Skip to content

2013 Preview: Why Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and other big stars could face suspension this season

Mar 27, 2013, 5:55 AM EDT

braun getty Getty Images

As we approach Opening Day, HarballTalk will be spending the next few days previewing all 30 teams, all six division races and looking ahead at the major issues and storylines which will impact the 2013 season. This morning we look at the Biogenesis scandal, which could lead to the suspension of several high-profile players.

Some of baseball’s biggest stars including Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon and many, many more enter the 2013 season under a cloud. Or a threat, if you will.  The threat of suspension for their association with a now-closed Miami clinic called Biogenesis, which is alleged to have supplied these players and as many as 90 more with testosterone, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs which violate baseball’s rules against performance enhancing drugs. It is unknown if those suspensions will come. It is unknown when. But all teams with a player named in the documents of the Biogenesis clinic face uncertainty as Opening Day approaches.

The Biogenesis news broke in late January, when it was reported by multiple outlets that Major League Baseball was investigating the clinic and its operator, Anthony Bosch, under the suspicion that the clinic represented “ground zero” for performance enhancing drugs in Florida, where a disproportionate number of major leaguers grew up, played amateur and college baseball or where they currently make their offseason homes. On January 29, the Miami New Times obtained and published a large portion of the Biogenesis clinic’s records which contained the names of several major leaguers accompanied in many cases by notations which suggested that the players were given performance enhancing drugs. The documents were not conclusive of any player’s use and, in some cases — like with Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez — no connection could be found between the player and any substances which are banned by Major League Baseball.

source: APImmediately after the Miami New Times report came out all of the players involved either denied any involvement with Biogenesis whatsoever or denied that they obtained banned substances.  For example, Gonzalez claims that his father was a patient of Anthony Bosch’s. Ryan Braun claims that his attorneys used Bosch as a consultant in his successful 2012 appeal of his PED suspension. Despite the denials, the report and the documents set off a media firestorm which caused Major League Baseball to step up its investigation of the players named therein.

The biggest problem: Major League Baseball doesn’t actually have the Biogenesis documents. The Miami New Times and other media outlets which have seen all or part of them are unwilling to share them with the league and, at present, Anthony Bosch is nowhere to be found.  Last Friday Major League Baseball sued Biogenesis in an effort to obtain the documents, but it is not at all clear that they have any viable legal claims against the clinic. More significantly, many doubt that the original documents still exist at all.

What is clear is that Major League Baseball is stopping at nothing to investigate the matter with a clear eye towards suspending the players named in the clinic’s records if at all possible.  MLB is reported to be particularly interested in suspending 2011 NL MVP Braun, who they see as having evaded justice in prevailing on his appeal last year and Rodriguez who many in baseball believe lied to MLB investigators in 2009 when he admitted to past, but not present drug use.

MORE: The Rise and Fall of Alex Rodriguez

source: APCan Major League Baseball suspend these players without a positive drug test? Yes, it can. Pursuant to the Joint Drug Agreement which governs these matters, baseball can suspend players for “just cause” if there is non-clinical evidence suggesting that they have used performance enhancing drugs. Most believe that conclusive documentary evidence of past use, as may appear in the Biogenesis records, would provide such grounds. Baseball’s inability to obtain these records, however, is preventing almost all action at present. So far, all baseball has been able to do is to suspend one minor leaguer  — who happens to have been a college teammate and who is still a close friend of Braun’s — who was implicated based on the league’s belief that he was not cooperative when questioned. Major league players have not yet been questioned, but they almost certainly will be.  They will have greater legal and union protections from discipline than their minor league counterparts, however.

That’s where we are as the season dawns. Several players, including two former MVPs, in the crosshairs of a Major League Baseball investigation, the outcome of which and endpoint of is uncertain. At literally any time between today and, well, forever, baseball could suspend Braun, Rodriguez, Gonzalez, Cruz or any of players named in the Biogenesis documents for 50 games.

To put that in context, the most big leaguers Major League Baseball has ever suspended in a season for performance enhancing drugs is six, which occurred last year.  In most years it’s two or three.  Now dozens upon dozens of players may face a 50-game suspension for a first offense of the Joint Drug Agreement, with some facing 100-game suspensions for a second offense. Suspensions of this magnitude could conceivably tip the pennant races. And for that reason, even if you don’t care a lick about performance enhancing drugs in baseball, the Biogenesis matter is worth watching.

MORE: Team-by-team previews for 2013

Latest Posts
  1. Royals owner “can’t imagine” GM Dayton Moore leaving for Braves

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    Dayton Moore, David Glass Getty Images

    “He’s a good baseball guy, and we’re in this thing together.”

  2. Masahiro Tanaka is going to pitch again on Saturday

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    tanaka yankees getty Getty Images

    Good news for the Yankees and their once and future ace

  3. Mariners skipping “out of gas” Chris Young’s turn in the rotation

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Chris Young Getty Getty Images

    When injuries wrecked the Mariners’ rotation depth Chris Young stepped in and went 12-6 with a 3.07 ERA through his first 24 starts.

  4. Yankees claim Eury Perez off waivers from Nationals

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT

    Chase Utley, Eury Perez AP

    Washington cut Perez loose after claiming light-hitting shortstop Pedro Florimon off waivers from Minnesota.

  5. Cubs ready to make a big play for pitching

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    theo epstein getty Getty Images

    The Cubs know they can’t just get by on change-of-scenery guys and sign-and-flip deals.

  6. Sandy Alderson is getting a three-year deal with the Mets

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Sandy Alderson AP

    The Mets are staying the course. And it is probably a good idea.

  7. Desmond Jennings won’t return to play the final week

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    Desmond Jennings AP

    He finishes the season hitting .244 with 10 homers, 15 steals, and a .697 OPS in 123 games, falling back to his 2012 production after posting a .748 OPS last season.

  8. Adam LaRoche doesn’t expect to re-sign with the Nationals

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT

    laroche getty Getty Images

    LaRoche has bounced back nicely from a down season in 2013, hitting .255 with 25 homers and a career-high 80 walks on the way to an .811 OPS.

  9. HBT Daily: Who will be on the outside looking in?

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    HBT Daily Logo

    The A’s? The Mariners? The Royals? Does it help if I tell you that I’m always wrong about these things?

  10. Royals finish with their highest attendance in 23 years

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Ned Yost Getty Images

    They’re an unshakable bunch, Royals fans.

  11. Major League Baseball creates a pace of game committee

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley

    They hope to have some measures in place to attack slow play in time for the 2015 season.

  12. Mat Latos is done for the year

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    latos getty Getty Images

    The whole year?!!! *someone whispers in my ear that there’s only a week left* Oh, in that case.

  13. Frank Wren fired as Braves GM, John Hart to take over on an interim basis

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT

    Frank Wren

    The Braves cratered this year. Someone had to take the fall.

  14. UPDATE: Frank Wren likely to be fired by the Braves, Fredi Gonzalez likely to stay

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Fredi Gonzalez Getty Images

    It looks like Frank Wren is gonna take the fall for the Braves’ collapse.

  15. AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME! Sizing up the final week of the regular season

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.39.12 AM AP

    What’s left to be decided? And who will be left standing this time next week?

  16. Giants CEO Larry Baer thinks advertisements on uniforms are coming soon

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    Your Ad Here

    And he tries to peddle the idea that allowing them would keep ticket prices down. Suuuuure it will, Larry.

  17. Must-Click Link: Derek Jeter opens up. Seriously, he really does.

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    Derek Jeter Getty Images

    About his future. About the press. About the Steinbrenners. About Old Yankee Stadium vs. New Yankee Stadium. But not about A-Rod.

Featured video

Who's outside looking in on playoffs?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (2943)
  2. D. Ortiz (2047)
  3. M. Trout (2045)
  4. A. Pagan (2037)
  5. A. Pujols (1993)
  1. J. Hamilton (1920)
  2. N. Arenado (1860)
  3. G. Stanton (1826)
  4. H. Ramirez (1817)
  5. C. Kershaw (1791)