October 16, 2012
The Strange Case of Melky Cabrera Spills Over to His Agency
It probably goes without saying, but when a player tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, it impacts his career. Not only does the player get suspended 50 games without pay for a first-time offense, it ripples forward into how that player’s performance is perceived in the future. If the player is marketable, it can go further by impacting things such as sponsorships. This is, of course, by design. The idea is that if the penalties are high enough, it acts as a deterrent. It's essentially a case of "if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime."
What hasn’t been discussed is the impact on the player representatives and how they fit into the mix. For most fans, the assumption has been that a violation of the league and union’s Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) is predominantly a reflection of the player himself with little thought as to how others come into play.
That public perception changed, however, when the Giants’ Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for elevated levels of testosterone on August 15. The fact that Cabrera was leading the league in batting average at the time was one reason for this, but when it was found that a fraudulent website was created by a consultant of his player agency to try and get around being held accountable, the story became much larger.
The matter, now being investigated by MLB and the FDA, brings into question ethics surrounding Sam and Seth Levinson’s ACES Inc., the agency that represents Cabrera. Authorities for the league and FDA, which includes Jeff Novitzky (a key figure in the BALCO investigation), are looking at an ACES consultant, Juan Nunez (an associate of Cabrera). Nunez reportedly took $10,000 and created the false website in which Cabrera would claim he was purchasing supplements that were not banned and, instead, got supplements that were laced with testosterone, unbeknownst to Cabrera. That was the loophole that Cabrera hoped to use on his appeal. Nunez has claimed that ACES was unaware of his actions.
The backstory is how MLB and the MLB Players Association have been looking to clean up the game. In speaking with several player agents, a shift occurred when Michael Weiner took over as Executive Director of the Players Association.
In October of 2010, the MLBPA rolled out a policy by which anyone who worked with a player agency and had contact with a player would only have access to limited MLBPA certification. The MLBPA was noticing problems with “runners,” such as Nunez, who had relationships with players but were not certified as agents. The union felt they had the right to regulate the conduct of those working with players, even if that person was not actually an agent but merely in contact through an agency.