This is the worst part – the waiting. The space in time between the action and the reaction. Last night’s semi-gigantic report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines on MLB gleefully hopping into bed — offering to “drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March, indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation, provide personal security for him and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that might bring charges against him” — with scumbag drug pusher Tony Bosch in a brazen attempt to punish ballplayers who violated baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement is only the beginning.
Right now, there is only speculation. Right now, there is only weary headshaking as to the depths the league will go to decorate their regal home with the heads of the transgressors. Who will it be? How will this change the game? How made will the union get?
Into that vacuum enters speculation and pontification. Many column inches and blogposts and hot twitter takes and tortured metaphors will for the greater good of shaming MLB for their specious lawsuit meant to squeeze a desperate, pathetic man. Or, alternately, the praise chorus will sing loudly as Bud Selig and his crew finally clean up the game for good.
The cheaters will be banished! The playing field levelled! Consumer confidence will hit an all-time high and the league and players’ union will finally get down to the business of making money. If only it were that simple.
There are already plenty of strong takes around the thinking internet. People with a strong grip on the legal ramifications for Tony Bosch and familiarity with the inner workings of a determined (and well financed) legal team out for blood. That their entire case is built on the, as Craig Calcaterra put it, “likely unreliable and clearly self-serving” testimony of a man facing certain ruin doesn’t seem to matter. Not as if the players don’t have their own motivation for lying and/or cheating.
The league, and a not-insignificant portion of its fanbase, wants blood. They want a name and they want to see somebody punished. As Craiggers notes in his excellent HBT post, attacking the end user isn’t likely to shake the underpinning of the entire drug culture in baseball. I’m not law-talking guy, but the entire concept of “punishment as sole deterrent” seems flawed and unsuccessful to me, a simple man who just likes baseball who doesn’t know much (any) law.
So now we’re in the shit. We’re in the plausibility deniability, legalese and cut eye stage of this process. Every player whose surname either ends with a “Z” or a vowel is going to issue some sort of statement, or refuse to discuss the matter. A lot of people will be running scared. Maybe they should be afraid – if they broke the rules and benefited from illegal means, shouldn’t punishment await? Maybe Bosch is just the first domino to fall, and players with more to lose will take their turn singing.
I don’t know how this ends or even what I want, personally, from the entire process. Sweeping it under the carpet seems short-sighted but, then again, I can’t say I especially care about the fate of the twenty names pushed forward by ESPN. My fandom is not in doubt. I am not the target market for this moral sales pitch.
I like baseball. I like to watch baseball and discuss baseball and make jokes about baseball and marvel at those that play baseball at its highest level. I care about David Wright, not sown affidavits. This isn’t a baseball story. It’s a story of business and optics and PR and regret and filthy lucre. It sucks. I selfishly hate it because it gets in the way of the actual baseball.
But MLB has their reasons, I suppose. They have their reasons and they have the resources to make sure they get their men. We can hope that they’re doing this for the right reasons, whatever those reasons might be. We can hope they’re going to take the testimony and scattered notes of a sleazy quack in an attempt to tear down some of the most recognizable names in their sport in pursuit of A Better Baseball World.
I don’t know what that looks like in this instance, but I hope it’s the goal. Really, I just hope there is a goal beyond vindication. Justice? Is that what we’re talking about? It certainly doesn’t feel that way. But I suppose it rarely does.