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MLB yesterday suspended 13 players for their ties to the Biogenesis clinic, the "biggest single-day drug action in the sport's history," according to a front-page piece by Steve Eder of the N.Y. TIMES. Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez received a ban of 211 games, "by far the longest levied by the league for a doping violation." MLB in explaining the suspension through the end of the '14 season cited Rodriguez' "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances" over many years. Rodriguez is the only player planning to appeal, and MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said Rodriguez' suspension was "way too harsh." He said, "We've never had a 200-plus penalty for a player who may have used drugs. ... I just think that is way out of line." But MLB Commissioner Bud Selig indicated that the suspension "was within the bounds of the league's antidoping rules" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes it was a "day of sweeping and dramatic punishment" handed out by MLB, "eclipsing the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal for throwing the World Series as the most players suspended at once for off-field activities." Weiner said that Rodriguez' appeal decision is "not expected to be rendered by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz until at least November." Rodriguez' attorney David Cornwell likely will argue Selig is "abusing his power." But Nightengale writes Selig in truth could have "gone for a harsher sentence." He "thought seriously about banning him for life, or at least invoking his power as commissioner and making sure Rodriguez didn't play until his appeal is heard and ruled on." Selig decided to "treat him just like any other player linked to performance-enhancing drugs, only extending the penalty because of the egregious charges" (USA TODAY, 8/6). MLB Network's Jon Heyman said MLB is "doing the prudent thing here in not invoking" the "best interest" clause "to get one player off the field" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 8/5).
MAKING PROGRESS ON PEDS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa writes the suspensions "highlight MLB's evolution to a league that enforces its drug policy more aggressively than any other U.S. professional sports body." That is "in part because of increased cooperation from players" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/6). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes it "does appear Selig did not so overstep his bounds that he jeopardized the relationship management and players have to eliminate the performance-enhancing drugs" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/6). But in New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes Rodriguez and Selig should "use the next three days to cut through the fog of hate and make a deal." Selig has "overshot his mark with a 211-game suspension and could have trouble making it stick in front of an arbitrator." And Rodriguez, "drop-dead guilty of PED use, knows he’ll never get the penalty overturned outright." A "neat 150 games would give both sides what they’re looking for." Selig still gets to "levy the longest drug-related banishment in the game’s history, and in return offers A-Rod a chance to get back on the field before the 2014 playoffs" (Bergen RECORD, 8/6).
CBA COULD BE RE-OPENED: Weiner in a special to USA TODAY writes MLBers "want a clean game, and that's why they have taken the lead in establishing the toughest testing program in professional sports." However, the players also "know that cheating exists in every walk of life." And even the "toughest penalties imaginable will not be enough to discourage somebody intent on breaking the rules from doing so." Upon the "conclusion of every season, the bargaining parties meet to discuss ways to strengthen the program." Between now and early December, when the MLBPA "holds its annual executive board meeting, every active player will have a chance to offer his thoughts on the Joint Drug Agreement." Weiner: "We anticipate a lively dialogue and an informed discussion." The players will "determine the future direction of the agreement, and they will have every opportunity to discuss increasing penalties for infractions as well as increasing the number of tests, to name just a couple of ways the program can be adjusted" (USA TODAY, 8/6). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes Weiner said that among the union staff, there was "little support for imposing a lifetime ban after a second offense instead of a third." But he added that the players would "decide for themselves." Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay said that he "believed players would implement stricter penalties this off-season." Overbay: "When we first came out with the program, I thought 50 games was a lot of games. Obviously, it's not. It's not working. I mean, it's not stiff enough, just the way it's come out" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "We have reached a new phase in which a critical mass of players have sworn off silence and told their union representatives to protect due process but not drug cheats." Only a "vocal majority of clean players could have moved this union to make the 'Joint' part of the Joint Drug Agreement truly meaningful and powerful" (N.Y. POST, 8/6).
DIFFERENT THAN YEARS AGO: ESPN's Buster Olney noted the "sea change has been in how the players' attitudes have evolved" during the Steroid Era. Olney: "Now the players are speaking out loud how they want to clean up the sport. That's wasn't there … 10, 15, 20 years ago. The fact that players are now feeling that way gives you a better chance that the sport is going to get clean." ESPN's John Kruk said he has "more respect for the players" and the MLBPA than "I did when we played." Kruk: "We swept it under the rug. We allowed it to happen" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/5).
PLAYERS RALLY BEHIND SUSPENSIONS: USA TODAY's Paul White writes MLB players speaking out in support of suspensions is a "remarkable turnaround from the membership of a union that in the past went on strike in part because of its opposition to drug testing." Tigers P Max Scherzer said, "As players as a whole, we're tired of cheating. We're tired of guys who blatantly try to break the system. That's something that we have to find a way to shore up so this doesn't happen again." Weiner said, "We've heard from a lot of players who think increased penalties are called for. We've heard from other players who don't think increased penalties are called for" (USA TODAY, 8/6). Padres RF Will Venable: "I believe that if you cross over and decide that you are going to use the banned substance, you also should forfeit the support of the players' association. They are not worthy of the support of the players' association" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/5). Orioles RF Nick Markakis said that MLB needs to "stiffen its penalties, punishments that he believes should, at the least, include a five-year suspension for a first-time offender." Markakis: "These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 8/5). In Boston, Nick Carfardo notes there is a "newfound respect for the players who have been loud and vigilant in trying to nail those who have been cheating" by using PEDs. Cafardo: "Bravo to Bud Selig after he got 12 of 13 players to go along with 50-game suspensions without appeals." Selig was the "executor, but none of this would have been possible without a constituency of the Players Association that was sick of how a small percentage of their membership was acting" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/6).
PENALTIES SHOULD BE MORE HARSH: In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes Rodriguez and the other 12 MLBers "got off easy," as they all "should be suspended for life." The union should, "once in a while, look out for the ballplayers who don't cheat, the ballplayers who don't like it when others do" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/6). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote MLB's penalties "are not enough, except in the case" of Rodriguez. Fifty games for most players "is not enough." These guys "at the very least" should be "done for the year ... and that includes the playoffs." A first offense should equal a "100-game suspension," which "voids all the remaining years on the player's contract." A second suspension "is a lifetime ban" (CLEVELAND.com, 8/5). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes the "relatively soft punishment of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third should be replaced by the Olympic model: two years for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second" (USA TODAY, 8/6). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes it was "nice of baseball to once again throw a big sweeping roundhouse at its steroid problem." It would have "been nicer if that punch had actually landed." Once again, in "trying to clean up the game with the efficiency of an umpire trying to clean home plate, baseball has just kicked more dirt on itself." Plaschke: "If baseball is certain that a player is dirty ... then why is he still allowed to play again? Ever? And why is that player also allowed to appeal and continue playing like Rodriguez?" (L.A. TIMES, 8/6).
MLB players yesterday reacted to the news of the league handing down suspensions of 13 players in the Biogenesis investigation. White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham said, "This is a good step in the right direction, and I think people are starting to understand that obviously it hurts a lot of players by other players doing the things they're getting suspended for. It's a lot of negative attention and hopefully this is one of the last times it happens" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 8/6). Red Sox LF Jonny Gomes said, "I saw some people saying it’s kind of a sad day in baseball. I don’t think it’s a sad day in baseball. There are two ways to look at it: It shows the testing policy is working, but it shows guys are still willing to take the chance. Maybe the risk and reward of doing steroids and the suspension might have to get picked up if guys are still willing to take the risk" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/6). Tigers P Max Scherzer: "We’re tired of guys who blatantly try to break the system. That’s something we have to find a way to shore up, so that this doesn’t happen again. Because the more days we have like this, the worse it is for our game and for our fans. It only drives fans away" (DETROIT NEWS, 8/6).
MAKING PROGRESS? Astros C Jason Castro said, "It’s a step in the right direction and something that hopefully will deter people in the future. It’s kind of a stepping stone. I think there’s still some work to be done, but it’s definitely where we need to be headed" (CHRON.com, 8/5). Indians DH Jason Giambi, who admitted to taking steroids during the '04 BALCO hearings, said, "We've been going in the right direction for a long time. Human beings are going to make mistakes. It shows that Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to go in the right direction" (CLEVELAND.com, 8/5). Twins P Glen Perkins: "These guys obviously have been taking things for a while and have gotten away with it, so there's really no way to know. It's cleaner now than it was yesterday" (TWINCITIES.com, 8/5). Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez was suspended 211 games yesterday, and Angels P C.J. Wilson said, "It's good for the game that they're finally getting him on something." Wilson added, "The issue centers around greed. If anybody says it’s something else, they’re not telling the truth. The players want to do well because they want to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics are" (L.A. TIMES, 8/6).
MANAGERS BACK MLB: Indians manager Terry Francona said, "If you spend 30 seconds with Bud Selig, you know he loves the game. So I was watching his statement being read and I felt for him. I picked up the phone and called him and left a message. Ten minutes later he called me back and said, 'This doesn't need to be a dark day in baseball. It needs to be the beginning of the good stuff.' He said it a lot better than I articulated it, but I agree with him" (CLEVELAND.com, 8/5). Nationals manager Davey Johnson said, "The Commissioner's Office has done a great job with it. This is what's best for the game, and I'm glad it's over with" (MLB.com, 8/5). Meanwhile, Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire in '10 admitted to using PEDs during his career, and he said yesterday, "I wish I was never a part of it. Just get rid of it. If it's better to have bigger suspensions, then they're going to have to change it." McGwire added, "I just hope it's over with and we don't have to sit here and talk about this anymore" (ESPNLA.com, 8/5).
Yesterday was "NOT a bad day for baseball" after MLB handed down 13 suspensions tied to the Biogenesis investigation, and it was in fact "a good day, an important day, a day that may just rewrite the history of drugs in sports -- and not merely this sport," according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Dodgers 2B Skip Schumaker said it was a "step in the right direction" and called it a day that would make players realize they "can still get caught without having a positive test." D'Backs P Brad Ziegler said it was a day which "will hopefully deter a lot of players down the road" (ESPN.com 8/5). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes no sport "ever made a bigger and more important statement" than MLB did with its 211-game suspension of Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said, "This is really an important moment for the fight for clean sports. Commissioner [Bud] Selig and his team should be commended" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/6). In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes MLB "should rejoice." Cheaters were "exposed for their transgressions and a commissioner who once buried his head in the sand over performance-enhancing drugs delivered punishment that had real bite to it." MLB "didn’t rid itself of cheaters or banned substances -- that won’t ever happen -- but it showed it won’t turn a blind eye to them, either" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/6). Rodriguez is playing while he appeals the suspension, and in Newark, Steve Politi writes having Rodriguez on "display is the commissioner’s worst nightmare." But Selig "was right not to ban him from the game." He needs the "process to play out completely to show players that the system is fair and that it works" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/6).
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: In L.A., Jill Painter writes the suspensions are a "sign this sport is cleaning up its act. Painstakingly but finally." Painter: "You know steroids are part of the game. What's new is the message that the seedy, dirty world of steroids is an open book." But MLB will "no longer look the other way" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/6). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes Selig was "late to the anti-steroid party, but he has to get some credit for his willingness to take responsibility for the problem, even though it didn't start -- and will not stop -- on a baseball diamond" (Baltimore SUN, 8/6). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "Bud Selig And MLB Can Crow, A Little." Selig and his staff "learned from errors of the past" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/6). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote Selig "deserves an enormous amount of credit for this." Rosenberg: "Is any other commissioner working as hard as Selig to address the issue?" When was the "last time Roger Goodell, Gary Bettman or David Stern tried to severely punish one of the best players in their sports' history?" (SI.com, 8/5). In Ottawa, Mark Sutcliffe writes under the header, "Selig Finally Gets It Right." In "many ways, the long suspension isn’t about Rodriguez, but Selig." Although some of his moves have "offended some baseball purists, Selig has done many things to improve the game." But all of Selig’s accomplishments "have been tainted by the drug problems in the game." In hitting Rodriguez with the "largest of all, Selig found the perfect target." He is one of MLB’s "biggest stars, its highest paid player." So the suspension "means Selig can’t be accused of easing off on anyone" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 8/6). MLB Network's Peter Gammons said the suspensions are "for the integrity of the game" and the "players want it" ("The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd," MSNBC, 8/6).
LEAVING A LEGACY: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote Selig "scoffs publicly at the idea that he is doing this for his legacy." But there is "no reason to deny this." Passan: "Of course he is doing this for his legacy." Selig wants his "triumphs to overwhelm his foibles, and at 79 years old he is taking bold steps" in that direction. Even if Rodriguez "didn't get the lifetime ban ... Selig is playing legacy Stratego: by crushing Rodriguez's, he's pumping up his own." Selig's "ultimate hope is that the public intertwines him more with Rodriguez than it does Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/5). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes Selig's "motives are far from pure ... but he is saintly compared to Rodriguez" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/6). In S.F., Ann Killion writes, "Bud Selig wanted to tout Monday as a groundbreaking day. Of course he did. A well-timed slap on his own back is Selig's go-to move" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/6).
MORE TO BE DESIRED? CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote MLB decided "yet again to try and show up with a gigantic centerpiece designed only to make its commissioner LOOK tough on banquet tables." Ratto: "And it fails, because this is more proof that baseball only wants to LOOK tough on performance enhancing drugs." And because on this issue MLB "essentially stinks on ice, it fails spectacularly" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/5). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote, "You know when Dudley Do-Nothing started caring about steroids? When Congress started asking questions while holding baseball’s anti-trust exemption in its back pocket." Selig thinks he is "saving his legacy," but what he "doesn’t know is that it is as beyond repair as A-Rod’s story" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 8/5). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "It's going to be an awful day for baseball no matter if people tend to think about it being cleaned up. The sport is still losing too many valuable MVP-types, All-Star players. That just can't keep up" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/5).
FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARD: A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states MLB has "come a long way from its blithe disregard of juicing back in the 1990s." But as long as players "feel the need to gain an edge and believe they have a good chance of eluding detection, some of them will cheat." These suspensions, which "force the guilty players to miss just a couple of months, may not be enough to change behavior" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/6). A South Florida SUN-SENTINEL editorial states if MLB "really wants to send a message, really wants to get serious about ridding the sport of drug cheats, punishment is going to have to be severe enough to deter anybody who is even thinking about taking performance-enhancing drugs." Until that "happens, baseball has to take some of the blame for the latest stain on the sport" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/6). A MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL editorial states players who use PEDs and "are caught even once should be banned from the game for life." Selig should "push for that ultimate penalty in talks with the Players Association later this year." Players who "care about the integrity of the game should do the same" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/6). A USA TODAY editorial states MLB has "lacked both the will and the way to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs for decades." The league now is "finally showing the will," but the Biogenesis scandal's "scale suggests the sport still needs new ways to attack drug-driven cheating that continues to undermine the credibility of the game." The editorial: "Give MLB the authority to void contracts as a penalty for using banned substances." The risk of "suddenly losing so much money would alter the cheating calculus" (USA TODAY, 8/6). A N.Y. TIMES editorial states Rodriguez has "fed the widespread-but-understandable assumption that everybody cheats." That "is not true," but it will take "further steps -- like the giant one that baseball took on Monday -- to repair the sport's reputation" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6).
MLB investigators "continue to look into the role sports agents may have played in connecting players with Biogenesis," as eight of the 12 players to accept 50-game suspensions yesterday "are represented by one agency, ACES, operated by brothers Seth and Sam Levinson," according to Thompson, Red, O'Keeffe & Vinton of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The Levinsons have "already been disciplined by the Players Association following an MLB investigation into the fake website ... Melky Cabrera used as a failed alibi after testing positive for testosterone." Rangers RF Nelson Cruz, one of the players suspended yesterday, reportedly "fired the Levinsons." Padres SS Everth Cabrera, who also was suspended, fired the brothers last year. A source said, "There is a difference between players who sought out Biogenesis on their own and players who were told that they need to see the people at Biogenesis" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/6).
THE CULTURAL DIVIDE: In Sacramento, Victor Contreras notes eight of the 13 players suspended yesterday "were born in the Dominican Republic," while three are from Venezuela and one from Nicaragua. Since baseball "started suspending major leaguers in 2005 for using performance-enhancing drugs, 38 of the 49 offenders were born in Latin American countries." The figures for Latino offenders are "even more staggering in the minor leagues" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/6). ESPN's T.J. Quinn noted there is a "history in the Major Leagues that Latin American players, particularly Dominican, are punished at a higher percentage." However, yesterday's suspensions are "separate from this." Quinn: "What seems to be the case here having covered this for almost a year now is it's a cluster, just like you saw clusters in Oakland, in Philadelphia, different cities where some guy gets it and he starts spreading it around. I don't think this is somehow inherent to Latin American ballplayers. It was a bunch of guys who knew each other." The "real connection for all of them" was Juan Carlos Nunez, who was part of the ACES agency. Law enforcement believes Nunez "was the one bringing them in" to the Biogenesis clinic ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/6). Giants C Guillermo Quiroz, a Venezuela native, said MLB needs to "inform the players better when they come to the U.S." Quiroz: "If you have an agent who tells you, 'This is going to help you give your family a better life and have a better career in the big leagues,' a lot of guys are going to do it, even without knowing what they're doing" (USATODAY.com, 8/5).
WORTH THE RISK? In Philadelphia, David Murphy notes Phillies P and Dominican native Antonio Bastardo, one of the players suspended, will earn more than $1M this season. That is "more than the average resident of the Dominican Republic will earn in a lifetime." That is one of the "important pieces of context to consider as we listen to the moralizing" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/6).
As NASCAR tries to "attract a younger fan base, the top talent keeps getting older with no signs of that changing," according to David Newton of ESPN.com. The average age of drivers in the top 10 in the standings "is 36.5, four years older" than in '08. Not since Jimmie Johnson in '02 "has there been a young driver who successfully and consistently challenged the old guard for championships." So now the sport "needs a young, hot superstar to challenge Johnson." NASCAR "recognizes this issue," as the governing body has "lowered the age limits in most of its developmental series since 2007 to encourage more participation and speed up the learning curve." NASCAR in '11 began the "NASCAR Next program to help spotlight rising stars and increase fan awareness of young talent." Among those who "have benefited are Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman and Darrell Wallace Jr." All have shown "flashes of brilliance," but none "are on the Cup level." None may "make it for a couple of years, at least." Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said, "To be quite frank, I don't see a lot of turnover coming because I don't see a significant crop of young drivers that are better." Newton wrote that is "not good news for a sport that has its largest fan base in the 45-54 age group and its smallest in the 18-24 age group." Finding young drivers to challenge Johnson "would be a more immediate fix to energize the fan base the way" Jeff Gordon did in his first full season in '93 (ESPN.com, 8/3).
MARKET WATCH: Watkins Glen Int'l Speedway President Michael Printup said that he "expects a large Western New York crowd" at this weekend's Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. He said that WGI officials will be "ramping up a Buffalo-heavy marketing effort to attract more local race fans." Printup said, "Buffalo should be our No. 1 market. We should be taking better advantage of it." Printup said that ticket sales "are going well, with attendance expected to be its highest in 11 years." In Buffalo, James Fink noted more than 94,000 fans "are expected" for Sunday's Cheez-It 355 At The Glen and "as many as 160,000 people for the entire weekend" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/5).