s should feel good about their offense next year even without A-Rod. You guys got almost nothing from Giambi this year and he will be very motivated (by that next contract) to put up big numbers. Anything close to 300/400/500 is doing a big part in making up for A-Rod. Then all you need is an above average 3B (or Betemit as half of a platoon), and I don’t see how your offense doesn’t approach 1000 runs again. Even Damon and Abreu closer to their career average could make up alot of offense.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 1:26 pm
  • there’s a certain circularity to that logic pete.
    gm’s ignore the issue because it’s not a story.
    reporters ignore the story because the gms don’t worry about it.
    that’s how we got to the problem in the first place. at some point, the cycle needs interruption. that’s what williams and feinaru wada did with bonds, but at some point it can’t just be the chron. or so it seems to me. the problem is that steroids is an almost impossible subject for a beat writer to address, as howard bryant has argued so effectively.

    YF November 7, 2007, 1:31 pm
  • I don’t see your point about the circularity, YF. By all means, the reporters should cover the story. It is a good story and one that produces many more stories. It’s perfect for the profession actually. Witness all the stories about Marc Ecko’s purchase and branding, Bonds’ retort, the HOF’s pickle, etc.
    I’m just saying that the GM’s shouldn’t care. That’s not their job. Their job is to put a winning team on the field and PED’s are a separate issue that I don’t think a GM needs to worry about. The numbers simply tell them all they need to know right now (i.e, when they’re handing out contracts).
    Now, I suppose an involved and principle owner could worry about the issue. But show me one that would qualify by putting the traditional sentiments above profit.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 1:38 pm
  • Their job is to put a winning team on the field and PED’s are a separate issue that I don’t think a GM needs to worry about.
    Based on the economics and the risks involved with signing players, I would think that any smart GM would most definitely be concerned about the possible impact of PEDs on the reputation and skills of potential signings. That’s not to say that the risks are prohibitive, just that the cost-benefit analysis for any signing surely includes an assessment of all the risks involved in signing that player, PED-related problems now being one of those risks. General Managers are accountable to their bosses, which is team ownership, and team ownership is concerned about profitability, sometimes tied to on-the-field success and off-the-field marketability. Ownership would be foolish not to make PED impact a factor in their planning.
    I have a very hard time thinking that responsible GMs don’t consider the impact of how a PED bust, a positive test, or eroding skills might impact a team, and therefore have some impact on their personnel decisions. It may not be a major factor, or a defining one, but I think it is a factor nonetheless.

    SF November 7, 2007, 1:53 pm
  • What’s the proof of any use of PED’s? And even the Mitchell report is based on past history. Sure, if you worry about character issues *maybe* PED use enters into the cost/benefit equation. But given their general acceptance across the sport for the period the Mitchell investigation covers its impact for today’s contracts are minimal.
    Further, all I need to look at is the present contracts. For the ones that have been handed out since PED use was highly implicated (e.g., Bonds, Shef, Byrd), name one where the dollars received appears affected by the rumors or admissions.
    My point: The next contract where a PED association exerts a significant and measurable effect will be the first.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 2:03 pm
  • Dollars received aren’t the only measure of a contract. Length is another.

    SF November 7, 2007, 2:26 pm
  • Name one contract. Sheffield got the more than enough years.
    See, you’re pointing out a possibility but I see absolutely zero evidence for it. So it’s possible only in the sense that a team might also care if a particular player likes transvestites. :)

    Pete November 7, 2007, 2:34 pm
  • Okay. Now that we have Pete’s opinion (ad infinitum), it’d be nice if an actual GM were asked to respond to the question.

    YF November 7, 2007, 2:38 pm
  • Not sure I understand your point.
    I am only saying that going forward GMs are likely considering both annual dollar amounts and duration of contracts with respect to how risk-exposed that money is. Risk exposure includes the impact of PED use.
    Again, this may be a small factor, but I’d be absolutely shocked if GMs weren’t thinking about it.

    SF November 7, 2007, 2:40 pm
  • Well, people love to talk about possibilities without any evidence. Go peruse Cot’s and compare contracts of the reported PED users to the market value at the time. All I’m asking for is one where dollars or years was affected by the allegations.
    And Sheffield and Bonds argue strongly in the opposite direction – those allegations have had no effect.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 2:42 pm
  • And I’m saying the HUGE determinants are:
    Now, given two exactly identical players on those factors, sure I can *imagine* PED use coming into the decision making. But those four factors are so limiting by themselves, I can’t see that hypothetical ever becoming necessary to worry about fro a GM. In other words, name two players that are equal on all of those things then we can worry about the unique effect of PED use if one was a reported user four years ago.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 2:46 pm
  • But Pete you are looking at just the highest profile case that you can find. You are focusing on two players and then making broadstroke generalizations about how everyone acts, how every team approaches contracts. That’s simply far too broad an assumption.
    There are hordes of players at the middle or margins who may have ended up signing contracts that didn’t reach their expectations or hit “market”. Who knows why this was the case, but there’s certainly room in the discussion for the possibility that GM suspicion of PED use affects contract offers.

    SF November 7, 2007, 2:50 pm
  • Forget just contract offers. How does it affect contracts? What kind of penalty clauses are involved, and how have these evolved? What are the potential new hurdles that the Mitchell probe might create. Will there be legal problems for players implicated, nevermind MLB sanctioning. Are GMs looking at young players within their organizations not only because they’re cost controlled, but because the risk factors are reduced? Why do I have to ask these questions on a blog? Why isn’t Brian Cashman asked this question 45 times a day? Would you drop a $350 million/decade long contract on a player “to build your franchise around” without some serious invetigation?
    Pete: we’ve heard enough from you, let’s have some other voices log in here.

    YF November 7, 2007, 3:07 pm
  • [comment deleted by the editors]

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:11 pm
  • If A-Rod is among those to be named, it is logical to assume that his performance (#2 on your criteria list Pete) will suffer because he doesn’t have the Barry thick-skin to withstand the abuse he will take everywhere for it. And his marketability – which is a big selling point for Boras (the “iconic player” stuff) will take a big big big hit as well. If I am a GM considering A-Rod seriously in the sweepstakes, I would be dumb not to factor these issues into my decision.
    A-Rod is clearly an outlier, but I think arguing that it would have no effect on what he would get offered is unrealistic.

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:30 pm
  • Oh, and if a young player is outed (M. Cabrera for instance), I think it takes years off of a potential offer that would be made to him. Steroid-users tend to breakdown a hell of a lot when they come off the stuff (paging Jason Giambi).

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:32 pm
  • Are you serious? You deleted a very relevant comment for the discussion? That’s a new low for this community. Good luck with that.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:33 pm
  • Companies do background checks for employees making far less than $1M a year, much less for guys making upwards of $20M. That doesn’t mean that companies let these background checks determine whether or not contract offers are extended, but certainly the responsible thing to do is to review these checks, see if they turn up something potentially performance-atering, then decide whether or not one’s risk exposure should be altered.
    Again, I can’t imagine MLB front offices act 180 degrees differently from other big money businesses.

    SF November 7, 2007, 3:35 pm
  • If all you guys want to do is ignore reality, there’s really no point of any discussions around here. Let’s just pretend every hypothetical you put forth has value! Who needs facts!?

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:36 pm
  • My opinion = “reality”.
    – God

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:38 pm
  • Pete: It was the same argument you’ve been making repeatedly, and although it’s legitimate, you can’t simply monopolize the conversation here. Your contributions are welcome, but you’re a part of a community. This is not your personal blog.

    YF November 7, 2007, 3:38 pm
  • Heck, let’s expand the boundaries. Find me one contract in any sport where illegal activity affected the contract strictly apart from performance. Where ever you can imagine one player being penalized by a team there are another three ready to line up and give a market value contract.
    Instead of pretending you have some sacred knowledge, or insight, prove me wrong!
    Name one contract in the history of sports. Even a guy like Maradona got chance after chance and above market value.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:40 pm
  • “Who needs facts!?”
    We do, Pete, but you’re providing suppositions. Not facts. All it takes is for one reporter to ask one GM: “How are you addressing steroid issues, and how have your policies changed, if at all”? Show me a response to those questions. Until you can, you don’t have “facts.”

    YF November 7, 2007, 3:42 pm
  • Monopolize? The space is unlimited? What you want me to send you check for bandwidth and storage costs? How’s $2.96 sound?
    Any one and everyone can speak up any time they want. They haven’t so it’s MY fault?

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:42 pm
  • I don’t quite get the absolutism here. Surely it is conceivable (and likely) that a contract offer or a contract has been extended (or rescinded!) some time in the last several years that was of a decreased value due to a player’s reputation, suspicion of PED use, or admission/discovery of PED use. YF is positing that as the issue becomes even more high profile that this might affect how GMs play the game.
    This is nothing but reasonable. The reaction against this position as “not reality” is extreme and non common-sensical, to a great degree.

    SF November 7, 2007, 3:43 pm
  • Charles Manson was apparently the world’s greatest tailback prospect. But he never got a contract because he had to go and kill some people.
    Oh and the swastika on the forehead didn’t help either.

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:44 pm
  • [comment deleted by the eds.]

    Pete November 7, 2007, 3:46 pm
  • Pete, if you’d like us to explain the etiquette around here, feel free to drop us an email, or read the terms of service. You’re also welcome to send us a check.

    YF November 7, 2007, 3:46 pm
  • If a credible source had proof that ARod has taken PED’s in his career, it would obviously affect the contract he and Boras are going after. No one would be willing to offer him an 8 or 10 year contract after that.
    Surely you agree with this Pete? Or do you think GM’s would still sign him up for another decade?

    Atheose November 7, 2007, 3:48 pm
  • “Your lives will go smoother if you didn’t get personally offended every time someone disagrees with you”
    I knew there was a reason my life has been so hard. And I thought it was the crack-habit. Glad Dr. Phil is here to set me straight.

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:50 pm
  • Look, here’s a search done on google for “unsigned baseball free agents”, this took three seconds.
    Read the article. Look at the names involved. Did all of these players languish because their price was too high? Because they were utterly useless to every team in the league? Or did they languish for other reasons – did teams stay away from them because of suspicions? We’ll never know without, as YF says, hearing from a GM who will go on the record admitting as such. But it surely is completely within reason to suspect there are factors affecting contracts and contract offers that have to do with PED use.

    SF November 7, 2007, 3:50 pm
  • Good example IH. John Wilkes Booth was the greatest stage actor in the country, but no one wanted him in any of their plays after he, you know, killed the President.

    Atheose November 7, 2007, 3:50 pm
  • Here’s a better example that no one has pointed out: Michael Vick If the Atlanta Falcons had known that Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting, you’re damn right it would have affected the contract they offered him.

    Atheose November 7, 2007, 3:51 pm
  • How’s Ricky Williams doing on that multi-year, mega-millions contract he signed?
    Oh yeah…

    IronHorse (yf) November 7, 2007, 3:53 pm
  • if a GM had a feeling that MLB was serious about testing and punishing players who tested positive, he would likely be less interested in signing a bigger, longer deal.
    if the goal is to win games, paying a guy to sit out for an extended period of time for a probable future suspension might not make sense.

    Yankee Fan In Boston November 7, 2007, 3:57 pm
  • Atheose, I think my view is a little different than that, even.
    I believe that had the Falcons known that Vick was involved in dogfighting they would have measured their financial risk in Vick’s being found out, possibly jailed, or at least shamed against the financial rewards he might bring if not discovered or discovered and let off the hook. That would have determined their appetite for risk and a re-appraised value of Vick’s services. It might have been lower, it might not have been. But the process by which they determined a price they were willing to be would surely have been impacted by that knowledge, you are right.
    And Vick’s predicament has surely impacted that front office (and others) going forward. If it hasn’t, then they deserve whatever problems they face in the future if they encounter another similar situation. At the very least, they may reduce their exposure, if not eliminate it entirely.

    SF November 7, 2007, 3:58 pm
  • Heck, let’s expand the boundaries. Find me one contract in any sport where illegal activity affected the contract strictly apart from performance.
    Several of those athletes were never offered contracts again. Along with endorsements and other ways to earn money, each of them was stripped of everything they had before being nailed for illegal activity. Are we just talking baseball contracts here?

    Brad November 7, 2007, 4:02 pm
  • Definitely, SF. Simply knowing that Vick would miss one season in the NFL due to jail time (and longer in Goodell suspends him) might have persuaded the Falcons to draft a different quarterback.

    Atheose November 7, 2007, 4:02 pm
  • The USATF does NOT mess around.
    Dion…I just sent you the paper today, buddy.

    Brad November 7, 2007, 4:03 pm
  • (my apologies if this has been covered here already, and if so, please ignore me.)
    verducci says that the report is due out next month, and that another active player is rumored to be scheduled to talk to mitchell.
    any guesses at who that would be?
    maybe one of the three that were busted this week? williams? he might want to mend his image a bit…

    Yankee Fan In Boston November 7, 2007, 4:33 pm
  • If you read the Verducci article its a current player so its not Williams. It also sauys they wanted to question him because of his comments against steroid use, not because they think he used steroids.
    I can easily see this person being Curt Schilling.

    TJ November 7, 2007, 5:11 pm
  • Also I seriously doubt A Rod will be named. If he is or ever was using Performance enhancing drugs theres no way he opts out of guaranteed money when the report is on the horizon.

    TJ November 7, 2007, 5:13 pm
  • Easily see it beign Schilling? I wouldnt say easily, but I wouldnt be floored by the revelation. Its a possibility. Very few players would ‘floor’ me.
    Ortiz, Jeter, Tek.. they would floor me.
    A_Rod would have been ‘easy’ for me to beleive.. unti TJ’s very good point.

    Dionysus November 7, 2007, 5:35 pm
  • Thanks Brad!
    Also according to MLBRumors, the Sox just extended Lowell a contract of 3 years wiht an option for a 4th. They are now waitign to see if he accepts (or a coutneroffer)

    Dionysus November 7, 2007, 6:04 pm
  • Weren’t there concerns about Giambi? That didn’t affect his bloated contract one bit.
    Giambi used to put up much better numbers, and has had a lot of injury time. He may be suffering from his former use of steroids, and could well be one reason why GMs will act differently in the future.
    Sheff’s breakdowns (and his trade) may also have been steroid related, although he obviously continued to put up the numbers.

    john November 7, 2007, 6:15 pm
  • By the way, Ricky Williams got market value. He wasn’t penalized in the least. The only difference with football is those aren’t guaranteed contracts. And Vick will get less than market value coming out of jail and all. But by year two I have no doubt he’ll be making league average for Quarterbacks if his performance warrants it. Just like PEDs, the past will be the past. End of story.

    Pete November 7, 2007, 9:03 pm
  • Pete: Honestly, I have no idea what “example contracts” have to do with the post, which is about (a) what–if any–precautions gms are taking going into the current market, and (b) the fact that the media seems to have dropped the whole steroid thread. So, yes, we’ve heard your point, but it’s irrelevant.
    As for selective editing, yes, we edit selectively. No apologies for that. Though the thread is continuous, the fact is that when one person comments repetitively and with aggression, the effect is to monopolize the conversation and turn away traffic. We asked you to let some other voices in, and you just kept trying to dominate the thread, as you still are.
    In any event, if you consider the writing here to be “pointless blather,” then what are you doing here? Take your $2.96 and use it as a downpayment on your own little corner of the Internet. End of Story.

    YF November 7, 2007, 11:02 pm
  • Crunchy Muffins with Monkeys On Top!!1
    Sorry just tryign to derail all the hostility with insanity.
    *goes back to begging God, Allah, Xenu and Cthulhu to get Mikey Lowell re-signed wiht the Red Sox*

    Dionysus November 7, 2007, 11:41 pm
  • Perhaps Pete is gone forever, but just in case he comes back, his views on Ricky Williams need to be met with the facts.
    As reported in a number of places, including “” Williams’ contract was anything but “the market rate” that Pete claims it was.
    Ricky was offered a contract that paid him THE LEAGUE MINIMUM and then bumped his payment considerably based on a raft of performace-based incentives. Anyone who argues that this kind of contract was “market rate” is either unaware of the market or is smoking the same stuff Ricky has been.
    You can argue that Ricky’s contract was “market rate” as far as the market for a player with a history of unreliability based on repeated drug offense, but that would just make my point: his contract negotiations were harmed by his past transgressions.
    Oh, and as long as we are railing against hypothetical arguments rather than “facts”, please explain to me how the following is not purely hypothetical:
    “And Vick will get less than market value coming out of jail and all. But by year two I have no doubt he’ll be making league average for Quarterbacks if his performance warrants it. Just like PEDs, the past will be the past.”

    IronHorse (yf) November 8, 2007, 10:43 am
  • Cycling anyone?
    Here a case can be made in Pete’s favor. Numerous times (this past T de F being the exception) cyclists have been nailed and have come back with the same contract after they served their two year suspension.
    However, I suspect we have seen the end of this given this past year’s debacle. Vinikurov ain’t gonna get the same contract, let alone be let back on the team. And if he gets signed by a new team, his PED use will (although i know i need facts to back this up) affect the terms of new contract.
    How can it not?

    rz-yf November 8, 2007, 11:26 am
  • Anyone hear that Clemens might be a closer next year for the Astros? Pretty crazy.

    Atheose November 8, 2007, 1:46 pm
  • Oh lord. LET IT GO, ROGER.

    Jackie (SF) November 8, 2007, 7:25 pm
  • i’m way late to this party, but i’m with both yf and sf on this one…[rare, so worth mentioning]…i don’t see any way a gm would ignore certain baggage, including the possiblity of ped use, when determining the makeup of the team and negotiating with individual players…i’m not a gm, and like yf would like to hear from one, but pete’s ability to produce a few high-profile cases that he insists are exceptions doesn’t prove anything…bonds is not a good example because the giants felt his pursuit of the record, and putting fannies in the seats was more important than his negative issues…they probably knew that he’d break the record and they could move on before the mitchell report came out…notice that the giants cut him loose this year, even though some feel he has a few more homers in him…heck, we know gm’s already consider stuff like attitude and guts to play in a tough town with lots of attention on them [our teams], so why not ped use entering into the thought process?…sounds like a reasonable assumption to me…

    dc November 9, 2007, 7:44 am
  • Roger Clemens, like a lot of great pitchers, has traditionally had his biggest difficulties in his first inning of pitching – i.e. “settling down”. This is not great closer material.
    And needing to rely on a splitter, which leads to wild pitches, is not good closer material.
    And finally, when a guy knocks one out, you don’t get to buzz the next guy in the chest to knock him flat because there is no next guy – the game is over.
    Roger, in short, is really not suited to be a good closer at all IMHO.

    IronHorse (yf) November 9, 2007, 12:52 pm

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