The primary focus of the latest twist in the BioGenesis story has been the implications it may have for Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, two true superstars in the game who have, so far, escaped punishment for any alleged PED usage, despite the pungent stink of ‘roids taint that surrounds their every step. I suppose it’s understandable why that’s the angle most explored, but to me, and I would assume to every Blue Jays fan, by far the most fascinating thing is how Melky Cabrera, and others who served 50-game suspensions that ended his 2012 season, has continued to be listed among those potentially facing punishment.
Melky, quite rightly, certainly believes that the matter should be closed, telling Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today following yesterday’s game in San Francisco that “I don’t know anything about it. This is the first I hear of it. If they suspend me again, I think that would be a harsh punishment because I already served my sentence. But it’s up to them. I believe I’ve already served my sentence, especially missing the playoffs. That’s what hurt me the most.”
That’s precisely where Alex Anthopoulos was at during Spring Training, telling Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, “My understanding is there’s no issue. My understanding is that, as of today, we really don’t have anything to be concerned with. He served a suspension and right now, that’s it. His suspension has been served.”
As of today– an Anthopoulos classic that gives just enough of a speck of daylight for things to change dramatically without him ever having been technically wrong on the issue. And wrong he still might be, unfortunately.
As we learned from TJ Quinn of ESPN when the news broke on Tuesday night, MLB may be determined enough to throw the book at Braun and Rodriguez, in particular, to attempt to parse their offences into the tiniest of grains– and the implications that could have on a player like Melky are troubling.
“MLB to argue that A-Rod & Braun violated policy twice,” Quinn tweeted. “Once by dealing w Bosch, once when they lied to MLB about it. Players sure to fight.”
The original Outside The Lines piece elaborated:
MLB already has established precedent to suspend a player for two offenses in one shot: Minor league player Cesar Carrillo was hit with a 100-game suspension in March when he was confronted with Biogenesis documents containing his name and then denied having any connection to Bosch or the clinic.
However, because Carrillo was on a minor league contract and thus not a member of the MLB Players Association, he was not entitled to an appeal through arbitration. Major league players accused by MLB are expected to fight any suspension, and efforts to charge the players with multiple offenses would take that fight to another level. In the appeals process, players are allowed to confront witnesses and evidence in a courtroom-like procedure before an arbitration panel.
Could Melky still face suspension for covering up his connection to PEDs, in addition to his positive test? Are there other offences, by MLB’s definition, in the BioGenesis papers that he’s going to be hit with? There really aren’t good answers to those questions right now, but if we believe the league is going to attempt to punish Braun and Rodriguez for any and all offences– and I really think they might– any kind of cocksure attitude about Melky being in the clear seems misguided. And that’s especially since all of this is coming from sources who also told ESPN that Gio Gonzalez won’t be implicated because the substances he allegedly got from BioGenesis were legal, and who clearly didn’t specify that Cabrera, or any of the other players who’ve already served suspensions, were out of the woods.
And we therefore have to wonder about what we noticed in the BioGenesis records back in February, which was that Melky’s name appeared in a notebook labelled as being from 2009. The dates listed actually lined up with the 2011 pre-season, so maybe he wasn’t involved with the clinic as far back as it seemed– but there were more elaborate notes from 2011 on his file as well, and given that his suspension was for a 2012 positive test, and MLB’s apparent intention to parse out individual offences from the whole, I’ve got to think it’s at least possible that this isn’t over for him.
Asked about the double jeopardy issue in the spring, via a piece from Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, players union head Michael Weiner explained:
“It’s a tough and complicated legal question,” Weiner said. “I think the commissioner’s office could take the position that if they had evidence of a separate violation, that conceivably they could seek additional discipline. We might challenge that.
“I will say this. The players’ association has an obligation to represent any player who’s subject to discipline. The players’ association is also a signatory to a joint drug agreement, and the players’ association also has an obligation, not only to the players who are subject to discipline, but the vast majority of players who want a clean game.”
In the same piece, published this week, in the wake of the Outside The Lines report, Griffin wonders, “So did Cabrera commit another, different, punishable infraction. Indications are that he may get away with just the 50 games already served, definitely with a mention in the final report, maybe with a further slap on the wrist and a stern finger wag. Cabrera already faces additional mandatory drug tests because of his previous failure.”
I don’t think I’m being too much of a total homer when I say I think that makes complete sense.
In a piece at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi tells us that Cabrera’s fate “hinges on what evidence Bosch provides, and whether he’s connected to a previously unknown doping skeleton in Cabrera’s closet. If his only information on the left-fielder is tied to what led to last summer’s ban – which is believed to have resulted from products he obtained from Biogenesis – he should be in the clear.”
For MLB, writes Jonah Keri of Grantland, pursuing a second suspension for Cabrera “could also become problematic.”
As [FanGraphs' Wendy] Thurm explains, unless authenticated and verified Biogenesis documents link a previously suspended player to use, possession, sale, or distribution of PEDs separate from the drugs that had triggered earlier positive tests, a second suspension could amount to a second punishment for the same, initial violation. If MLB were to adopt the A-Rod–and–Braun approach, it could seek both the PED-use penalty and the lying penalty against Cabrera, Colon, and Grandal. All three have already been suspended once, and two more suspensions would equal three, which, according to MLB’s drug policy, would trigger a lifetime ban. Since it’s not at all clear if Cabrera, Colon, and Grandal violated the league’s policy in an incident separate from the one for which they’ve already been nailed, there’s an absurd scenario by which they could be forever stripped of their ability to play in the majors as a result of, essentially, a single transgression.
Hopefully, though, Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail is right, when he asserts that, for commissioner Bud Selig, this seems to be about dealing with the two that got away. Selig has outlasted and out-foxed his critics for the better part of the last 15 years, but turning what could be the biggest sports scandal in North American history into a plus is another matter entirely.”
Going after A-Rod and Braun I entirely get. Let’s just hope that, in some attempt to pursue action in an equal manner against all offenders, Melky doesn’t get caught up in this bullshit again. Or, at least, if he does, that suspension number two is off the books by 2014. Eh?