MLB drug policy fatally flawed

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MLB drug policy fatally flawed

Departing from yesterday's theme of reveling in the Bay Area's reclaimed place atop the performance enhancers' throne, let us today tackle the slightly serious question of whether baseballs drugs policy is working in the wreckage of the Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon suspensions.And so you don't have to work too hard at it, let us use this handy catch-all answer:Its never worked, It will never work. It's not designed to work. The wrong people are implementing it, therefore it cannot work.And most importantly, lets provide the real reason it cannot work because nobody knows what works means.Does it mean no more positive tests ever? No, because there will always be players who look for the envelope to see the best way to push it. If there are no more positive tests, that means baseball has essentially stopped caring, and that will happen the next time there is a fiscal or artistic crisis in the sport.Does it mean hundreds of positive tests? No, because there will never be hundreds of positive tests as long as baseball is in charge of the results. Without independence and transparency as provided by an outside agency, any testing regime is flawed on its face, can be used to punish players as well as help them, and always is controlled by management, whose own responsibility in this area is conveniently forgotten or ignored.RELATED: Positive tests -- A look at the five players caught in 2012 using PEDs
Drug testing will work when players and teams fear the punishment more than crave the reward, and right now the punishments are insignificant in comparison to the rewards. Take Cabrera: He bet a one-year contract against a possible five-year contract and 4 million to make 70 million. The pot odds alone are too good not to keep playing the hand.But while we hear a great to-do about increasing the penalties on players, the notion of punishing organizations to negate the benefits of PEDs is never brought up. Ever. Its like we want to think theyre just victims in a cruel game set up by the athletes, which is an idiocy of the first magnitude.Put another way, did you ever hear about the team that returned a percentage of its profits from the steroid era of the late 90s? No, because it never happened. The teams kept every dime you gave them, and the prices they jacked up to meet the demand meant they kept every dime and then some.Now if you really truly want to know when the drug policy in baseball will work, get the correct answers to these questions (and because were swell folks here, weve given you the answers to help you study for the test):1. Are the people in charge of doing the test and releasing the results independent, and devoted to transparency? Chances of this happening are minimal if for no more compelling reason than someone has to pay for the tests, or if the results arent to their liking, stop paying for the tests. But lets go with the fantasy.2. Do the people in baseball understand that the drug fight will go on forever, because chemists always have the home-court advantage? Some, maybe, but many would be just as fine with ignoring it completely because drug detection costs more money than drug ignorance.3. Will the players be suspended for not games but years? Lots of tub-thumpers and moralists like this a lot because its easy to understand and provides a nutritious and delicious scapegoat on a slow news day. Plus, it can be negotiated inside a collective bargaining agreement even while the CBA is in force.4. Will the owners be fined in the millions for each player they employ who tests positive, seeing as how they benefit from the deeds the drugs allegedly enhance? This has never been mentioned because, well, because rich folks in suits work very hard to stay out of that particular debate. But if drugs are the scourge they are purported to be, all the ill-gotten gains should be seized, should they not?Until these conditions are met, the drug policy is not a success except as a way to cure a slow news day. A lot of people get to call athletes dumb for getting caught. A few people get a moment of notoriety for suggesting that Derek Jeter should be suspected of drug use based on the fact that he exists. And fans of teams whose chances for glory were impaired by rivals drug-enriched players get to complain over that fourth beer.In other words, this isnt really a drug policy at all. Its entertainment, and grist for the mill, and something to kill time with until something more salacious comes along.And something always does.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Rather than join his minor league teammates for workouts like usual, Logan Shore got word Tuesday morning he would take the ball for the A’s against the Los Angeles Angels.

A few hours later, Shore was striking out Mike Trout to highlight his impressive four-inning outing. What an experience it was for Shore, a right-hander drafted last summer in the second round out of the University of Florida.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “There’s not really any words to describe that.”

The A’s scratched No. 5 starter Raul Alcantara, opting to throw him in a minor league game rather than let a division opponent get another look at him for scouting-report purposes. That presented Shore with a surprise opportunity.

He responded with four innings of one-run ball, holding the Angels to two hits. The game would take an ugly turn as the A’s bullpen got lit up in a 14-3 loss. But Shore’s outing was a glimpse of what Oakland might have to look forward to with the 22-year-old. The righty didn’t come out of college with the same hype as Florida teammate A.J. Puk, who the A’s drafted sixth overall last June. But he’s thought to be more polished than Puk at this stage.

Shore went 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts with short-season Vermont in his pro debut. This spring, he’s been grouped with high Single-A Stockton, but he hasn’t received his official regular-season assignment yet.

“That’s the kind of lineup that gets your attention a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He had great command of his fastball, a backdoor sinker, good changeup, good slider. He probably got a little bit tired at the end, but he was very impressive. That’s the first time I got to see him throw.”

Shore pitched in relief for the A’s earlier this spring as a minor league extra, so that helped him keep his nerves in check Tuesday. Still, it was a different challenge tackling what closely resembled the Angels’ regular-season lineup, which features Trout and Albert Pujols in the meat of it.

Trout struck out and flied to right against Shore. Pujols flied to right and singled.

“I grew up watching all those guys, so it’s kind of cool to get to pitch against them,” he said.

HEALTH UPDATES: Left fielder Khris Davis and third baseman Trevor Plouffe, both nursing minor injuries, won’t return to the field until the Bay Bridge Series which starts Thursday night at AT&T Park, Melvin said. Plouffe has missed the past few games with a groin injury and Davis has a right quad issue.

“We’ll just bubble wrap them right now and send them home,” Melvin cracked.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt took another step in his Tommy John recovery with a 30-pitch session that included two sets of 15 pitches, simulating two innings with a break in between.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s play their Cactus League finale Wednesday on the road against the Cubs, but most of the game will feature minor leaguers. All of the players who are heading north to face the Giants will be leaving for the airport sometime in the latter stages of the game.

On that topic, the A’s announced the 43 players that will make up their Bay Bridge roster. It includes 30 players from the 40-man roster, six non-roster invitees and seven extras from minor league camp. Oakland officially has 36 players still in camp, with Saturday the deadline to cut down to the final 25-man roster.

ODDS AND ENDS: After Shore left the game, the Angels struck for five runs in the fifth against Liam Hendriks. … The next inning, highly touted prospect Grant Holmes gave up five runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Holmes was one of three righties acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade. Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas were the others.

 

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

TEMPE, Ariz. — The A’s moving truck has already left the desert, and the team will be bolting for the airport after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

Spring training is quickly drawing to a close, with only the three-game Bay Bridge Series remaining before the games start to count. To mark that reality, here’s a look at the five most burning questions Oakland faced back when camp started in mid-February, and what kind of answers have materialized since …

1) Does Sonny Gray return to his old self?
The A’s absorbed their first major injury blow early when Gray, their potential Opening Night starter, went down with a strained lat muscle after a March 7 start. It wasn’t exactly what the right-hander had in mind coming off a 2016 season that sent him to the disabled list twice. Encouraging news came last week when Gray was allowed to start throwing again one week ahead of schedule.

When exactly he returns is tied to how soon he gets back on the mound. He’s been playing catch out to 105 feet, but manager Bob Melvin stressed the A’s aren’t going to rush things with Gray. Until further notice, the assumption is still that Gray will miss most of April.

2) Can a ‘healthy’ outlook be sustained?
Given what you read in the above item, obviously things haven’t gotten off to a great start in this department. Jake Smolinski, a candidate to make the team as an extra outfielder, showed up to camp with a sore right shoulder and required labrum surgery. Second baseman Joey Wendle, who was ticketed for Triple-A to begin with, also has been set back by a shoulder injury. But the focus, from an injury standpoint, is on Gray. If he were to miss just the first month of the regular season, that’s an absence the A’s should be able to cover. Any longer than that, and his presence really will be missed.

After last year’s roster-wide rash of injuries, better health is the most important first step in the A’s escaping the American League West cellar.

3) Who wins the closer’s job?
Six weeks of spring training has yet to reveal an answer here. If Melvin knows who his closer is, he isn’t saying publicly. Lefty Sean Doolittle, one of the veteran anchors of the relief corps, said Melvin hasn’t discussed roles yet with the relievers themselves. Expect more news on that during the Bay Bridge Series, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Of the four assumed ninth-inning candidates — Doolittle, John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson — none has been lights-out in Cactus League games.

The guess here is Madson, the A’s main closer last season, gets the first crack at the role this year as well.

“I don’t even think it’s on anybody’s radar,” Doolittle said Tuesday. “That’s one of the things that makes our bullpen effective. We’re not as attached to those roles as people might think.”

4) Where does Ryon Healy fit into the puzzle?
He fits in a little at first base, a little at third base and a little at DH. What we know is that Healy’s bat will be in the lineup regularly, it’s just a matter of where. Melvin spread his time pretty evenly between all three spots. Healy responded with a terrific spring at the plate. Entering Tuesday, he ranked third in the Cactus League with 16 RBI, the most spring RBI by an Athletic since Kevin Kouzmanoff also had 16 in 2010. Healy will play first base against lefties, platooning with Yonder Alonso. He’ll spell Trevor Plouffe at third. But it stands to reason a large chunk of his time will have to come at DH.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Melvin said. “It’s not easy, especially for a younger guy that was originally a first baseman. He worked as hard as anybody last year to make himself a third baseman. Now, it’s a little bit different for him and he knew that coming into camp. I think he’s handled his time wisely, worked hard at both positions, and he knows he has to move around a little bit this year.”

5) Can the A’s get their mojo back?
If a positive clubhouse vibe plays any part in a team turning around its on-field fortunes, the A’s are off to a good start. The early indications are that newcomers Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Casilla and Rajai Davis — those latter two are in their second stints with the A’s — all add some nice leadership qualities and mesh well with the returning vets. True, you can’t really read too much in spring training, when everyone always gets along in the spirit and optimism of a new season. But the A’s do seem to have better components up and down their roster to lead to a healthier season-long chemistry.

Just as you’ve read in the past, getting off to a strong start in the standings is the most effective way to maintain that chemistry.