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50 games isn't enough, and Melky proves it

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
Melky Cabrera will miss the rest of the regular season plus five possible playoff games. (Getty Images)

You hear people say Melky Cabrera cost himself a ton of money with his decision to use synthetic testosterone.

Not necessarily.

Not if Melky's breakthrough season -- or seasons, if you want to count last year -- were fueled by his drug use. Not if Clean Melky was never going to put up anything close to those numbers, and wasn't going to be in line for that big contract in the first place.

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And there's the problem with baseball's drug policy. There's the reason that Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson may well be right when he says 50 games just isn't enough.

It wasn't enough -- not enough to deter a journeyman player who saw a chance at a $60 million payday. That's $60 million or more, because who knows how high the Melky bidding might have gone, on a free-agent market that offers few impact bats.

A 50-game suspension isn't enough deterrence. Melky is the proof.

I'm not saying he wrote out a pros and cons of using, a list of the possible rewards and the possible risks, but imagine if he did.

Reward: A huge contract, for far more money than he'd ever made before. Adoration from loving fans and teammates. Celebrity like he'd never seen before.

Risk: Might get caught, might have to miss 50 games. Will still get an OK contract, maybe nothing like the one he'd get if he got lucky and slipped past the test, but maybe better than the one he'd have gotten before he started using. A hit to the reputation, but it's not like he had a big reputation, anyway, before he started using.

Add it up, and then tell me for sure that you wouldn't take that risk for that possible reward. Add it up, and tell me if the risk of a 50-game suspension is deterrent enough.

It is for some guys. I hear it all the time from major-league players, that with the testing and punishment system in place now, they'd never take the chance.

No matter what Victor Conte says, it seems obvious that the current testing and punishment system has significantly lowered the percentage of players who are using.

No system of testing and punishments would ever lower that number to zero. That can't be the goal, because it's unrealistic.

But if the Melky news proved anything, it's that 50 games isn't enough of a deterrent for guys like him. Not when the potential reward is so big.

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