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When it comes to drugs, Major League Baseball has learned nothing from the past, wishes to learn nothing in the future

Jun 4, 2013, 11:04 PM EST

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

I don’t know what Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez or Nelson Cruz or any of the other players thus far implicated in the Biogenesis mess has done. I don’t know what they’ve taken. I don’t know what they’ve said beyond their curt, lawyerly public statements. I don’t know if they’ve lied. But I know this much: any action Major League Baseball takes against them based on the cooperation of Anthony Bosch is equivalent to erecting a building on a rotten foundation. But of course, baseball has done this before, so it’s not all that surprising that they’ll attempt to do it again.

The lever Major League Baseball is using to get Bosch’s cooperation is a specious lawsuit.  I wrote about it at length when it was filed against Bosch back in March. The lawsuit is a transparent attempt to obtain documents as opposed to vindicate legal rights.Baseball has suffered no cognizable injury at law from Biogenesis. It has not been harmed financially nor has it had its reputation legally harmed in any way by this little clinic.

What it has done, however, is put the fear of God into the sleazy clinic owner at the center of it all. Bosch already faces professional ruination due to an investigation by the State of Florida. The MLB lawsuit, even if it never reached a conclusion, could mean financial ruination for him as well. He had no friends in the world and nowhere to turn. That is, until Bud Selig offered him a lifeline. “Sing for me, Tony, and your problems will largely disappear,” Bud is telling him.

And don’t think they won’t. This was Major League Baseball’s m.o. during the Mitchell Report. Drug dealers — actual felons, had they had the book thrown at them as they should have — got off with a slap on the wrist or nothing at all because Major League Baseball and, in the case of the Mitchell Report, a former United States Senator, went to bat for them with the government. In exchange they got dirt a-plenty. I presume the same arrangement is being constructed for Mr. Bosch as well.

Except the return baseball got for its past deals was pretty paltry, all things considered. Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski sang for the Mitchell Report investigators. And the result was a partial list of PED users. The lowest hanging fruit. The stupid guys who wrote personal checks for illegal drugs and used dealers who were well known among Major League Baseball officials. While this all made for a big splash in late 2007, as time has gone on we have learned that the Mitchell Report barely scratched the surface of the problem. PED use remained widespread, other, smarter drug dealers continued to ply their trade. And the end game of the entire exercise — the criminal prosecutions of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — ended in abject failure.

It didn’t have to be that way. Major League Baseball was hell-bent on hanging a few big-name players out to dry. Major League Baseball decided that the most interesting and important thing about steroids in baseball was who used and who didn’t as opposed to what steroids meant, how they damaged the game and how they damaged its users.  It did that rather than asking the real questions about PEDs. The ones that would make a difference. Questions about PED habits. Players’ introduction to PEDs. Questions about their actual impact. Questions about the culture of drugs in baseball that could, hopefully, provide answers about how to stop it.

But these questions were never answered, never asked. Indeed, Major League Baseball has evinced a profound lack of curiosity about such topics.  A lack of curiosity that mirrored the blinkered approach to the matter the press and the game took in the 1990s. To the extent we know the answers to any of these questions the information is piecemeal and, without the imprimatur of Major League Baseball, unofficial, unacknowledged and not at all rigorously researched.

Baseball is doing this again. Getting into bed with a drug dealer who, allegedly, provided PEDs to dozens and possibly scores of players. Using his likely unreliable and clearly self-serving words to nab a few big names rather than to understand and address the problem they have in front of them. If Bud Selig cared a wit about what actually went on with Biogenesis he’d ignore Bosch completely, work with the union to get players on board with spilling their guts in exchange for amnesty or reduced discipline and end the process with a far more thorough accounting of what went on than they can ever expect from a cornered man looking to save his neck.

But then again, Major League Baseball has never seemed too interested in what actually went on with any of this in any thorough way. The Mitchell Report was certainly not meant to answer any questions. It was meant to stop them. To put a bookend on the p.r. disaster that Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco uncorked in 2002. To put a bookend on the steroids era itself, really, and to allow fans, the press and the government to pretend that steroids use was limited to a certain unfortunate time and to certain unsavory group of people. Baseball is doing it again. It’s going to nip Biogenesis in the bud, hang a few big names out to dry and declare victory.

If, in fact, it actually achieves victory. Because the union is not going to simply sit back if Major League Baseball is going to attempt to level double-dip penalties against some of its highest profile players without a drug test or even a single reliable witness. Yes, “just cause” is a basis for discipline under the Joint Drug Agreement. But the words of a pressured, compromised and disgraced phony physician/criminal isn’t the stuff of “just cause” in most adversarial proceedings, baseball arbitrations included.

But no matter the outcome of all of that, in a few years, when the players who would cheat have learned all the lessons from Major League Baseball’s myopic approach to things, they’ll just deal with smarter dealers. Guys less susceptible to Major League Baseball’s squeeze play. And Baseball will have nothing other than an empty P.R. victory to show for itself. Nothing, because it never demonstrated a lick of curiosity about the problem itself beyond how it played in the papers.

  1. georgiamadman - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    So you don’t think I’m pickingon MLB, it seems everyone in the NFL is on Adderall. I’ve seen ESPN reporters laugh when they report Adderall infractions.

  2. ehcrawford - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    glad that mlb has found a way to crack down on players.

    remember lance armstrong never failed a test, as he and his defenders made sure to remind everybody. and thank god the usada investigated it properly and finallyh the uci has had to do something about.

    we should praise mlb for doing something else as well as testing, this has obviously been going on far too long.

  3. lazlosother - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    I think Craig has made a pretty good point here. Publicly shaming and punishing players hasn’t worked, in any sport. PED use is prevasive in the NFL, in proffessional cycling, in college football, etc. They all test and suspend, it doesn’t work. The producers of PED’s stay about a step ahead of the testing curve, when folks start to get caught tactics change.

    While no guarantee doing what Craig has suggested, reducing suspensions for players who cooperate with MLB could give the league useful information. They don’t even have to try to get players to turn anyone in. A better understanding of the nature of the problem would not be a bad thing to have.

    The second good point he has is that this is not a reliable source. Zelig is jumping into bed with a scumbag trying to save his own neck. That didn’t work out well in the Clemens fiasco. MLB went nuts when Braun beat them, and now they may be putting themselves in a position to be beaten like a rented mule by multiple players. At best they hand out a bunch of suspensions and pretend they’ve solved the problem. Till next time.

    • wretchu - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      Of course he’s going with a scumbag, do you think the legitimate doctors are the ones providing all these players with HGH? To find the dirtbags, you have to actually get down and dirty. If you want to convict a mobster, your get another mobster and get him to flip. The straight-and-narrow cops simply are not a part of that element. They’ve even less reliable because they’re not even part of that world.

      The point is the league ISN’T just getting one guy’s word and a dirty needle from 10 years ago, they’re getting his testimony and a TON of documentation, including documentation which some players (namely like Braun) have already admitted is legitimate. i.e. Braun paid this guy off and admitted as such, but he claims it’s is for his consultation services on the last time he got busted for PEDs. Sure it is, guy, sure it is.

      • wretchu - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        I mean keep in mind, the only reason the whole cover got blown off in the steroid scandal was because a former user (Jose Canseco) stepped forward and admitted how bad the problem was. We all laughed at him first, but who was right in the end?

    • lazlosother - Jun 5, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      True about Canseco but he was selling a book and had an ax to grind, he wasn’t trying to get a huge lawsuit against him dismissed or negotiating for MLB to try to assist him with any criminal charges. The documentation we know about so far is anything but air tight. I don’t think MLB can suspend and win based on the testimony of a witness who copped a deal with them, and hand written notes with names and dollar amounts. They’ll need more than that.

      Braun didn’t admit to anything illegal, or to buying any products. The documentation didn’t link him to anything illegal, or substance that would result in a suspension. His story is not unbelievable. Troubling for the “he bought drugs” crowd is that Braun never paid the bill. You would think someone with something to hide would go out of his way to keep things calm.

      Braun won’t be suspended, and it will be entertainig to watch everyone lose their shit over it.

  4. omniusprime - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Because MLB is so corrupt I just don’t bother to watch anymore. Bud Selig has been nothing but a criminal hugger and a protector of cheating players using PED’s. MLB had better do more to clean up it’s cheating act or it will go the way of pro hockey as nothing but a cult sport. Let’s hope this Bosch criminal actually goes to prison for the rest of his despicable waste of a life. Let’s hope that MLB gets really tough with PED cheating players by banning them from the MLB for life.

  5. mungman69 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I would take em.

  6. micklethepickle - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Wow, this site is an absolute joke. Steroids are okay, so long as we can watch our 300-game season in peace… right, okay.

    The real question is why are hobbyists like baseball players even TAKING steroids? Do you need that much of a boost to sit on a bench and wait your turn to hit a ball with a stick, or stand in a field and wait for a ball to be hit to you? These guys aren’t even athletes! Hilarious. If you want to see real athletes, just turn on hockey, or football, or even basketball. You have to be a genetic freak to be able to compete in those sports, because tremendous athletic potential is required. Baseball you can be a fat slob and just stand on first base your whole career. Yea, these guys deserve 9 figure salaries… hahaha.

    • micklethepickle - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      That being said, I love watching (college) baseball, because it is a nostalgic, calming atmosphere. I love the crack of the bat, hearing the ball hit the glove, the way the grass glows under the lights and so on. But yea – more on par with bowling and golf than it is with athletic competition.

      • pillowporkers - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        well if it’s that easy, just training for 3-4 years and you’ll be throwing 95+mph and be making 20mil in the big leagues, why are you wasting your time blogging? Why don’t you start crushing the weights and get in some yoga classes to improve your arm flexibility? Or did you just not want to play professional sports? That’s an admirable CHOICE of yours. I’m guessing you’re really involved in volunteering at your local salvation army because your above money.

    • pillowporkers - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      your comment is a joke. If I could actually throw a ball 95 mph, I’d hit you right in the back and see how you felt after that.

      • micklethepickle - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        I’m pretty sure that if either one of us was paid $20 million dollars to train every day for 3-4 years, we could both throw a ball that fast. What’s your point? I stand by what I said – baseball is not an athletic competition the way that other professional sports are. Doesn’t mean you can’t like it. I said I love going to watch college ball live. Some people also like watching the National Spelling Bee on ESPN. Doesn’t mean we should compare those to real sports, too.

      • gmsingh - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        I think some groin music would be more appropriate.

    • misterj167 - Jun 5, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      “I’m pretty sure that if either one of us was paid $20 million dollars to train every day for 3-4 years, we could both throw a ball that fast.”

      No you couldn’t, you moron.

      Remarkable how some people will always blame players when any look at the history of the game will clearly show that it’s the owners who have done the most to fk up the game. Keeping black people out of the league for decades. The reserve clause. Fighting tooth and nail against free agency, then some owners abusing it. Blackmailing cities into paying for stadiums and intentionally putting bad teams out onto the field so as to pocket a few more dollars they don’t need.

      Whatever is going on with steroids, you can be sure that MLB and it’s Commissioner (a former owner, what a shock) will find the worst possible way to deal with it. Because being rich doesn’t mean you’re smart. Or deserving.

  7. pillowporkers - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    HBT is completely missing the other side of the problem here. The fact is the MLB isn’t responsible for Bosch’s or any other “dealer”. They are responsible for the integrity of the sport of Major League Baseball and the players within it. It’s like if your kid is hanging around with kids that do cocaine all the time, you aren’t the other person’s parents. All you can do is punish/ground your own kid. So to me, the MLB can choose to get in bed with the sleezy dealer and take care of the problem players, or it can take down the dealer and send a message to the players that they are somehow victims in this whole scheme. The INDIVIVDUAL PLAYERS were the ones that sought out Bosch, not the other way around. Even if Bosch did seek players, they could still say no. We all know Ryan Braun didn’t say no.

  8. theuglitruth - Jun 5, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    If you think this PED stuff is ridiculous…wait until the future, when these players get old and realize their bodies are paying the price for all of the junk they were injecting comes back to haunt them! Then they attempt to sue the MLB for not doing enough to prevent them from cheating.

  9. tcostant - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    This is no different that the legal system who uses street walkers or drug dealers as witness in court. Bottom line, most church ladies aren’t on a corner at two in the morning, when crime happens. If you want to catch drug cheats, guess who your best bet is???

    • genericcommenter - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:16 PM

      Those people aren’t reliable, either. They lie for money, reduced sentences, and other incentives. Their false testimony has resulted in dead officers and innocent senior citizens.

  10. contract - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Craig: You sound like an apologists. The dealers aren’t MLB’s problem … the users are. Cutting a deal with the cheaters and allowing them to slip the noose is a recipe to guarantee more cheaters in the future. If there is no significant consequences to cheating, then you are putting out the message to other players that they should go ahead and cheat and reap the rewards of using PEDs, because there will be a “deal” waiting for them if the ever get caught.

    These guys shouldn’t get suspended, they should be permanently banned from MLB.

  11. mbdsta - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    “Baseball has suffered no cognizable injury at law from Biogenesis. It has not been harmed financially nor has it had its reputation legally harmed in any way by this little clinic.”

    Spoken like a true non-lawyer. If MLB has no cognizable injury at law, why doesn’t Biogenesis file a demurrer — which is what you file when there’s no cognizable injury at law — and have the case dismissed? If there’s truly no cognizable injury at law, it should be an easy case and any Florida lawyer would take it for free, just for the publicity. They could just read your article and find out everything they need to know about the law…or maybe you should stick to sports.

    • genericcommenter - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      Is “non-lawyer” the commonly used term for a former lawyer, or would that be “non-lawyer lawyer”?

  12. The Prophet - Jun 5, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    the slant of this article seems to that the only villains in this are the ones who sold and distributed the PED’s and they are somehow getting off by giving up names, and I couldn’t disagree more. They are not selling drugs to impressionable 10 year olds on the playground, they are selling hi-grade PED’s to grown ass adults who know what they are doing. Outing the players is WAY more important than outing the name of some weasel steroid peddler (whom there will be plenty more of anyway). Discouraging PED use will be done by making examples out of the star players who use them, not by making examples out of some quack doctor whose name we’ll forget 5 minutes later.

  13. buzzookaman - Jun 6, 2013 at 2:47 AM

    What is the difference between enhancing your performance with hgh or roids or pain killers, which is legal, like Curt Schilling and the bloody sock. You can shoot up pain killers just to play but you can’t use HGH or Steroids to add a few homeruns or strikeouts to your record. Cheating is part of baseball and adds a certain spice to the game that I love. It is just a game. Level the playing field and legalize PEDs for pro baseball. Not to mention, batting practice before games was much more fun in the steroid era and should be more of an attraction for $ paying customers.

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