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The union has to walk a tightrope on the Biogenesis stuff

Jul 5, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT

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A good story by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com about how the Biogenesis thing is a tricky thing for the player’s union. The issue: unlike years ago the players these days want PEDs gone and offenders punished. But part of the union’s job, obviously, is to defend players. This quote from union head Michael Weiner is interesting for the exact language used:

“There’s no question, we have two things we’re trying to accomplish here. On the one hand, we’re defending players who have a defense. On the other hand, we have an obligation to enforce the joint drug program. If we have evidence that a player violated the program, then we have to do something about it. Is that a conflict? I could imagine circumstances where it could be a conflict. But that’s what a union does all the time, and that’s what we’re doing here. It’s not much different than what we’ve done in the past. It’s just higher-profile, I guess.”

I like the “players who have a defense” line. Which suggests, contrary to what many who are critical of the union suggest, that there are limits to what the union can and will do for a player. Weiner goes on to talk about the Ryan Braun appeal last year and notes that, while many hated that outcome and considered it to be some exercise in legal technicalities, no person in Braun’s position would eschew mounting such a defense. But the key takeaway, I think, is that there was a defense available there.

Other fun stuff in the story: Jerry Hairston, Jr. is quoted at length about the drug testing program and how, while it isn’t perfect, it is working.  The same Jerry Hairston, Jr. who was named in the Mitchell Report.

  1. chill1184 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    Does anyone know if minor leaguers are protected by the union or are they pretty much hung out to dry?

    • rbj1 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      If you’re on the 40 man roster you are protected. Otherwise, you aren’t in the union and at the mercy of Selig et al.

      • dswan3199 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        I believe they have already suspended a few minor leaguers who were on the list.

  2. connormyboy - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    In others words MLB is going to nothing as usual.

  3. bigharold - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    “players who have a defense”

    Of course the issue will be what constitutes a defense. As was stated with the example of the Braun case it was viewed to a large extent that Bruan got off on a technicality.

    Weiner in my opinion is blowing smoke. He’s looking to establish his reasoning for defending guys that clearly have earned a suspension. I think it’s more likely that the Union will fight tooth and nail for any player that has even a shred of a “defense”. And, while you can argue the appropriateness of that tact I can’t see them doing anything else. At the end of the day it’s the Player’s Union and defending it’s constituents from the employer is a union’s reason for being.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      If the technicality is that the tainted urine test resulted in a controversial ruling that could be tied to medication and/or poor handling, and its results re-created in front of an arbitrator, then I guess you have a point. But I don’t think you’re saying that. The Union, on the other hand, is saying, If you don’t know for sure, and you can’t prove the initial findings beyond a reasonable doubt, then test again and again (if necessary), and then come to a conclusion.

      Nobody would know about Ryan Braun’s initial test if ESPN didn’t break confidentiality and report a failed test BEFORE ALL STEPS OF APPEALS had been taken.

      An appeal is part of the justice system. Real criminals guilty of really bad things have their convictions appealed all the time. To suggest that Ryan Braun doesn’t deserve due process is beyond ridiculous.

      • bigharold - Jul 5, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        ” To suggest that Ryan Braun doesn’t deserve due process is beyond ridiculous.”

        Yes it is and no I didn’t suggest that. I stated that there is a significant percentage of people that thought Bruan got off on a technicality.

        My point was/is that the Union will defend anyone with even the slightest iota of doubt. Why, because that’s what unions do. All this BS that “.. we have an obligation to enforce the joint drug program.” is nonsense. He has an obligation to defend his constituents to the best of his ability which is exactly what he’ll do in every case he can. Where it gets complicated is that by defending guys to the best of his ability, some of which surely have violated the “joint drug program”, he will in effect be harming guys that don’t use PED who also happen to be his constituent.

        I get it, Weiner’s in a tough spot but spare me the BS about enforcing anything. The dynamic of unions representing and defending their constituents against employers hasn’t changed. Especially with the most powerful union in America, which is what the MLB Player Union is. And, the only tightrope that the union will have to negotiate will be the one where they defend every player to the best of their ability without it looking like they are facilitating their members rule breaking.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 5, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        “Yes it is and no I didn’t suggest that. I stated that there is a significant percentage of people that thought Bruan got off on a technicality.”

        Okay, I’ll grant you that, but how is it that so many people insist that Braun got off on a technicality? I don’t think everyone understands the drug testing procedures, and how everybody’s body is different. People deserve protection from unfounded accusations, even if there is a “basis” (i.e. a tainted urine test) behind it.

        The other day, a cop in Cali shot a dog because the owner was being a dick. That incident is like a microcosm of sports related drug inquiries to me.

      • bigharold - Jul 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        “.. how is it that so many people insist that Braun got off on a technicality? ”

        Because they either didn’t read enough about it to understand what was going on and or they are predisposed to think that everybody that is outted is a “roider”.

        Frankly, I only know the broad strokes with regard to Bruan’s case. His test failed but based on an appeal it was determined that there was a problem with the process. That was enough for me. Whether he did or didn’t use PED becomes irrelevant once MLB has no evidence. And, to me at least, there is no pejorative connotation to his test being thrown out due to process violation or failure. But, unfortunately for Bruan, that also does not prove he passed the screening either. If I’d bothered to research Bruan’s case further I might well have determined that the process fail that got his test results invalidated was not significant and I may have determined that he got off on a technicality. The same lack of adherence that allowed his suspension to be voided does not prove that he passed the screening either, .. it proves nothing.

        In most cases the process will work, .. if player fails a screening and established processes and protocols are followed they will be suspended, end of story. But, in every case he union will examine every aspect to determine if there are grounds to challenge the results. More importantly, is the Biogenesis case. I’m certain the Union will go to great lengths to fight this “investigation” by MLB. Why? Partly because the case stinks but mostly because their dues paying constituents will insist. The case so far is essentially MLB has coerced a low life snake oil salesmen and his cronies into giving “testimony” against a number of players. How this motley collection of rift-raft, with little or no evidence and nothing more than heresy amounts to an “investigation” is yet to be seen. Not to mention the irony of MLB, ,.. an organization that once banned George Stenibrenner for using a low life to get information on Dave Winfield, is now using these dirt bags to get information on players. There is a certain unseemly symmetry here that reeks. Nevertheless, the Union is going to “go to the mattresses” over this and they should.

        My point all along is that the Union will defend players with every resource that they have, .. and to a very real extent at the expense of players that do not use PEDS. I understand their position but I wish they would just spare me the sanctimonious BS about their obligations to the drug testing process. They’re obliged to do everything in their power to protect the members and that’s exactly what will happen.

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