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MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday said that he "expects to meet" with MLB officials within a month to learn the results of the league's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic, and "hear what kind of discipline" MLB plans to impose, according to Madden, Thompson & Vinton of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Weiner said that union officials will "try to find common ground with the league on the length of the suspensions and how they will be publicized." He added that the union will "ask that suspensions not be announced until after the grievance hearings that are likely to take place." That could "create a timeline in which suspensions come late in this season and carry over into the next, or perhaps don’t even begin until next season." MLB's drug policy "calls for 50-game bans for violations of the drug policy and 100-game bans for second offenses, but Weiner confirmed that MLB was entitled to depart from those guidelines in the case of non-analytical positives -- guilt based on evidence other than laboratory tests of urine or blood samples" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/17). Weiner added that he "hopes the union can engage the commissioner's office in discussions about penalties and appeal procedures 'within the next month' and that appeal hearings for suspended players could start 'as soon as September.'" A source said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's office "believes suspensions and appeals can be processed by the end of the season" (L.A. TIMES, 7/17). In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes there "will be only one arbitrator," Fredric Horowitz, hearing the Biogenesis cases, and if the 20-plus players who reportedly could be suspended by the league all "appeal their suspensions, this could become a long process." However, that "doesn’t mean suspensions won’t be leaked long before the appeal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/17).
TAKE YOUR TIME: USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz reports Rangers RF Nelson Cruz, who has been linked with the Biogenesis clinic, yesterday "expressed satisfaction that the playoff races might not be affected by penalties." He said, "It would be important because there are some players involved in that (case) whose teams are in contention, and it could impact them." Padres SS Everth Cabrera, also linked to the clinic, said, "It does give you some more peace of mind" (USA TODAY, 7/17). In N.Y., Ken Davidoff notes it has been "widely presumed" each player suspended would "appeal the penalty." But Weiner yesterday "at least allowed for the possibility some players, seeing the case against them, could concede and negotiate an immediate sentence" (N.Y. POST, 7/17). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes of the Biogenesis case, "This serving of justice will be like nothing we have seen." There "are no rules and certainly no precedents." Nightengale: "Clearly, with no precedents in place, MLB will plan to establish its own bench marks for the next Biogenesis case." The penalties imposed now "will be crucial for the future, and the union certainly understands this case will have long-range implications" (USA TODAY, 7/17).
SPLIT INTERESTS: In Chicago, Phil Rogers notes Weiner in the past has "spoken out against the urge to 'prejudge' players" linked to Biogenesis and to reports players "could be given 100-game suspensions for a first offense." But there are "many players who want the Biogenesis cheaters punished strongly," and Weiner "represents their interests as well as those of players who face punishment." When asked if he is in a tough spot, Weiner said, "I'd say we have a challenge. There are some players whose initial reaction is 'Just throw the book at them, I don't care about these guys.' We have to explain to all players what rights those players have. We have an obligation to enforce those rights, and we will. At the same time, we have a drug agreement to enforce, and we will." Rogers notes Weiner and his staff will "get the best deals they can for the players tied to Biogenesis." But he has "been as sincere as Selig in working to educate players on the risks that go with taking PEDs and the desire to have an even playing field for all players" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/17). Phillies P Cliff Lee said of impending suspensions from the Biogenesis case, "This is just proving that the system works. ... Guys are getting caught. You're not getting away with it anymore. It's not like it's a lingering issue." He added, "I hope anyone that does steroids or anything like that, and they're cheating the game, I hope they get caught and I hope they get suspended. That's the way it should be" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/17).
DRUG ISSUES: Selig yesterday skirted around discussing the Biogenesis matter in any great detail during his meeting with the Baseball Writers Association of America. But he did use the forum as another opportunity to outline the sport's strides in drug testing over the past decade. Selig, in referring to a difficult hearing on Capitol Hill in March '05, said, "We must be doing OK. I haven't heard from anybody in Washington in eight and a half years" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Selig recently said baseball is "cleaner than it has ever been," but also said the players implicated in the Biogenesis investigation face a "day of reckoning." In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom asked, "Do you need a 'day of reckoning' if your sport is cleaner than it has ever been?" MLB "looks desperate as it relies on flimsy legal standing." If you "want to make the game cleaner than it has ever been, then place greater responsibility on a greater number of people to clean it up" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 7/16).
A BLIGHT ON THE GAME: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes if fans "give up following baseball this summer in the wake of suspensions," that is "their right." Biogenesis "marks a dreadful blight on the game's integrity, and baseball is to be commended for its irrepressible vigilance." It "can't be fun gathering just enough evidence to put some of the game's greatest stars out of sight, and into disgrace." There is "just something about the game itself, an old and familiar lure that proves triumphant in the end." Jenkins writes there was "no dark cloud over baseball" at last night's All-Star Game in N.Y., "because pure competition had arrived, and here came Mariano Rivera out of the American League bullpen in the bottom of the eighth inning ... and time stopped" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/17).
MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday said the union plans to name a Deputy Exec Dir within roughly the next two weeks, the latest step in a developing contingency plan stemming from Weiner's ongoing fight with brain cancer. Weiner has an inoperable brain tumor, and his condition has worsened considerably in the last month, leaving him confined to a wheelchair and with little feeling on his right side. Weiner's successor, who would then serve on an interim basis, will need to be approved by the union's Exec Board in a conference call to be held soon. Weiner all but ruled out any chance of a return to the union by former execs Don Fehr and Gene Orza, saying Orza has flatly indicated he will stay retired and that he "does not expect" Fehr to leave the NHLPA and return to the baseball union. "I would not expect that Don will work again at the Players Association, and I don't think Don expects that," he said. The MLBPA has been working on the contingency plan since November. Weiner said he does not know how much time he has left but said he is continuing to fight his illness, and he recently began a more experimental line of treatment. "I'm going to live each day as it comes," he said in a meeting in N.Y. with the Baseball Writers Association of America. "I take no day for granted. I try to find beauty, meaning and joy each day, and if I can find those, I consider that a good day" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In N.Y., Madden, Thompson & Vinton report Weiner's successor will come "from within the association." Weiner’s unnamed deputy will "serve in his place until players can hold a vote to certify the new leader." There has been "much speculation" about MLBPA Player Services Dir Tony Clark, and choosing a union insider would be "in keeping with tradition." Each MLBPA leader has "come from within the organization, with one exception being the time players chose labor arbitrator Ken Moffett to succeed Marvin Miller" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/17).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: USA TODAY's Paul White writes the players "know the job will be difficult to fill." Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen said of Weiner, "He cares about the game of baseball and he wants everything to be fair." Rockies RF Michael Cuddyer: "The inspiration that he is, it's incredible. To be going through what he is, he'll go fight for what he believes is right. That's an extremely strong person" (USA TODAY, 7/17). Rangers P Joe Nathan: "It’s just awful to have it happen to him. He’s such a good guy; he’s such a brilliant mind. Every time I think about it, it’s like, ugh. It’s amazing to me that, through all of this, his concern has been about us. His concern has been for other people. I think he just needs to almost take a step back, do some things for himself. Enjoy his time now.” In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes replacing Weiner is a possibility "none of the members wants to confront -- especially, it seems, at a crucial moment for the players" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17). Tigers RF Torii Hunter said: "Spring training, he's walking and talking. To see him in a wheelchair in three months, that's tough. He don't want the sympathy, and he still wants to work. That's why nobody's stepped in. You gotta admire a guy like that" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/17).
FOR LOVE OF THE GAME: MLB.com's Barry Bloom noted it has been "less than a year" since Weiner was diagnosed with the tumor. Bloom: "We have all watched him deteriorate in front of our eyes." But he "wanted to be here for this All-Star weekend because as an attorney and head of the union, he absolutely adores the game, which excites us in times of strength and gives us solace when we are weak." Bloom told Weiner, "You've given it a great fight." Weiner responded, "That's the only way I know to go about it" (MLB.com, 7/16).
MLB still wants to introduce an expanded form of instant replay for the '14 season and is considering a wide variety of potential implementations, but it is still proceeding cautiously in an effort to avoid negative consequences with regard to pace of play. "We're pretty confident we'll have it in place for 2014," said MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre. "We're still in the tweaking stages. We're not limiting ourselves" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Torre noted it will be a system where plays "besides home runs can be reviewed." In St. Louis, Rick Hummel notes expected to be "among the additions are boundary calls, i.e., fair or foul balls not involving home runs." But Torre said, “We have a time issue. We don’t want this (replay) thing to drag on because I think people would lose interest, to be honest with you. It would be something of where it could not happen a lot" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/17). Torre: "We've got issues. How much replay do we want? If you start doing it from first inning to the ninth, we might have to time games with a calendar. We don't have built in timeouts like other sports. We have a game with flow and a rhythm to it. ... We don't want to throw something out there and then have to draw it back" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/17).
SCHEDULING CONFLICTS: MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said the players largely hate this year's master schedule, which saw the advent of interleague play every day following the relocation of the Astros to the AL. The new format has helped create some more unusual and taxing travel routings. "The schedule sucks. It really does," Weiner said, vowing the matter will be an important topic in the new round of CBA talks with the league. That said, Weiner added the union remains firmly in favor of the new structure with 15 teams each in the AL and NL. Meanwhile, MLB is still seeking a worldwide draft, even after recent negotiations with the MLBPA to create one starting in '15 did not generate a deal. MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred said the current, interim system for signing international free agents is working well, is well liked by the clubs, and will likely serve as the basis of what will likely be a more phased approach toward a global entry draft (Fisher).
NO NEWS ON MASN: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday "gave no indication that a resolution was imminent or that any progress had even been made of late" despite many "recent conversations with the ownership groups" of the Nationals and Orioles about their ongoing television rights dispute. Selig said, "It’s really a difficult situation but I’m always hopeful that we can work out a resolution.” The Nationals and Orioles have been "deadlocked in discussions about a possible increase in the Nationals’ rights fees from" MASN since the end of the '11 season (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 7/16).
GOING GLOBAL: MLB.com's Paul Hagen noted Selig at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest yesterday answered "some 25 questions" submitted by fans. Selig talked about the "logistics which prevents the World Baseball Classic from being played sometime other than Spring Training and envisioned a day when the World Series is played against a team from outside North America." Selig: "That's my ultimate goal. It will happen long after I'm gone, but my ultimate goal is to have a real World Series." When asked about the possibility of establishing MLB franchises around the world, he said, "My dream is to some day to have franchises in different locales. Air travel will have to be a little more sophisticated, but that's why we are doing everything internationally" (MLB.com, 7/16).
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: There is still no named successor for Selig when he plans to step down after next year, but he said there have been some internal discussions regarding the matter. Selig: "There's been some conversation, but I can't tell you anything is definitive yet. There will be" (Fisher). MLB Network's Bob Costas said of Selig, "If his tenure had ended in 2000, he would have gotten a C or a C-. His grade has gone up tremendously over the last decade plus. He may have been slow to realize or to get the momentum behind him when it comes to steroids, but clearly now they are very, very serious, and they're sticking with it. And the biggest problem at the turn of the century other than steroids was this tremendous competitive imbalance. And yet they have put now a number of things in place. There's no salary cap, but the payroll tax is holding some teams in check. ... It's so much different than what it was just a decade ago, and you've got to give Bud a lot of credit for that. The revenue sharing as well" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 7/16).
TIME FOR A CHANGE? In Portland, John Canzano writes what has “become increasingly clear in two decades of Selig's ‘leadership’ is that he's woefully out of touch." MLB would be better off with someone with a "broader vision, new ideas and a better connection with the game itself.” MLB under Selig has “devolved into a performance-enhancing mess.” Selig “means well,” though he has "always acted ... in the best interests of ownership, not the game itself.” Canzano: “A day such as Tuesday becomes maddening when you consider that a shake-up at the top is so overdue that Selig himself knows it.” Why else “would he have spent so much time playing defense” in a news conference yesterday in N.Y., trying to “re-frame his legacy as if it were coincidental that he was the ‘acting’ commissioner when baseball lost its way” (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/17).
The MLB All-Star Game was "a showcase for the game’s newest batch of young talent," as a "new group of phenoms made their All-Star debuts, and they did not disappoint," according to Albert Chen of SI.com. Mets P Matt Harvey "shut down the AL lineup over two scoreless innings," while Marlins P Jose Fernandez was "impressive in the top of the sixth, retiring Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis on 13 pitches." Orioles 3B Manny Machado "made the defensive play of the game" when he backhanded a groundball hit by D'Backs 1B Paul Goldschmidt down the line (SI.com, 7/17). MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes the game let a national audience "soak in the sensational third-base play" of Machado and gave Fernandez the "chance to show why some think he'll go down as the best pitcher to ever come out of Cuba." It "was a joy" to see Harvey, Fernandez, D'Backs P Patrick Corbin and Rays P Matt Moore "make what could be the first of many All-Star appearances" (MLB.com, 7/17). Red Sox DH David Ortiz said, "I like the fact that there's a lot of young, talented players in this room. It's not pretty much the same people over and over and over. You want the game to get better. You want people to get to know the new faces of the game, the future of the game" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/17).
HARVEY DANGER: In N.Y., Andrew Keh notes Harvey "experienced a whirlwind 24 hours surrounding his start" at last night's All-Star Game. It would be a "memorable night for Harvey, a night that seemed certain to raise his profile." During player introductions, Harvey "received the loudest ovation -- even louder, it seemed, than the one David Wright received moments earlier." Harvey's "anonymity may be fading" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17). In Newark, Steve Politi writes if the Harvey "phenomena hadn’t quite left the city before this -- and, if his appearance on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' this week is any indication, he hasn’t quite penetrated all five boroughs here -- this was a first glimpse for the casual fan of his arsenal." And Harvey "wants the attention" (Newark STAR LEDGER, 7/17). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes Harvey has a "way about him, a natural-born celebrity without the ego" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/17). In N.Y., Kevin Kernan writes Harvey, like Wright, has been "an Amazin’ ambassador for this game and shot the Fallon video Monday morning." MLB VP/Business PR Matt Bourne said of Harvey, "He’s great to work with. He really connects with the people. That is the No. 1 video on YouTube right now." Kernan writes Harvey is a "new age social media star, glowing in the 24-hour spotlight that is New York City." In some ways he "reminds of a modern version of Broadway Joe Namath" (N.Y. POST, 7/17).
FACE OF THE NATION: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark examined the question of who is currently the "Face of Baseball." While many people inside MLB believe “the game comes first,” that is “NOT how those on the outside see it.” Angels CF Mike Trout and Nationals CF Bryce Harper came into MLB on the same day last April and they “were going to do for baseball what Larry Bird and Magic Johnson once did for the NBA.” While both players won the Rookie of the Year, Stark questioned whether they have “truly turned into the Face of Baseball.” He wondered if MLB has ever launched the “sort of eyeball-grabbing Trout-Harper How Can You Miss THIS? Parade that seemed ready to bust out any minute last summer.” Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said, “It starts with the athletes and works backwards. If they’re willing and able, Major League Baseball should do everything in its power to hitch its wagon to these two guys.” But Stark noted even if MLB “wanted to ride the Trout-Harper wave … the dynamics within their own teams, and the keep-your-helmet-on culture that pervades every clubhouse, make that tougher than you’d think.” Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera, who last year won the first Triple Crown since ’67, “would make a spectacular Face of Baseball in a million ways,” but he also “presents many of the same issues.” Cabrera is “surrounded in his clubhouse by some of the biggest names in his sport.” Tigers President & GM Dave Dombrowski noted Cabrera also “is really not looking for a lot of press exposure.” Dombrowski also admitted that there is the “language barrier, which, unfortunately, is impossible to ignore” (ESPN.com, 7/16).
LOOKING FOR MLB'S LEBRON: MLB Network's Chris Rose asked, "Who's the face of baseball moving forward? I don't think its 39-year-old Derek Jeter anymore. It's obviously not Alex Rodriguez or any of those guys. So a guy like Bryce Harper, a guy like Mike Trout can take the mantle right now. You have to have cross-section appeal to be the face of an entire sport. It's why LeBron James can sell so much merchandise ... he is the face of basketball. There are a couple guys that are the faces of the NFL, and I think there are a bunch of guys wrestling for that honor in our sport right now." MLB Net's Kevin Millar: "The faces of this game are the young bloods coming up -- your Trouts and your Harpers and Harveys. ... You're almost seeing a changing of the guard" ("Intentional Talk," MLBN, 7/16).
If reaction to screenings for DreamWorks' new animated movie "Turbo" is any indication, "the film could put Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Izod IndyCar Series ... on the map with a younger generation of fans," according to Jeff Olson of USA TODAY. Director David Soren said of IndyCar, "I do hope it makes an impact for them." But as "highly anticipated movies go, open-wheel racing has been burned in the past." Those in the sport "still cringe" about the buildup to "Driven," the '01 film featuring Sylvester Stallone based around the former CART series. As "bad as Driven was, Turbo is expected to be well-received and far more beneficial to its subject." What the films share is the "use of realistic sites, backdrops and licensing." The "backdrop of the Indy 500, IMS and the city of Indianapolis in Turbo" is "recognizable to race fans." Driver Dario Franchitti, who consulted on the film, said, "The [IMS] pagoda looks exactly as it is, and even the serrations in the track are perfect. ... People who know the Speedway will recognize it immediately." Olson notes that Soren, after "coming to an agreement on licensing that would allow elements of the Speedway and the race to be used in the film," used "extensive and complicated computer imaging to recreate IMS, the 500 and its surroundings." DreamWorks has produced "some of the most popular computer animated films of the era" and IMS and IndyCar officials are "hoping Turbo is a hit that provides a tangible bump in interest." Driver Tony Kanaan said, "I think it absolutely will help us." Kanaan's car has "carried the Turbo sponsorship for three races this season and will again" at the Honda Indy 200 on Aug. 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (USA TODAY, 7/17). Franchitti said, "The attention to detail is incredible. I don’t think it would’ve (affected) the story to the average person, but to IndyCar fans, whether it’s drivers or team members or fans, it’s important it was realistic and accurate." Franchitti added, "It's important to attract new fans to any sport. With ‘Turbo’ we can open up the sport of IndyCar to a whole new audience" (NEWSDAY, 7/11).
HITTING THE GAS: The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote IndyCar for the last several years has been operating "with big ideas but a thin marketing budget," and "nothing has seemed to work in building a sustainable buzz around the series." It now has a "life-size, free advertisement of its centerpiece event and storied speedway on big screens across America." Kanaan was "one of several drivers who attended" the N.Y. premiere. All were "impressed with the realism of both their craft and the speedway." Kanaan: "I think the movie has a great message -- it's about getting the awareness of the Indy 500, but also a message of perseverance." Driver Sébastien Bourdais said, "It's one of these movies that you can take it with two degrees, with the adult's eye and kid's eye because it fits perfectly. It's the right message and it's great for the IndyCar Series" (AP, 7/15). NBCSPORTS.com's Tony DiZinno wrote the film "represents IndyCar’s best chance in the last dozen years to re-enter the mainstream consciousness, and attract new, particularly younger fans." It is a "rare chance that can’t be squandered" after the poor reaction to "Driven." That film is "still a running joke in racing circles" (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/16).