$5 Million Reward for Using Steroids? – Guillermo Mota Re-Signs With Mets

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$5 Million Reward for Using Steroids? – Guillermo Mota Re-Signs With Mets

Guillermo Mota signed a two-year $5 million contract to remain with the New York Mets. Mota was acquired from Cleveland in August and was absolutely dominant down the stretch. In his 18 appearances with the Mets, Mota compiled a 1.00 ERA with a WHIP of 0.833 and over a strikeout an inning. All the while Mota had performancing-enhancing drugs, presumably steroids, in his system. Assuming he will be drug-free in 2007, Mota seems very likely to revert to his 2005/first-half-of-2006 self, and will likely decline from there as he hits his mid-thirties.

So was this contract a reward for using steroids to help the team?

While everyone in baseball condemns (publicly) the use of steroids, players like Ken Caminiti were applauded by teammates and management for sacrificing their bodies and giving everything they had to help the team. Again, those people will never condone steroid use but they seem to actually appreciate the fact that Caminiti had done it to help the team.

Mets’ GM, Omar Minaya surely did his homework before signing Mota. He knows Mota will be 34 years old next year and 35 in 2008. He knows that Mota was largely ineffective in 2005 and the first half of 2006. He knows that a player declining physically and using drugs to regain health or strength in general is not likely to age well without drugs.

Mota will make $2 million in 2007, but will lose slightly less than one third of it while serving his 50-game suspension for violating the terms of baseball’s drug policy. He’ll get $3 million in 2008. This contract is significant to baseball historians attempting to reconcile the statistics of the last fifteen years or so. For the most part information about steroid and hGH use in baseball is fragmented but positive tests (by players playing a significant amount) provide a chance to compare statistics and gain some fairly direct information. It appears that Mota’s numbers were directly aided by the drugs. Based solely on his performance in the first half of 2006, he should be signing a minor league deal, trying to win a job in spring training.

On Nov. 1 Major League Baseball announced that Mota had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. In a statement following the announcement, Mota took the high road, accepting full responsibility for his actions. He apologized to the fans, his teammates and the entire Mets organization.

The day after Mota’s positive test was made public, ESPN columnist Buster Olney wrote about Mota’s 2006 season in his Insider Blog. In the article Olney pointed to Mota’s month-by month ERA which is as follows:

April: 4.22
May: 6.94
June: 12.00
July: 3.86
August: 1.50
September: 0.82

Mota would have been tested during spring training that year, and he obviously passed that test.

We know there is a relationship between performance-enhanbcing drugs and a player’s production, but how direct is that relationship?

Olney also cited Rafael Palmeiro’s statistics from 2005 when he tested positive for Stanozolol. Palmeiro’s OPS was .623 in April and .970 May. Palmeiro’s positive test was the result of a blood test done on May 4. Olney hypothesized about how long it would take for the steroids (or other drugs) to aid an increase in production based on the cases of Palmeiro and Mota.

It will be interesting to see how Mota’s contract plays out. Juan Rincon has pitched extremely well since his positive test in 2005, but Rincon was 25. Mota was 33. Other ‘young’ players such as Rafael Betancourt (30) and Mike Morse (23) have had moderate success since their suspensions, though success is still the vast minority. The older players don’t seem to be able to make it back at all. Palmeiro (40), Matt Lawton (33), the only players 32 years of age or older at the time of their positive test, disappeared from the game shortly after their suspensions.

The older players using drugs, presumably to keep up or to curb injuries, seem to suffer the most following a failed drug test. Unless that $5 million was some sort of perverse reward for Mota’s sacrificing his body to help the team on a playoff push, the Mets just wasted $5 million.

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