MLB Could Face Difficulty In Penalizing Players Following Latest PED Investigation
MLB officials and attorneys yesterday cautioned that the league in its probe of athletes connected to the Biogenesis clinic was "far from attaining the punishment and suspensions its officials desired," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. MLB figures it will need "far more than" the testimony of Biogenesis Founder Tony Bosch to move forward with discipline. A source said that MLB will "seek cellphone records, e-mails, text messages and calendars for proof or corroboration." Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said that gaining those records will be "difficult without government subpoenas." Nightengale notes MLB "proved it can be accomplished with its private investigators when Pete Rose received a lifetime suspension for gambling" in '89 and late Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner was "suspended for two years in 1990 for conspiring with a known gambler." However, neither Rose nor Steinbrenner "had the backing" of the MLBPA (USA TODAY, 6/6). MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday in a statement said that the union "had been in regular contact with the commissioner's office regarding its investigation into the clinic." He added that the "league's investigators were in the process of interviewing players and that the athletes would be represented by union lawyers." In N.Y., Eder & Schmidt note despite "widespread speculation that Bosch's cooperation could allow baseball to move swiftly to suspend players, it could be months -- not weeks -- before baseball officials take any action" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/6). On Long Island, Lennon & Marcus note if MLB "does choose to suspend players based in part on Bosch's cooperation, any appeal would then be heard by their own handpicked arbitrator." Former MLB arbitrator Shyam Das was "fired after siding" with Brewers LF Ryan Braun, so MLB "could hold an edge this time around" (NEWSDAY, 6/6).
PLAYERS, MANAGERS SUPPORT STRICT PENALTIES: Red Sox C David Ross said he believes fellow players "want MLB to drop the hammer on these guys." Ross: "I don’t know anyone who wants nothing but the worst possible consequences for the cheaters because they’re taking job[s] from kids coming up from the minors who are doing it the right way" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/6). Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira said, "This is all speculation, but if it is true, then I don’t think it’s good for the game. We’re supposed to be good examples for kids, for fans. It’d be one thing if we didn’t have a policy. We’ve had a very tough policy for a long time. If that many guys are still cheating, it’s just very disappointing" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/6). Marlins P Kevin Slowey: "Guys in this clubhouse and every clubhouse want a clean game. ... We know how hard it is to get guys out. We know how hard it is to hit home runs. We know how hard it is to compete at this level. I think everybody desires an even playing field" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/6). Twins P and union rep Glen Perkins: "You always hope you're past all that stuff, and now this starts coming out again. It seems like you have to deal with it over and over. It's sad for the game of baseball" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/6). Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "I always thought they should be a little stricter to keep these players from trying to beat the system. I'm all for stiffer penalties" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/6). Orioles manager Buck Showalter: "It's very obvious that it is something they are not going to treat lightly, and I also have a lot of confidence that the people that are looking into it will get done what needs to get done" (Baltimore SUN, 6/6).
UNION WILL BE UNDER MICROSCOPE: In N.Y., Bill Madden notes the MLBPA has "just as big a stake" in the Biogenesis investigation as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's office. It is their "joint drug program," and while some players "would lie or obstruct justice, the union owes it to the rest of the players to be just as vigilant in seeing to it that the program is not compromised" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/6). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "How will the players association react in the face of changing attitudes in our culture about those who cheat to gain an advantage in sports?" The union "cannot still rely on its old standby, the knee-jerk position of disastrous stonewalling from the Don Fehr era, in the wake of society's growing disgust with cheaters." Under Weiner's leadership, the union has "shown a willingness to work with Selig and MLB's leadership on these issues, a helpful trend that is a sign of the times" (USA TODAY, 6/6). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial asks, "How far can the players and their union go to fight those penalties without abandoning their commitment to cleaning up their sport?" If it is true, then the players "deserve the harshest penalty MLB can throw at them." Fans do not care if Selig "took a little creative license to arrive at that threatened 100-game suspension." It shows that MLB "is serious about zero tolerance" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/6). But in Las Vegas, Ed Graney wrote, " I’m not holding my breath on any of these suspensions being carried out once the players’ association again stands behind its juiced clients and begins an appeals process that would occur before an arbitrator." The documentation and testimony offered "would have to be overwhelming in scope to believe any decision would fall on the side of Selig’s office" (REVIEWJOURNAL.com, 6/5).
SELIG FINALLY TAKES A STAND: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes Selig is a baseball fan, and looking for 100-game suspensions is "entirely in keeping with his reputation that he would want the game’s past tied up in a neat package before he moves on." It is possible he "believes this is the time to drop one more final hammer on PEDs; that the very fact the game is so strong economically and has long-term stability in terms of TV and corporate packages means it is buttressed enough that it can absorb this kind of shock to the system." Blair: "What other reasons could Selig have for pursuing this matter at this time?" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/6). The AP's Tim Dahlberg writes, "It might be out of anger of the Braun decision, or the embarrassment of no big stars being elected to the Hall of Fame this year because of steroids. Or simply that Selig, in the twilight of his career, finally understands that his legacy will forever be tied to the steroid era and he needs a major score." Whatever it is, it is a "major turnaround for a commissioner who for years was more concerned with making owners money than making sure the playing field was level" (AP, 6/6). But NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra writes, "One thing that sort of puzzles me right now is how Bud Selig ... could act so decisively in an arena where he is bound to get a fight from the union." If anything has "characterized the latter years of Bud Selig’s reign it is his mastery of consensus" (NBCSPORTS.com, 6/5). Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes MLB has a "much-tougher task" than the NFL in "controlling PED use, since over 30 percent of its workforce comes from the Dominican, Venezuela and Puerto Rico." It is "not as easy to monitor what’s happening there, but Selig’s office is making a strenuous effort on all fronts, and for that the commissioner deserves praise" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/6).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING? In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote by "drawing attention to this case, by pursuing it so doggedly, MLB has created the impression amongst the public that the PED problem is once again out of control." Leagues typically "don’t deploy this sort of legal heft to pursue ice caps unless you believe they sit on top of icebergs." In order to "rescue the game from critics that no longer exist, baseball is determined to turn its best players into villains." They may "deserve it, but however you look at it, this is an example of the league cutting off dozens of noses to spite its own face" (TORONTO STAR, 6/5). GRANTLAND's Jonah Keri wrote MLB "shifting from a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to PED use in the '80s, '90s, and early aughts to a more vigilant method today is generally a welcome change." But there is a "difference between respectable vigilance and taking unsavory shortcuts in an effort to mount players' head on the wall" (GRANTLAND.com, 6/5). ESPN.com's Steve Wulf wrote, "In a way, the Biogenesis scandal has come along at the right time. It has reminded us of the need for vigilance, and reinforced the sanctity of the game" (ESPN.com, 6/5). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes if MLB "really wants to do something about this mess, the suspensions need to last multiple years and the players' union has to get on board" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/6).