Friday, November 29, 2013

Pay Peralta and Change the Rules

By Kevin Beane

No sport is thicker with "unwritten rules" than baseball is, but beyond rolling my eyes or laughing at Brian McCann when he chastises opponents, usually much younger than him, for breaking these rules, I mostly just ignore it.

But without necessarily meaning to, Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler may have invoked a call for much more sinister unwritten rules than "don't show up your opponents when hitting a home run."

At issue is Jhonny Peralta, who, fresh off a 50-game PED suspension signed a fat four-year, $52-million dollar contract with the Cardinals. Ziegler was furious, and took to Twitter about it.

"It pays to cheat ... thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," he tweeted, and in a follow-up tweet, said the signing is proof that the 50-game suspension is an inadequate deterrent to PED use. And I think he's right.

I would probably also support stiffer penalties for first-time use. But 50 games is what the players union and the owners agreed upon. Fifty games is the length of the suspension Peralta served. Ziegler is the Diamondbacks player rep, and here he is suggesting owners exact "unwritten" punishments beyond what was agreed upon by the owner's and Ziegler's union.

And that stinks to high heaven. What if there was a full-season suspension for first offenses? Would Ziegler think, "Well, okay then" if Peralta scored such a big payday after sitting out 162 games instead of 50?

If so, then he needs to tell us how many games a player needs to sit out before he is comfortable with big contracts for ex-offenders. If not, then he should push for lifetime bans after a first offense, or payment caps of some sort for players who test positive.

And in a way, that is exactly what he pushed for — a payment cap — in his tweet. But he's mad at the owners at not simply just preemptively doing it. I don't think I'd want to be represented by a union official asking the owners to act unilaterally to punish a player beyond the terms agreed to by my union. In fact, I think it's pretty sickening that Ziegler is taking this stance as a union rep.

Also, it appears Ziegler isn't too well-versed in baseball labor relations history. When owners, in secret, agree to pay players less, it ends up bad for players and bad for fans.

As Cardinals GM John Mozeliak pointed out, the Cardinals are not the morality police. And they shouldn't be. What they should do is abide by the agreements they make as transparently as possible. I.e., exactly what they are doing. This is not a "terms undisclosed" situation.

If Ziegler objects, then the thing to do, as he said himself, is create harsher punishments. I seriously doubt the owners would object to this. The potshot he took at owners is actually a potshot against transparency and a potshot against the players he is supposed to be going to bat for. Change the punishments, put it on paper, and until then, don't complain when the rules you helped draft are followed.

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