Rumors Abound – Will MLB Actually Try to Invoke 100 Game Suspensions?

At what appears to be the dawn of Steroid Era II (or, as I prefer, Steroid Era Redux) a fight of major league proportions would appear to be on the horizon. While in a perfect world, baseball players would be PED-free and the agreed-upon testing of all players on a regular basis would be unnecessary. MLB, as is the rest of society, is far from the perfect paradise of Shangri-La, and players, as a segment of a society replete with good and bad characters, has its scoundrels. The powers that be felt a few years ago that they had resolved the duel problems of how to find them, and how to punish them. Then in steps one Tony Bosch, founder of the now-shuttered steroid-producing-and-dispensing Biogenesis of America.

Mr. Bosch could be facing substantial penalties, both criminal and monetary, for his transgressions in becoming this era’s “Steroid King”. So what does any enterprising, industrious young man who wants to avoid financial ruin and jail time do? Why he makes a deal with whomever will listen, trading lists of even more guilty bad guys for that infamous Get Out Of Jail Card. And voila! we have a list of 20 major league baseball players who, according to good old Tony, owe their on-field success to ingesting his brew.

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Tony may be telling the truth, or he may be doing whatever he can come up with to save his own skin. However, what MLB seems to be doing with the information is a bit suspect, and probably in violation of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, including current procedures for determining just who has been bad and also including available penalties for violations. Also

coming into play at some point will be basic rules of American jurisprudence, in particular that nasty old requirement of needing competent, admissible evidence relevant to proving facts material to substantiate breaches of contract (or, as people tend to think more commonly, violations of criminal law).

Penalties for steroid and other PED use have almost without exception followed some form of testing procedure. Baseball law now provides specific protocols for testing both minor and major league players, and rules further provide that a first offense is punishable by a 50-game suspension, and a second offense with a 100-game suspension. The stories that abound demonstrate a far different scenario.

What is being discussed is that based solely on the statements of Bosch, baseball will conclude that these players are guilty of PED use, and that players such as Rodriguez, Braun, and others who have previously stated that they had NOT used PEDs will be given not the 50-game first offense penalty, but a second offense 100-game penalty, based on the theory that use and lying are separate offenses.

First of all is the matter of evidence and proof of violations, and the power of perhaps the country’s most powerful union, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. You can make book that the MLBPA will appeal every violation based on statements and records provided by Bosch, where there is no test results showing such use. By appealing, the cases will go to Arbitration, where the rules of law and evidence apply, and where Mr. Bosch will be cross-examined by the toughest legal team the toughest union can muster. The second issue, those second offense penalties, will also be subject to appeal, and Arbitration, and I would anticipate the assigned Arbitrators getting some good laughs from baseball’s arguments on this issue.

Also on the Bosch front, his participation in baseball’s impending actions is all connected to his dealings with the US Attorney’s office and what baseball will do to assist him in mitigating his criminal liability. Florida enforcement agencies have also come knocking on his door. So, the more leverage ole’ Tony can get from his assistance in baseball’s move to search and destroy, the more appreciative will be the Commish and his staff in telling the authorities what a good and helpful guy Tony has been.

There is one more important point that has not been much discussed. Reports of the impending actions revolve around Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, but the actual story involves many more major leaguers, including key names on pennant contenders, such as the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, the Tiger’s Jhonny Peralta, Bartolo Colon of the A’s, and a Yankee much more vital to their success than Rodriguez, catcher Francisco Cervelli. Should these fellas get lengthy suspensions (that pass appellate muster) they could be out for the rest of the season, and have major impacts on pennant races in the American League. If such lengthy suspensions are imposed but stayed pending appeal, they could still have major effects on the performance on the players while they sweat out their futures.

All of this is just beginning and it will be supplanting wins and losses as far as baseball news is concerned, through the long, hot summer.

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