Crime isn’t supposed to pay, at least not as much as Jhonny Peralta is going to make over the next four seasons.
In August, Peralta was one of 12 players suspended by major league baseball for their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Today, he is the latest free agent to sign a lucrative long-term contract. The juxtaposition of those two events has many in and around the game throwing their hands up in disbelief.
It’s hard to argue with the initial visceral reaction to Peralta’s new four year, $52 million deal. If a “drug cheat” can earn such a substantial contract only months after serving a suspension for his transgression, then what incentive is there for a player to be clean? However, as compelling as that logic might seem, there is a more intriguing question. Although the timing of Peralta’s contract creates a bad optic, the order of events has greater implications.
It’s important to remember that the Cardinals signed Peralta knowing full well that he was linked to performance enhancing drugs. In other words, they decided that his past record was not unduly influenced by the substances he may have taken. And, the Cardinals were not alone in that assumption. Several other teams were reportedly interested in Peralta, which is why he wound up signing such a healthy contract. If teams truly believed the short stop was a product of chemicals, not talent, they would not have clamored to sign him.
So, how seriously do teams regard the use of alleged PEDs? We all know teams pay lip service about PEDs being a scourge, but if the owners and general managers are genuinely that concerned, why aren’t they putting their money where their mouths are? Could it be because teams realize the impact of most “performance enhancing” drugs is minimal? If so, it suggests teams regard the PED issue as being blown out of proportion, in which case, the clamoring for stiffer penalties is really much ado about nothing (or very little).
Just because Jhonny Peralta signed a new contract doesn’t mean he wasn’t sufficiently punished for his actions, especially when you consider we don’t actually know what he did. Not only did the short stop miss 50 games and suffer a stain on his reputation (the importance of which is admittedly easy to cynically dismiss), but he also lost nearly $2 million in salary. Does that not count as a significant penalty? Also, who is to say Peralta wouldn’t have signed an even more lucrative deal if he didn’t have the taint of PEDs on his resume?
Peralta broke a rule and was punished accordingly. The terms of his subsequent contract neither enhance nor diminish the severity of that penalty. All 30 teams had the opportunity to pass judgment on Peralta’s true worth, and the Cardinals rendered the final verdict. So, before decrying the perceived leniency of the punishments currently prescribed by baseball’s joint-drug agreement, it’s at least worthwhile to consider whether the seriousness of the crime has been exaggerated.