Melky won’t win BA title. Will rule change hurt Votto?

Note: Information that came out after the original post reveals that your humble narrator’s judgment was hasty. See bottom of post for update.

_______________

The Associated Press reports that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached an agreement that evades the possibility of drug-suspended Melky Cabrera being recognized as the National League batting champion:

Baseball rules state a player needs to average 3.1 plate appearances for each of his team’s games to become a batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion. But the last sentence of 10.22(a) says: “Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.”

Under Friday’s deal, MLB and the union agreed that the sentence will not apply this year, leaving Cabrera one plate appearance short. [Emphasis added]

Let’s put aside for now the dubious wisdom of changing the rules in mid-season, specifically to prevent one specific embarrassing result. Instead, let’s consider the unintended consequences. There’s nothing in the story to suggest that this is anything but a blanket lifting of that one provision for this year. Sure, it’s hard to believe that all the lawyers involved in this decision could have ignored the question of “what about other guys?” — but don’t underestimate the power of tunnel vision. Anyway, if they had addressed that question, wouldn’t it be in the story?

So, as far as I can tell from this story, Joey Votto just got screwed out of the on-base percentage title.

Before this agreement, Votto had been recognized as the National League OBP leader under the very provision that has now been abrogated, which I’ll call the hitless-ABs provision. Votto has 201 times on base, and his qualifying threshold right now is 465 PAs, based on Cincinnati’s 150 games played. His adjusted OBP of .432 is well above the no. 2 man, Buster Posey (.410).

Had the hitless-ABs provision not been, uh, suspended, Votto very likely would have gone on to win the OBP title. But now, if this story has been accurately reported, Votto will be ineligible unless he racks up 76 more PAs in the regular season.

Even more delicious: There’s an outside chance that Votto’s batting average will wind up high enough to have won that title under the hitless-ABs provision. Right now, he has 116 hits in 339 ABs, and he’s 39 outs shy of qualifying, so he’s recognized at .307 for title purposes. If he were to close the year on a spree of, say, 27 hits in 47 ABs and 50 PAs, that would give him 143 hits, 386 ABs and 476 PAs. Charge him with 26 outs to reach 502 PAs, that would give him 412 ABs for these purposes — for a .347 average that’s one point higher than Melky.

MLB then would have to choose between:

  • (a) facing the crowning irony that their ad hoc rule had voided a result that, but for their meddling, would have been viewed as a godsend; or
  • (b) reaching a new agreement with the union at the last minute to reinstate the original rule — “Never mind!

And if you don’t think Votto has a 27-for-47 binge in him, then you don’t know Joey. From May 25 to June 8 this year, he hit 27 for 48.

So that’s what I’m rooting for. We’ve seen that the commissioner mainly reacts to embarrassment, so I’m hoping this decision will have an embarrassing set of unintended consequences that will discourage him from further diddling with the rules on the fly just to keep a drug cheat’s name out of the record books.

Of course, I could root for Melky’s drug test to be voided on a technicality, but I’m trying to keep this thing plausible.

____________________

UPDATE:

Published accounts now say that the hitless-ABs provision won’t apply this year to a player who “served a drug suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program” — so Votto and others not under suspension will not be affected.

This is better than my original interpretation; it doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. But since the goal obviously is to keep PED cheats from winning batting titles, why focus on the particular narrow provision by which this particular PED cheat would have been eligible?

From what I’ve read, this temporary rule will be made permanent as soon as possible. If so, and if nothing else is done in this regard, then imagine this scenario next year:

Able and Baker, running neck-and-neck for the batting title and far ahead of the pack, are both suspended for PED use on the same day in late August and miss the rest of the year. Able leads by a few points and a couple of hits, but has just 501 PAs; Baker has 502 PAs. By this new rule, only Able would be ineligible, even though both are guilty of the same offense; and Baker would win the crown, even though Able is clearly more deserving.

I suppose that MLB is simply dealing with the immediate problem in the narrowest way possible. Maybe they’ll try for a broader solution in the offseason. Or maybe they’ll just keep coming up with new end runs as the need arises.

74 thoughts on “Melky won’t win BA title. Will rule change hurt Votto?

  1. 1
    birtelcom says:

    It seems a more sensible approach to preventing Melky from winning an official “batting average title” would be to just provide that a player suspended during a season, for more than a certain number of games, for a violation of the PED rules, is ineligible for titles such as the batting average title. It would still seem rather “ex post facto” in coneection with Melky, and legislating generally about statistical matters always seems to me somewhat bizarre (a stat is a stat, a description of what happened, not really a subject for contracts and legislation). But at least MLB would be tailoring the solution to the actual problem it is seeking to solve.

    • 14
      kds says:

      “a description of what happened”, well sorta. Is it fair, and thus a hit, or foul? Umpire judgement. Safe, and thus a hit, or out? Umpire judgement. Error or hit? Scorer judgement. And then there are arbitrary rules definitions. OBA should be times reached base safely per PA, but they have chosen to not include certain events. Reached on Error, is not counted, or K, WP or PB. Certain Fielder’s Choices, with everyone safe don’t count for the batter as getting on base. Sac Flies do count against OBA, (Which is why OBA can be lower than BA.), but SH are totally ignored, whether the batter is safe, (on an error or FC), or not. Since the rules on SH have changed, this affects OBA. For the 1st half of Lou Gehrig’s career, through 1930, he had 98 SH. From 1931 to 1939 he had 8. This was because through 1930 all fly outs that advanced base runners were counted as SH. In 1931 they changed the definition to something more consistent with what we do today. So Gehrig’s “real” SH total was probably at least 90 below the official total, and he is actually behind Barry Bonds. Of course there were many more errors in Gehrig’s time vs many more K’s and probably K, WP or PB for Bonds. So who knows who reached base safely more frequently?

  2. 2
    Ed says:

    According to the article on USA Today, the one-time exemption only applies to players suspended under the Joint Drug Program.

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/giants/story/2012/09/21/nightengale-melky-cabreras-batting-title-decision-may-set-key-precedent/57821600/1

    No idea if this is more accurate than other sources but I do think it’s a bit premature to say that Joey Votto’s been screwed out of anything.

    • 6
      John Autin says:

      You may be right, Ed. I’ve toned down the language.

      • 7
        Ed says:

        Thanks John, I think that’s appropriate till we know more.

        • 8
          Evan says:

          From a rooting for maximum embarrassment for MLB perspective, I think the scenario you have to hope for is that the rule has general applicability and prevents Votto from winning the title and that Melky ends up winning it because the Giants have a late season game canceled* that can’t be made up and he has sufficient PAs to qualify.

          *rain seems unlikely in Southern California (final 6 games are in LA and SD) this time of year, but maybe an earthquake?

          • 9
            Evan says:

            As soon as I posted this I realized that it made me sound like I was rooting for an earthquake in Southern California because of how it would affect baseball stats. Obviously I would not wish to see an earthquake take place.

  3. 3
    Jacob says:

    Interesting. I know I’m in the minority here, but I actually like the move MLB made, Votto or no Votto.

    There’s nothing wrong with avoiding embarrassments, and Melky winning would have been an embarrassment. Fans would have hated it, other players would have disliked it, and Melky clearly felt bad about it. So I appreciate the pragmatic approach to make an exception here, it’s a classy move and it’s not like they’re rewriting history: the numbers are still there.

    As for Votto, yes, his situation could lead to another embarrassment. If he does indeed go 27-for-47 and the world realizes that HE should win the batting title, I’m certain that MLB will release another statement saying they tweaked the rules again so Votto WILL get the batting title he deserves.

    You know what? I would support that, too. I’m of the opinion that rules exist to produce a fair, desirable outcome, and if the outcome is neither, rules should be tweaked asap. In both cases, this applies.

  4. 4
    Howard says:

    This is insane. How can they do this without nullifying all titles won and records held by juicers?

    • 5
      Jacob says:

      They can’t nullify the records. But I’m sure they could nullify those titles if, say, McGwire and Bonds requested that. Why not? Titles are awarded by interpreting stats, they’re not actual stats themselves, like records are.

      • 11
        Howard says:

        I’m not suggesting they strike the records from the books but MLB could choose not to recognized certain stats as records. I don’t advocate it but I don’t think the principle would be any different than not recognizing a batting title.

        In any case, I just read that MLB made this move at the request of Cabrera himself so now I don’t think it is quite as insane as I did earlier.

        • 18
          e pluribus munu says:

          Actually, to the degree that we sometimes look at sports as theaters for moral judgment, I think this particular set of actions – Cabrera’s violations, request, and the way the request was handled – is very satisfying (unless you’re committed to MLB being cast as Snidely Whiplash). So I agree with Jacob (#3) and Luis (#10).

          Moreover, this will not be the first batting title to have been awarded in contravention of technical qualifications: in 1938, Taffy Wright led the AL according to the rules of the time, having appeared in 100 games and led the league with a .350 average. But somehow, his 263 ABs seemed inadequate, and the league instead awarded the title to the fantastic Mr. Foxx.

          • 19
            John Autin says:

            epm — I’ll take some criticism for being too quick to condemn MLB’s actions. They do not always tie up Nell on the train tracks.

            But upon reflection, I think it’s a case of “good result, bad reason.” Why did they have to parse the matter down to the subatomic level? Why can’t they just come out and say, we’re not going to recognize this PED cheat as the batting champion?

            I just can’t see a moral grounding for why the hitless-ABs provision in particular should be withheld from those suspended for PED use. If they mean to withhold the title, they should say so. Ruling by fiat may be distasteful, but sophistry such as this teeny-tiny targeted rule change is worse.

          • 28
            Hartvig says:

            John- I think your “good result, bad reason(ing)” thinking is right. I think it was in the BJHBA where James talked about a few of the batting title races in the 30’s & 40’s and he came to the conclusion that a) a people make the rules and b) that when those rules produce results that are obviously unfair they should ignore them and do the right thing. One of the issues he was talking about was because of how the rules rounded innings pitched Sammy Stewart beat out Steve McCatty for the AL ERA crown in 1981 even thou using the complete numbers meant McCatty ERA was lower.

            I can see how by using this type of reasoning however there is at least some danger of someone deserving of a title getting screwed out of it just because he’s not popular with baseball executives or maybe a Charlie Finley-type trying to use it to get out of paying a performance bonus.

  5. 10
    Luis Gomez says:

    I like it. The minute I heard about Melky´s suspension, I went on to see the leaderboards and how far ahead he was in batting title race. I disliked the tought of an in-season proved juicer as batting champion. Nice move by the comish (hey, I never tought I was gonna write that!).

  6. 12
    Ed says:

    There’s one more twist to this…apparently if the Giant’s have a rainout before the end of the season that can’t be replayed, then Melky will still win the batting crown. Under that scenario, a Giant’s player would only need 499 PAs to win the title (and Melky already has 501). Bizarre. Either ban the guy or don’t. Why leave a loophole open?

  7. 13
    MikeD says:

    More concerning is I have no idea who this NL duo of Able and Baker are who will be battling for next year’s batting-title crown. I’m going to be so screwed in my fantasy drafts next year.

  8. 16
    Jameson says:

    Did anyone else notice a discrepancy between Melky’s elocution in his official statement to the press and his 2012 All-Star Game MVP acceptance speech?

    I have considered the possibility that he is a very articulate guy en Español, but I don’t know…

    Here is his letter to the public:

    “I ask the Players Association to take the necessary steps, in conjunction with the Office of the Commissioner, to remove my name from for the National League batting title…To be plain, I personally have no wish to win an award that would widely be seen as tainted, and I believe that it would be far better for the remaining contenders to compete for that distinction…So too, the removal of my name from consideration will permit me to focus on my goal of working hard upon my return to baseball so that I may be able to win that distinction in a season played in full compliance with league rules. To be plain, I plan to work hard to vindicate myself in that very manner.”

    And here is a link to his post-game acceptance whatever-you-call-it…

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22980571&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_asg_sponsor

    This comment for amusement purposes only.

    • 21
      John Autin says:

      Jameson, I doubt that any player in the last 20 years has written his own letter of apology. Why would you compare a live comment in the heat of the moment to something that any sensible person understands was written by a PR firm?

      Unless the point was just to jeer at someone who was speaking on live television in his second language.

      We are not amused.

      • 23
        Luis Gomez says:

        Thanks, John. You read my mind.

      • 30
        Hartvig says:

        I’m sorry but I think we’re being a little over-sensitive here guys.

        I used to work with a Puerto Rican-born pharmacy tech with whom I would sometimes try to practice my Spanish. On many an occasion the result were bouts of laughter and merriment on her part due to my ineptitude. I’ve also had to speak briefly in public on a few occasions and on at least 2 of those times I was told afterward by a friend and once by my own brother “Man, did you suck” and I managed to somehow survive. Since then I’ve found that a stiff jolt of whiskey applied 1 hour and again 1/2 hour before the event has greatly improved my performance.

        Sometimes there are things in life that we’re not very good at and unless they’re a matter of life and death accepting a little humor in the situation can make them a little less stressful.

        And after all, as John pointed out elsewhere, Melky is still going to walk away with millions of dollars so
        http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Chico_Escuela

        • 34
          Nash Bruce says:

          if Melky had just adopted whiskey as his PED of choice……..

        • 44
          MikeD says:

          Whiskey? I’m pretty sure the Boston Red Sox used that approach in the 2004 ALCS once they were down 3-0!

          When I read Jameson’s (speaking of whiskey) response, the thought did briefly enter my mind that he was poking fun at Melky’s speaking skills, yet probably just as likely he was highlighting that Melky had lots of help with that statement.

          JA nailed it though. Even if English was in primary language, he would be getting help with any statement. Even more critical was English is his second language.

          Now back to whiskey.

  9. 20
    Doug says:

    Hey John,

    Looks like I called it earlier today in the discussion on another post. Who knew?

    Wonder what they would have done had Melky been at 502 when he was suspended instead of 501.

    The only part I don’t like is the one-time-only aspect of this. I think birtelcom’s approach @1 makes a lot more sense – establish a rule to cover this type of scenario. Hopefully, they will do that over the winter.

    • 22
      John Autin says:

      Doug — You did call it! I just wish Bud would have called it the same thing you called it: ruling by decree.

      It’s OK to rule by decree once in a while. Now, the natural objection to such a ruling in this instance is, so what’ll you do about other titles and records achieved by players who’ve since been “found guilty” either formally or in the court of common sense?

      But they don’t have to settle that whole megillah right now. And in this case, unlike those others, the cheating was discovered and admitted before the valedictory season was completed.

      P.S. The columnist Ed linked to @2 presumes that Melky’s failed test means he’ll probably have to settle for 1 year and no more than $5 million as a free-agent this winter. If Melky gets a $5 million deal, it’ll be further evidence that the penalties in place now are not an adequate deterrent, given the market forces. As long as adequate due process safeguards are in place — and the Braun debacle pretty much settled that — then why should there not be a 1-year suspension for the first offense, and a lifetime ban for the second?

      • 32
        Ed says:

        John – Personally I’m a bit uncomfortable with a longer ban. I’m assuming these tests have some level of producing a false positive greater than zero, depending on the substance in question. Give the sheer number of tests that baseball is conducting, if the false positive rate is greater than zero, then someone is going to face a severe penalty for something they didn’t do.

        As for Melky being rewarded for cheating, I suppose it depends on what you assume his value is sans PEDs. And whether his increased production is due somewhat or entirely to PEDs. I doubt there are any studies that show that the specific substance he took is linked to increased hitting performance. Meanwhile Cabrera’s offensive development the past two years is exactly the same as Yadier Molina. Except that Molina is two years older and a catcher, making Molina’s improvement much less likely than Cabrera’s. BTW, I’m not suggesting that Molina is cheating, only that if Molina can improve like that, why can’t Cabrera?

  10. 25
    tag says:

    I’m agnostic about the Melky situation. PED-fueled players have won many titles; this would be another.

    What I find interesting is the philosophy of the hitless AB provision itself. I argued in the Wednesday Whatsits post that this provision didn’t make sense to me, and provided imperfect (impeded by a delicious bottle of ’99 Margaux) analogies why I thought so, which I was appropriately called out for. Basically, I was trying to show that sports require, for lack of a better term, “physical integrity” to make sense to me.

    Proponents of the hitless AB provision are basically saying that PAs can be “purchased” with the currency of a player’s average: the players can be charged the x number of hitless ABs they need to reach a certain required PA threshold that qualifies them for a batting/slugging/OBP/whatever title. The proponents argue that unless this transaction is permitted baseball makes no ultimate mathematical sense. This reasoning seems logical and unassailable.

    I take the terms AB and PA at face value, however. They do not occur only on paper. They are not merely abstractions, not just convenient mathematical constructs or denominators in a calculation. They are real events: to me you have to physically make that plate appearance, drag your sorry butt into the batter’s box and face the pitcher, to get credit for a PA, and if you don’t do that a sufficient number of times within the stipulated time frame of one season you simply don’t qualify for said batting/slugging/OBP/whatever title. I mean, 80% of success may be just showing up, but you do have to show up. This holds double for sports and baseball. Otherwise baseball makes no ultimate phenomenological sense.

    I realize where taking this position puts me. The hitless provision proponents are modern central bankers who, with perfect Keynsian logic, can issue fiat currency to make our economic system function more smoothly and efficiently. I am a latter-day William Jennings Bryan or, worse (and to put it politely), one of those cranky, fiscally conservative, Fed-hating gold standard sticklers who wants there to be physical specie behind the currency.

    Strange bedfellows, indeed.

    • 33
      Ed says:

      Very well reasoned Tag! I’m with you on this.

    • 43
      kds says:

      Tag, I might have more respect for your baseball reasoning if your history was not 180 degrees from the mark. William Jennings Bryan was a liberal for his day, (1896), especially on economic issues. His famous quote is, “you shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold.” He was opposed to the the currency restrictions caused by the gold standard, wanting silver to be used in coinage to increase the money supply. This puts him much closer to Keynes than those who want to go back to a gold standard today. Bryan’s apparant conservatism as seen from today has a lot to do with his appearance in the Scopes evolution trial almost 30 years after the cross of gold speech. While much of his opposition to teaching evolution was religiously based, he also was seeing the bad effects of “Social Darwinism” on society, a liberal position.

      • 45
        Mike L says:

        On history, I have to agree with kds. Bryan represented the heartland, and the free coinage of silver as specie was a way for him to see a little inflation in the system. Since farmers were (and are) debtors (for land and machinery) deflation killed them, inflation meant long term debt could be paid with devalued dollars.

      • 63
        tag says:

        Thanks for the clarification on the Bryan. I should have not thrown his name in there and should only have mentioned those today demanding a return to the gold standard. But the baseball reasoning in no way depends on the economic analogy. I was trying to make a different point, and your respect for the reasoning should not hinge on the faulty reference.

        In fact, I think a better metaphor upholds my generally liberal beliefs. “Purchasing” the at-bats using the currency of your BA is more akin to trying to buy your way into an exclusive club that you don’t have the necessary qualifications for. For me, the physical PAs are a definite requirement, and if you don’t have them, even the high average you have fairly earned can’t make up for that.

      • 65
        tag says:

        Not that anyone cares but one of my undergraduate degrees was in history and I couldn’t believe I made the Bryan mistake. Well, looked it up on my original Word document and saw it was an editing error. I originally wrote, “latter-day Grover Cleveland / anti William Jennings Bryan or, worse…”. When I copied it in HHS I actually worried that the Cleveland reference might be misconstrued as referring to the pitcher. So, late for my tennis match, I deleted it quickly and improperly, mistakenly leaving “latter-day” and taking out “anti.”

        kds’ and Mike L’s comments are of course correct, and I should have deleted both the Cleveland and Bryan references because neither really added anything. It was today’s nostalgic gold standard fiscal conservative I wanted to compare myself to.

  11. 26
    Mark in Sydney says:

    I find this stuff all so dumb. A silly piece of theater to show that MLB is really, really serious about the PED problem, without actually doing anything about it. Say, for example, Melky got through the season clean. Gets the betting title, wins the MVP, whatever. Then a sample comes in December and -bingo- PED-positive. (Gee, just like a certain player last year, more or less.)

    Titles stripped? Maybe. Give it to the next guy in a kind of sideroom presentation? Anything to avoid embarrassment, including doing what is right. Pathetic.

  12. 27
    Albanate says:

    This reminds me of the infamous Indiana Pi bill of 1897, where a state tried to legislate away mathematical truth.

    • 29
      Hartvig says:

      Oh. My. God.

      On second thought, maybe I should have been all that surprised.

      Just this year, the North Carolina Senate passed a bill legislating how much sea level rise there can be.

      http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/06/legislating-sea-level-rise.html

      Pretty obvious there’s no intelligence test required for going into politics.

      • 36
        BryanM says:

        Not to go completely OT , here, but your link shows that , like baseball administration, politics requires a certain KIND of intelligence; unless you were somehow trying to imply that the folks who voted for the bill are less intelligent than the ones who voted against it, which I doubt. Legislators have finely tuned minds that sift every action they take, according to a complex calculus of its effect in the eyes of their constituents, and ultimately their net worth. The NC senators could care less about climate science, and of course the bill does not “deny” climate science, but simply tries to limit its effect on the bottom line of certain donors-um i-meant-voters.
        Similarly, and to drag us back on topic, MLB knows its constituents want a clean game with no cheating, regrettably cheating happens, when it does , they must deal with it in a way that shows that “cheaters never prosper” while sweeping the incident under the rug and going back to manning the cash registers; if that requires a certain player into getting off on an absurd technicality , while they “comply” with another’s “request” to remove himself from consideration from some honor; great, let’s move on.

  13. 35

    Put me in the apparent minority who thinks this is just ridiculous posturing, and maybe the start of a frightening trend that reminds me of all those stripped titles and retroactive forfeits from the wacky world of the NCAA.

    Punish the cheater all you want. That doesn’t bother me one bit. But you can’t alter history. What’s happened has happened. If Melky’s at the top of the leaderboard come October 3rd, then he is the batting champion, period.

    Baseball will go on, and the sun will rise the next day….

  14. 38
    Paul E says:

    I’m a little late to the party here, but isn’t the whole point of this Cabrera forfeiture merely based on the fact he was caught IN-season? Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, even Caminiti’s M V P award, the truth about their PED usage came out years after….Cabrera is the only “category” leader who got struck down/caught IN-season.

    MLB isn’t going to take away Bonds’ 73-homer season, Sosa’s three 60-HR seasons, nor McGwire’s 70 HR season. The writers may keep them out of Cooperstown, but that’s even later in the ballgame

  15. 40
    John Autin says:

    On a tangent … Isn’t it kind of a shock to realize that, after all the titles won by PED users in the past 20 years, all the talk about the “sanctity of records” and all the negotiations and work put into the drug testing program, MLB still had nothing in place for this situation?

    And that they still have nothing in place to keep a batting title from being won by a player who fails a test after reaching the qualifying threshold?

    It tends to support the impression that MLB’s attention to the PED issue is entirely PR-driven. When the tide of public opinion against PED use finally breached the levee a few years ago, they got more serious about testing. There was still resentment about the records set in that period by known and suspected users, but there was no clear and easy way to address that so MLB left it alone; whatever they might do to address it would probably stir up more negative press than any positive they might hope to gain from it.

    It was still obvious that PED use had not been wiped out or anything close to that, even among stars, and thus it was only a matter of time before an(other) MVP, Cy Young, batting crown, etc., was won (or in line to be won) by a player who flunked a test. But to deal with it in advance would be an admission that the problem was still significant, which goes against Bud’s good-news story.

    And so we end up with this odd little rule tweak that prevents this one PED user from winning a batting title, but which leaves wide open the possibility of a future title going to a player who was suspended after reaching 502 PAs. And by seizing this easy loophole of denying only the hitless-ABs path to suspended players, MLB leaves the impression on anyone looking for logic in the matter that they see a moral distinction between a PED cheat with 501 PAs and one with 502 PAs.

    • 46
      BryanM says:

      John, ” anyone looking for logic in the matter” is seriously delusional , or just not paying attention, as you and other posters have abundantly demonstrated. Bud and his buds must walk a fine line to maximize cash flow.
      1) admit they “had” a PED problem while making a modest effort to catch cheaters.
      2) if, against their hope, a cheater actually gets caught, deal with it in a way that shows they’re “serious” without destroying the illusion that the problem has been cleaned up, more or less

      there is a big moral distinction , in MLB’s eyes, between a PED user and a dumb-ass PED user who gets caught.
      the former helps with the gate, the latter is an annoying problem we’ve got to sweep under the rug.

    • 48
      Paul E says:

      Since High Heat Stats is, indeed, a stats-driven blog, let’s start a campaign to erase the positive WAR of guys caught juicing ‘in-season’. Now the Giants have 3.5 less wins….this kind of BS would create more interest than 8 teams from each league making the “wild, wilder, “more wilder”, wildest, and “most wildest” wild cards.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sure looks to me like money f^$@*-up everything. And, to further tangentialize, why does the asshole (Selig, Goedell, Stern) always have the upper hand to make the jive decisions that eventually totally backfire?

  16. 41
    Mike L says:

    John A, Baseball, just like football, is first and foremost a business. They are never proactive in inhibiting anything that sells tickets/TV time until they absolutely have to be. Look at football with concussions and helmet design, and all those wonderful NFL Films classic hits(as in smack someone silly)DVD’s. The same applies to the MLB. Bud doesn’t want to talk about it, but he’s fully aware how tremendously difficult it is to catch all the cheating-and the agents and the unions tacitly agree, because the more money there is, the more money there is to spread around. If you gave Bud, or just about any of the owners some truth serum and asked them whether they would have 5% less attendance in return for an absolutely clean game, I’m fairly they would go for the juicer behind door number !. The Melky decision is idiotic. Does Bud now go back and ask all the other juicers to give up their records?

  17. 42
    Jason Z says:

    Pathetic.

    Reminds me of Bud “Lite” giving home field to the league that
    wins the All-Star Game.

    That was more an awful decision, but this disgusts me in the same way.

    Suffer a little embarrassment, and this fool makes a reactionary, short
    sighted decision that causes damage to the game.

    Obviously, nothing is more meaningful every year than the World Series.

    As for numbers, I don’t need to explain to the readers of this site the
    place that numbers occupy in the culture of this game.

    Pathetic.

  18. 47
    MikeD says:

    I’ll take the counter to Jason above me.

    I don’t know if I agree with the decision either (hmmm, guess I’m not going to counter too hard) because it does strike me as a bit reactionary and I’d rather MLB address this issue in the offseason and search for a longer-term solution, if one even exists. Yet there’s little here that can be applied to other PED issues with any consistency. It’s not as if MLB is going to go back and alter Barry Bonds’ career HRs record, for example. MLB is not going to go back and change the HR total of A-Rod during his time in Texas. MLB is not going to go back and alter the Boston Red Sox’s record for the games when Manny and Big Papi formed the heart of their order. Those two recent flags will still fly in Beantown, as they should. I doubt there’s been a “clean” team going back to the 1980s, and probably the 1970s, at least as far as PEDs are concerned. MLB is not going to go back and remove Jason Giambi’s 2000 MVP from his Oakland days, etc., etc., etc.

    Melky’s BA for the season was .346 before this decision; Melky’s BA for season will be .346 after this decision. Not a hit is removed, not an RBI deleted, not a game result changed, and that to me is what’s important. Everything else is built on man-made, or MLB-created rules and guidelines. Requiring 3.1 PAs to qualify for the batting title is a MLB-created rule. It wasn’t always that way. Allowing fantom PAs to be added to a player’s total so he can qualily, and indeed win a batting title is a MLB-creted rule. It wasn’t always that way. Some might argue that’s a worse rule than what they did with Melky.

    So really nothing changes here. Melky’s BA will be just like other players who had higher BAs than the eventual batting champion, but just didn’t have enough PAs to qualify. Melky will not qualify for the batting title, yet his batting average and hits remain. The game results remain.

    MLB can address this by making it a consistent rule, and not just a Melky one-time rule. If they don’t, it actually cheapens what they should be trying accomplish, which is to punish players who don’t follow the rules, and reward players who do. Maybe this is something they have to wait until the offseason to change. A player is not eligible to have PAs or innings added to his total to qualify for the BA and ERA crowns if he has been suspended during the season for violating MLB’s drug policy (PEDs and non-PEDs). Not only is it defensible, I suggest it makes sense.

    Now if only it can rain in SF.

  19. 49
    topper009 says:

    Didn’t Jose Canseco offer to give his 1988 MVP to Mike Greenwell who took second that year in his book? Or at least during some interview? Was that ever seriously considered?

    And I hope everyone who acts like steroids is such a horrible thing has not watched an NFL game since the 1960s.

  20. 52
    RJ says:

    Clearly the Giants told Melky to give up the batting title so Posey would have a shot at it, thus potentially gaining him more MVP votes if he beats out McCutchen. Obvious conspiracy at work here sheeple.

  21. 53
    topper009 says:

    Ok after reading through all of this,
    1) I have no idea what Bud Selig has to do with any of this, the request came from Cabrera, not the league. Selig simply acknowledged his request to not be in contention for the title, I guess he did it in a round about way by using the PA cutoff thing but who cares, this is clearly a 1 time thing.

    2) In general, having smart people use judgement on a case by case basis is much, much better than having a giant bureaucracy implement tons of complex rules that are to always be applied even in cases they weren’t intended for but technically apply. Hartvig mentioned it in post #28, but Bill James discussed the batting titles won by Ernie Lombardi. He also went on a rant about how nowadays people are crippled by stupid rules from making logical decisions. I dont feel like getting my BJHBA now due to a sprained ankle from softball but the gist is that Lombardi deserved the batting title, was prevented from it by some recent stupid rule so the commissioner just gave it to him.

    Same thing here, Cabrera wants out so the commissioner let him out, thank you for using common sense Bud.

    (and just so everyone knows in 1995, which according to history was before 1998 and the HR chase that ‘saved’ baseball, Bud Selig tried to implement steroid testing and it was vetoed by the players union. If you are mad about the steroids of the 90s they are to blame, Bud did not turn a blind eye)

    • 55
      BryanM says:

      Topper; according to the press release, MLB is complying with Melkys request to DQ him from the batting title. From the tone of your post above it would seem that you believe that to be true; I guess it could be, but I think most posters (including me ) imagine that Melky was volunteered for his role; no evidence ,of course, just feels suspicious. I expect the difference in belief results in different conclusions we come to.

    • 57
      John Autin says:

      topper: “Cabrera wants out so the commissioner let him out, thank you for using common sense Bud.

      If only it were that simple. What Selig did is to negotiate a rule change with the players association. It was necessary to negotiate it, because the basic agreement says that MLB can’t change rules in midseason without their consent. And the PA was only willing to do it because of Cabrera’s request.

      So they got together and figured out the easiest path to the predetermined end.

      The goal is something I neither condemn nor applaud. It’s the backdoor approach and the pretzel logic that makes me queasy.

      If you’re taking a stand on the records of PED users, Mr. Commissioner, then effing STAND UP AND DO IT already, instead of hiding behind this slick lawyer crap. Should we applaud because they were able to hang a makeshift solution on the hook of one absent plate appearance? And what if the Giants have a rainout that doesn’t need to be made up? Suddenly Melky’s back in through the front door!

      If they can negotiate a rule change on the fly to say that rule 10.22(a) is closed to players under suspension, then clearly they could have negotiated a stronger rule change that wouldn’t depend on the difference between 501 PAs and 502. Therefore, at least one side doesn’t want the stronger rule. Why aren’t we hearing anything about that?

    • 58
      topper009 says:

      Selig is not a dictator, Im sure if he had his way he would just wave a magic wand and get what you want, but as usual the players union is getting in the way.

      “Therefore, at least one side doesn’t want the stronger rule.”

      I think without the question the party in question here is the union, whereas the tone of basically everyone here is assuming it is Bud.

      • 59
        John Autin says:

        On your last line, topper, I’m not assuming either way. Both sides have a motive for not wanting to draw up a broader rule against recognizing PED users as league leaders.

      • 60
        John Autin says:

        And no, Selig is not a dictator. But he is missing a golden opportunity to use the bully pulpit.

        If he believes that NO player suspended for PED use should be recognized as a league leader — i.e., if he’s not satisfied with this tiny rule tweak — then why isn’t he out there making that point plainly and publicly? If he wants a broader rule and the union doesn’t, why isn’t he speaking out and putting the onus on the union to publicly explain why they oppose such a rule?

      • 61
        Mike L says:

        I’m a labor guy, and Selig’s tenure, to my mind, has always been “distinguished” by a keen focus on the bottom line leavened only by more than occasional bouts of cronyism. In short, he more than tolerated steroids. There was a simpler way out of this than this back door rule change. Selig could just have announced “Melky Cabrera has requested that he not be recognized as the batting champion. We are very appreciative of his contrition, however, we cannot erase his statistics. To honor his request, should he end up with the highest batting average, we will also recognize the runner up in the official rule books.”

        • 62
          MikeD says:

          Bud Selig is the target of the anger of many fans, includuing myself at times. Yet an can can be made that Bud Selig is not just among the best, but perhaps is even THE best Commissioner MLB has ever had.

          • 64
            Mike L says:

            Mike D, Bud is unquestionably the most visionary and successful business oriented Commissioner. Revenues and franchise values have skyrocketed, and the public has contributed enormous amounts of taxpayers dollars to private enterprises. If I were an owner, Bud would be my guy.

  22. 56
    BryanM says:

    Topper – i meant to add that I agree with your point that the players union is the main stumbling block to better enforcement.

    • 66
      mosc says:

      Unions on a whole seem to have fallen out of favor. We’re quick to jump on their negatives and have lost all context on the positives. We enjoy our 40 hour workweeks, our vacation days, sick days, personal days, paid overtime, and health care. We seem to have forgotten that these things come out of creating so much pain for the other side that it’s easier just to provide inherently non-cost effective benefits than it is to continue fighting. Don’t be so quick to denounce the benefits of collective bargaining just because you don’t like one extreme of it. The other extreme is equally ugly where players can be suspended indefinitely without review for unstated reasons.

      • 67
        Mike L says:

        @66 Mosc, beautifully said. There are a lot of fans who resent the unions because they resent the high pay, but these players are people who do something at a level very few of us can even dream about. I had the pleasure this last weekend in running in NYC Fifth Avenue Mile (I’m in the slow old geezer category) and, standing on Fifth, watching the elite runners go past you a few feet away, is an incredible experience. 14 men under 4 minutes, including the great Bernard Lagat, and 10 women under 430. You can’t believe their form and the incredible speed they move at. When you see something like that up close (as opposed to on TV) you respect athletic talent even more.

      • 68
        topper009 says:

        What we really need today is a fan’s union, in what other marketplace do the consumers have no say whatsoever on the price? Soviet Russia?

        Seriously, everyone thinks its players vs owners but its really players vs owners vs fans except there are only 2 seats at that table. If the fan union demanded that say the highest ticket price allowed could be $20, the owners and players could then argue with each other about how to distribute that money. Instead the owners just jack up the prices continuously because they have no other competition for the fans to “shop around” at.

        The owners and players are both screwing us fans by taking advantage of the monopoly they have on professional baseball.

        • 70
          mosc says:

          It’s no different than any other industry. You don’t have a say in the bargaining between Ford and it’s employees but you can pick which car you buy. If MLB ticket prices are too expensive, you can vote against it by not buying them. People buy them it seems, so they disagree with you. Both the players AND the owners share the common interest of lightening the fan’s wallet to the largest extent possible. You have the biggest seat at the table, you’re the one putting food on the table for both sides.

          The monopoly point does make professional sports different than all other industries. That is a very valid point. I’ve always thought that team ownership should be socialized (I know, politics, shoot me). Basically cities should own the team. Failing that though, people still have the choice of what sport to follow, or perhaps pursue non-sport related hobbies. I’ve always thought the government granted monopoly on the sport important to create more stability.

          Baseball is in so many ways the story of modern America. Unions, labor rights, corporate vs private interests, politics, all of it follows the evolution of baseball.

        • 71
          topper009 says:

          Yes it is very different, if you dont like Ford you can buy a Chevy. If you like baseball you have no other option. Yes in theory you could just boycott it but that is a bad last resort for a fan. And if all fans were organized enough to go on strike I guarantee you they would.

          If you told fans they could pay $50 less per game if no one attended an entire homestand it would happen, the exact same thing has happened with other unions.

          • 72
            mosc says:

            If nobody bought tickets for a homestand, the red sox wouldn’t even notice. They sold out all the seats as season tickets.

            Seriously though, you think teams wouldn’t change anything if nobody came to games? The ticket prices are specifically calculated to bring in the maximum amount of revenue. Higher prices means fewer people but it also means more profit per person. You balance that out, along with a lot of operating costs that are fixed, and you get your ticket prices. If people boycott a team, the ticket prices would fall. It happens to a lesser extent all the time.

          • 73
            topper009 says:

            Fine then assume the fans would do something that would hurt.

            I am saying the teams would change something if nobody came to games. Higher prices does not mean fewer people. Look at ticket prices and attendance now vs the 1980s, both are WAY up. The Yankees have jacked up their prices a lot for their new stadium and attendance is the same. Normally competition forces companies to sell products for the lowest price they can charge and stay in business, that does not happen in MLB.

            Say the average car price is $25,000 now (just a random number). If only 1 company made cars they could easily sell them for $30,000 on average and there would be no difference in the number of cars owned since so too many people want and need cars they would find a way to pay the artificially high price. You could say they could just ride the bus but that is not a good solution for them. A good solution would be to introduce competition.

          • 74
            Mike L says:

            We are really back on the same topic. Why do people pay higher prices for major league ball than minor leagues? Because they want to see the best talent, just like they will pay more for Springstein than the Topper/Mosc/Mike Trio. The market is being set by what the fan is willing to pay. If the fans, en masse, suddenly decide they won’t show, well, then maybe prices would come down. But they don’t-the market is transparent. We are all paying for a spectacle-to be entertained by the best. And, the TV contracts aren’t going to pay big bucks to watch a bunch prospects or broken down veterans. They also want to show the best as well. “Competition” already exists across the thirty teams, who, presumably sop up the top 90-something percent of talent.

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