Winter baseball theme: Rise of the tainted

Bartolo Colon gets a $3 million deal from the A's, despite his positive testosterone test. (US Presswire)

It’s early, I know, but what a great winter it’s been for the guys who don't follow the rules.

Melky Cabrera’s reported $16-million, two-year deal is just more icing for the tainted, the unethical, the scandal-ridden, the self-centered and/or the brazen.

Bigger signings are going to occur, we know that. There’s plenty of time left. The best and brightest are still on the market.

Still, the winter’s been something of a downer so far. It seems half the positive news so far regards folks with positive tests. Technically, that isn't true. But it does seem that way.

Bartolo Colon, who still has five more games to miss for his positive test for testosterone, already got $3 million guaranteed from the A’s, a 100-percent raise from what they paid him in the year he was nailed with his positive test (they were contracted to pay $2 million last year but because of the positive test he made only about $1.5 million).

Some big jobs with leadership requirements went or were offered this winter to the formerly tainted.

Mark McGwire, a steroid symbol of the ‘80s and ‘90s, moved on from hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, where he restored much of his credibility and image (though not his body mass) as he surely toiled hard and helped the team succeed. McGwire took the same job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that's closer to his family.

It’s great to be near your wife and kids, and it's hard to blame him for that decision. But somehow, after the Cardinals helped him so much I figure McGwire owed them more than a resignation letter.

Jason Giambi, who had the good sense to confess his steroid misdeeds when caught in the Balco scandal, became a hot job candidate with the Rockies, who say they have to do things differently because of their thin-aired environment. Man, did they ever!

First the Rockies seriously considered Giambi, who has no managing experience, for the managing job that ultimately went to Walt Weiss, a clean fellow and ex-Rockie who happened to be coaching a high school team before leaping to the Rockies.

Then the Rockies offered a Giambi their hitting coach job. And they weren’t the only team that saw him as a great hitting coach hire. Others did, too, from what I hear.

Giambi is a terrifically pleasant man. But what’s the moral of the story here?

Giambi got to keep his whole $120-million Yankees contract. Now he’s the most coveted current player for jobs on major-league coaching staffs.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are waiting on former HGH user Andy Pettitte, who is due to tell them any day whether he’d like to return for what promises to be a substantial raise from the $2.5 million he made last year after he announced his comeback in spring training.

That’s no surprise. He performed very well on the field after he came back, much better than he did in the courtroom, where he testified he couldn’t really recall whether Roger Clemens told him he had used HGH only one day after testifying Clemens did, in fact, tell him he used HGH.

Odd that he recalled a 10-year-old conversation one day, then couldn’t remember the same 10-year-old conversation the next day on the stand.

Joel Peralta’s crime wasn’t even a misdemeanor, more like a parking ticket. But he was banned 10 games this year for a pine tar incident, so I’ll mention it. He signed back with Tampa Bay for a reported $6.25 million over two years. Can't really blame the Rays on that one, either, as no one could possibly attribute his success to a bit of pine tar. But it just seemed to fit into this winter's early theme, if in a very minor way.

The Blue Jays even found a taker for Yunel Escobar, who received a three-game suspension from the team last year for the offensive message he made out of his eye black. Sure, he was hidden in a 12-player trade. And sure, it was the Marlins, who were anxious for an overhaul. But someone took him, just the same.

Ballplayers can do no wrong. Or if they do wrong, it's forgotten and forgiven very easily.

As for Melky, I’ve already seen praise for his agents sending him out of a major media market to sign with Toronto, as if they had any other choice. The Giants had long since washed their hands of him, and good for them. Ya think Boston, the Yankees, Mets or any other big-market club was giving this guy $16 million guaranteed to bring him to their market? No chance.

I’ve seen many already suggest it’s a good deal for the Jays. To that, I say maybe. And just as likely, maybe not.

If he is the guy who somehow magically turned into a superstar over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, hitting .346 in ’12 and becoming the All-Star Game MVP in the only All-Star Game he ever played in, then yeah, sure, good job Jays.

But if he’s the portly, punky guy he was in Atlanta in 2010, when he hit four home runs and made about a hundred enemies by being an obnoxious out-of-shape lout, then $16 million is not well spent here.

If he changes his ways, and exhibits no signs that he’s going to revert to his immature party ways from New York, then yes, $16 mil may be a bargain.

But if he’s the guy who went along with the lame attempt to perpetrate a fraud upon on MLB by following his failed test by concocting some made-up internet scheme to try to fool baseball’s powers into believing he took the drug accidentally, then umm, no, $16 mil is no great deal.

Who knows what's real with this guy?

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