So the hammer is about to fall -- sort of. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 big league players are going to face sanctions for violating MLB’s PED policy. But what sanctions? Which players? And who is likely to escape unscathed?
The truth is that the Biogenesis scandal, let alone the PED scandal, isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact it may well be that any suspensions might not even take place in the 2013 season. That's because the whole process is going to be rather convoluted.
When we first learned about Biogenesis and MLB’s investigation we were expecting swift action, and the immediate commencement of hostilities between the anti-PED forces and the affected players, as well as to a degree the MLBPA (the players union). But what we got was over a month of deafening silence from the commissioner’s office.
That’s because they were getting their proverbial ducks in a row. They were lining up witnesses, getting verification of the facts as they believe them, and yes, climbing down from the ivory tower to deal face to face with the chemists and pushers in order to secure their testimony.
It’s a dirty business and one based on how local police and federal law enforcement often build their cases, but giving immunity to the small fish in order to net the bigger ones. Usually this work comes when dealing with criminals, but most criminals don’t have deep, deep pockets that they can delve into or have the most powerful union in all of sports behind them.
That may not matter, but by the same token it might. This isn’t a fight that the players union really wants to be in. The majority of players don’t support the PED users, and by defending the accused the union can only face the public relations fallout by coming across as the bad guys.
Still they have a moral obligation, and to a degree a legal one to represent these players to the best of their ability, should the players decide to appeal whatever suspensions the commissioners office attempts to hand out.
If they decide to fight the suspensions, they'll have to fight section 7A of the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program document as ratified by both MLB and the MLBPA as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That section states: A Player who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance, or who violates the Program through the use or possession of the a Performance Enhancing Substance, will be subject to the discipline set forth below (but not included here). The key will be fighting the credibility of baseball’s witnesses and whatever records that baseball has managed to obtain.
And I suspect that MLB won’t be quite as incompetent as the government was in its prosecution of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Of course they don’t have to be. They don’t even have to play by same rules that law enforcement would have to. They can play as dirty as the PED users have -- at least in the initial phases of this battle.
That’s because before this can go to the courts, it will have to go through arbitration as specified under the CBA. And the odds are good that most players won’t take it too much further than that. Many of the names on the Biogenesis client list probably don’t have the wherewithal or finances to continue fighting it in court if the union won’t finance it.
But a handful, most notably Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, have plenty of money and could make a fight of it. Our best guess is that Braun probably will. Braun, who tested positive for synthetic testosterone two seasons ago, managed to escape suspension, not by attacking the testing but the handling of his sample (and he never claimed his sample was clean, or even offered to explain how the test could have been wrong).
MLB recently asked Braun to come in and discuss the issue and answer some questions regarding Biogenesis, but Braun refused. While that’s largely been under the radar of most fans, it certainly hasn’t helped Braun’s relations with MLB’s front office and Selig.
Selig has made it clear he wants to punish those who’ve impeded or failed to cooperate with the investigation and Braun has placed himself clearly in the crosshairs.is
What does that mean? The truth is that it’s hard to tell. So much of MLB’s process in this takes place behind closed doors. However, Selig could attempt to suspend Braun for a second, not a first offense, due to his dodged suspension. It’s possible he could even ask for both the first and the second suspension based on the Biogenesis evidence.
Of course, we could be making mountains out of molehills here. Neither the public nor the media really know what’s going to happen with these suspensions. Selig and MLB could go for the home run when they come down on the accused PED users. Or it could simply be a bunt, with token suspensions or some players such as Yasmani Grandal could get a pass based on the fact that they have already served a suspension for PEDs and they could well have been the Biogenesis PEDs.
I guess we’ll see how the hammer falls just after the All-Star Break. That said I’d be trying to move the fantasy players on the Biogenesis list because this could be very ugly.
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