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June 5, 2013

Bizball

Suspensions May Loom for Players Connected to Biogenesis Clinic

by Maury Brown

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Major League Baseball may seek to suspend as many as 20 players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, as part of the investigation into the Miami-area Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, according to a report by ESPN. The league has been pursuing legal avenues, including a lawsuit against Biogenesis, Biokem, Tony Bosch of Biogenesis, and others, seeking damages. That and other pressure may have finally taken a toll on Bosch as, according to the ESPN report, he is ready to cooperate with MLB investigators in exchange for their dropping the case. With Bosch testifying against players, the league could begin the suspension process “within the next few weeks.”

Should all the players be suspended, it would mark the largest number of suspensions for performance-enhancing substances in the history of professional sports. In 2005, the first year of mandatory drug testing, MLB suspended 12 players between April and November of the year, the largest amount of suspensions at the major-league level to date. At the time, first-time suspensions against the joint drug agreement between MLB and the players’ union were only for 10 games. Since then, the number of games a player can be suspended for has increased dramatically to 50 for a first violation, 100 for a second, and a potential permanent suspension from both MLB and minor-league baseball for a third.

But, according to the ESPN report, the league could seek “100-game suspensions for Rodriguez, Braun, and other players, the penalty for a second doping offense. The argument, the source said, is the players' connection to Bosch constitutes one offense, and previous statements to MLB officials denying any such connection or the use of PEDs constitute another.” This would seem to be in violation of the current drug agreement. If the league were seeking two suspensions tied to the Bosch testimony, the league would have to seek a first suspension for a violation (50 games), then a second suspension for denying PED use to league investigators while the first suspension was under appeal (100 games). If that were the case, the players would get not 100, but 150 games in total suspensions.

As part of the drug policy, if the league pursues any suspension, the MLB Players Association has the right to file a grievance (and in this case, it most assuredly will) based on the fact that the league would be seeking suspension not for a positive drug test, but rather with “non-analytical” findings via testimony from Bosch. Reports have alleged that he supplied substances such as testosterone and hGH that appear in notes obtained through investigative reporting, initially via the Miami New Times. With an appeal, the grievance is heard before an arbitration panel that consists of a representative from Major League Baseball (most likely MLB’s Executive Vice President, Economics & League Affairs, Rob Manfred), a representative from the MLBPA (most likely Executive Director Michael Weiner) and the “panel chair” who is deemed to be neutral. That arbitrator, who is selected by both sides, is currently Fredric Horowitz, who replaced Shyam Das.

It’s important to note that Das was fired shortly after ruling in favor of Ryan Braun in his case to get his 50-game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone rescinded due to mishandling of his collected urine sample. At the time, league officials were furious at Das’ ruling and talked of taking the matter to court. At the time, it was the first time ever that a suspension had been overturned (shortly thereafter, Eliezer Alfonzo of the Rockies had his 100-game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone rescinded), and the latest joint drug policy sees those loopholes closed.

Still, the league has never forgotten “the one that got away,” and the fact that Braun’s name is linked to notes by Bosch adds to speculation that Biogenesis was the source of the synthetic testosterone allegedly provided to the former NL MVP.

Should the league prevail and suspensions be doled out to all the players, the financial implications would be staggering, with players spanning far and wide across the league. Here is an alleged list of players within the ledger of Tony Bosch, with their club and 2013 salary in brackets. Others in the Bosch documents are listed as initials and are currently unknown.

  1. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees - $28 million)
  2. Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers - $8.5 million)
  3. Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers - $10.5 million)
  4. Melky Cabrera (Toronto Blue Jays - $8 million)
  5. Bartolo Colon (Oakland Athletics - $3 million)
  6. Fautino De Los Santos (Oakland Athletics - $482,500)
  7. Jordan Norberto (Oakland Athletics - $482,500)
  8. Everth Cabrera (San Diego Padres - $1.275 million)
  9. Yasmani Grandal (San Diego Padres - $750,000. Just returned from suspension.)
  10. Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers - $6 million)
  11. Fernando Martinez (Houston Astros - $493,000)
  12. Jesus Montero (Seattle Mariners - $503,300)
  13. Cesar Puello (New York Mets – minor leaguer)

On top of these players, Robinson Cano (New York Yankees), and Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals) were mentioned in the Bosch documents. The league determined that the matter with Gonzalez requires no further investigation, as it was found that no performance-enhancing substances were provided to him through Biogenesis. While reports have gone back and forth as to whether Cano is still a target of the investigation, there have been concerns that Sonia Cruz, a spokesperson for Cano’s foundation, is listed in the Biogenesis documents. The inference is that she could have possibly been a go-between and potentially providing banned substances to Cano, but a separate report on ESPNNewYork had a league official saying, “"Cano is not a part of this.” Should Cano be sucked into the investigation, it could have financial implications as the Yankees second baseman is a free agent at the end of the season and is now represented by Jay-Z.

The league may see an uphill battle with the suspensions, even if Bosch provides testimony, as he reportedly only dealt in cash, and the ledgers are vague in their documentation. While a code name and dollar amount could be listed, the records do not directly say what banned substance a player may have purchased. That is likely to create difficulties in the appeals process, where the burden of proof falls on the Commissioner’s Office.

According to the ESPN report, Bosch is scheduled to meet league officials within a week and any communication of a suspension to the players and MLBPA would come within two weeks after that. Depending on how long the grievance process takes, it could take longer for any suspension to be announced. Based on confidentiality agreements within the drug policy, no information is announced by the league if a player succeeds in having a suspension overturned.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

Related Content:  Alex Rodriguez,  Ryan Braun,  Steroids,  PEDs,  Biogenesis,  HGH

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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antonsirius

My gut reaction is that, if the ESPN report is remotely true, this could be a massive over-reach by MLB. 100 game suspension for a first offense on Braun, and double-dipping on suspensions for people like Cabrera and Grandal, is not going to sit well with the MLBPA.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what the union could do about it. The latest CBA lasts through 2016, and a labor action to protect "steroid cheats" (which is how the media will portray it) would probably be a PR disaster.

Jun 05, 2013 04:48 AM
rating: 1
 
jfranco77

Melky and Grandal can simply argue that the test they already failed was a result of what they got from Biogenesis. It's not reasonable for MLB to double-dip those guys. (Nor is it reasonable to try to double-dip Braun for lying and using PEDs but that's another story)

I think the MLBPA can find some more sympathetic figure and use them as a lynchpin to get the whole thing overturned without looking like they're fighting for Braun and A-Rod.

Jun 05, 2013 07:14 AM
rating: 2
 
gtgator

While I agree with those two in particular, if they do make such statements, could this not be used by MLB as independent verification of Bosch's claims as to other players? Basically, MLB's argument would be that Bosch named these two, they admitted it and, therefore, Bosch is telling the truth about the others named.

It may still not be enough to uphold suspensions. But if Bosch has credibility issues here, having two players admit that Bosch was correct about them can't hurt his credibility. As such, I wonder if MLBPA would want them to take that tact.

Jun 05, 2013 07:24 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

Yep. Which is why this could turn into small fish adding credibility to Bosch's sworn testimony. I'm sure MLBPA preaching, "Hold ranks"

Jun 05, 2013 08:35 AM
 
mlherr

I would guess that the same would hold true for Bartolo Colon.

Jun 05, 2013 11:21 AM
rating: 0
 
SC

Seems to me a giant mistake by MLB, as usual when it comes to PEDs. Pursuing this during the season is an error given that an y suspensions handed down will be delayed pending a lengthy legal battle. So instead of talking about what a great season it is, and whether the Brewers can hang on, or what smoke and mirrors the Yankees are using, the media (which generally hates baseball relative to other spots) will spend the summer talking about cheating and lawsuits.

The only explanation for this effort for circumstantial evidence to tie players to people who may have provided substances that may have been banned is that the NFL is bankrolling the entire operation.

Jun 05, 2013 08:21 AM
rating: 5
 
Mike W
(830)

Bud sure knows how to promote his game, doesn't he? I expect the suspensions will be handed down right around the All-Star break.

Jun 05, 2013 08:24 AM
rating: 8
 
SC

He's planning to announce it at the same time as he declares the game a tie.

Jun 05, 2013 09:36 AM
rating: 5
 
SaxonB

Well, it was under his tenure that MLB.tv was started which has probably been the biggest injection of promotion for baseball in America during the modern era.

Jun 05, 2013 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner today issued the following statement regarding ESPN’s Biogenesis report.


“The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner’s Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation. They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association. The Commissioner’s Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations.

The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner’s Office shares these interests.”

Jun 05, 2013 08:33 AM
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

I'm shocked Bosch buckled. MLB's lawsuit is one of the weakest I've ever seen.

Jun 05, 2013 08:41 AM
 
PeterBNYC

Maury: MLB seems to me in need of some adult supervision in their approach to the Biogenesis problem. Perhaps the Commissioner is prompted by frustration that all the previous suspensions, adverse publicity, etc., has apparently had no effect on the behavior of players. But it seems to me that the owners are making a very fundamental mistake of judgement if they believe that suspicion without proof beyond Bosch's "testimony" would prevent a massive job action by the MLBPA. Mr. Weiner is no pushover. If I were them, I would take Mr. Bosch's testimony, let it out to the world, and TAKE NO FURTHER ACTION. Let the fallout be what it is. The media, fans, the teams (which can seek to void contracts), the insurance industry (which will refuse to insure certain contracts), the BBWA (and HOF) will sort it out.

A minority view I am sure.

Jun 05, 2013 09:12 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

My understanding is that his motive is finances --- he ain't got none. Unable to mount a legal defense, cooperation becomes his least costly option. You don't see it this way?

Jun 05, 2013 09:42 AM
rating: 4
 
jfranco77

That's my understanding too. MLB has literally nothing to use against this guy except the inertia of a billion dollar industry and the army of lawyers that it feeds. But he's just one guy. Most people would crack under that pressure.

Jun 05, 2013 10:58 AM
rating: 2
 
Brian Kopec

I have to be honest here and say that MLB's overreach is annoying me much more than the potential that PED use is still so common.

Jun 05, 2013 09:10 AM
rating: 7
 
bbuvinger2004

This looks like another MLB witch hunt. Just like Balco was all about getting Bonds, this saga seems to be a vendetta against Braun. Bosch is a reliable witness? What a joke!

Jun 05, 2013 10:56 AM
rating: 4
 
bbuvinger2004

Has Bosch been tried yet? Maybe his cooperation with MLB is part of a plea bargain strategy.

Jun 05, 2013 11:40 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Just spitballing here, but what if the whole idea of suspensions is failing? What if, instead of suspending convicted chemical-enhancers, MLB restricted future salary earnings?

Jun 05, 2013 11:53 AM
rating: 0
 
antonsirius

Can you say "anti-trust challenge"?

Jun 05, 2013 20:18 PM
rating: 1
 
LoyalRoyal

Any bets guesses on how long the appeals process could take past the mont or so of the original process? If convicted, how many games do you see these players missing this season?

Jun 06, 2013 05:14 AM
rating: 0
 
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