Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Damned Yankees or damned steroids
The Padres are unlucky that their series with the Yankees will be buffered by Commissioner Bud Selig
The New York Yankees are coming to town! What should be a stoic occasion – the first time that The Bronx Zoo comes to Petco Park – will be entirely overshadowed by an impending agreement between the Office of the Commissioner and certain players concerning suspensions.
Sometime between Friday and Sunday (probably Sunday), a bunch of players will be suspended for using performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Except, there will be no proof that they did and you won’t hear anything from the players other than an apology for using bad judgment, nor the Commissioner for having to hand down the penalties other than regret.
Two players in the middle of this ordeal (well, three, really) that are involved in this weekend’s festivities in San Diego are Everth Cabrera of the Padres, and Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees. Except that Rodriguez is nursing an injury somewhere else. Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal, who tested positive previously, isn’t expected to incur further penalties than the 50-game suspension he served at the beginning of the season.
Neither Cabrera nor Rodriguez tested positive for PED’s, by the way. Neither did the others that will serve a suspension. While it doesn’t mean the players didn’t use PED’s, it doesn’t prove they did according to the Joint Drug Program (JDP), which is a part of their latest collective bargaining agreement.
Grandal tested positive, which is part of how baseball attempts to police juicing in the game these days. He was also found to be on a list of players connected to a clinic in Florida, called Biogenesis, which reportedly supplied PED’s to several MLB players. Cabrera and Rodriguez are also on the list.
So was Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Previously, Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone but beat the rap by finding a loophole in the policy, where his sample wasn’t sent to the lab in the time frame drawn up in the JDP. Braun declared his innocence throughout the entire ordeal.
When the Biogenesis scandal broke, it implicated that players found someplace they could get PED’s and implicated that it was run by unscrupulous people – some of which not even licensed to prescribe such pharmaceuticals. In such a case, one could easily reach the conclusion that the people who ran Biogenesis were nothing more than well-dressed drug dealers.
Meanwhile, Bud Selig – the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers – decided to offer the operators of Biogenesis a deal which included players not having the right to file lawsuits against them along with urging the government against prosecution of any wrong-doing against the operators of Biogenesis, in return for dirt on players. Keep in mind, Biogenesis isn’t implicated in simply supplying grown-up ball players, but also high school athletes.
Braun copped a deal, a 65-game suspension. Smart money is on Selig's evidence that implicated Braun as buying his dope from Biogenesis.
You should wonder how much Ryan Braun’s fight against Selig and the owners had to do with the willingness of Selig to get into bed with people who could be considered as drug dealers. In return for what? Getting over on Braun? Protecting Selig’s perceived reputation?
Or – and here’s the important part – in weakening the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). If Selig digs up enough emails and text records and notes to apply leverage, then he can easily negotiate deals with the players and take MLBPA out of defending them by implicating the players as liars.
In other words, if you can’t nail them for cheating then you can nail them for lying. But this sets a precedent, in that there is nothing in the JDP to punish a player for lying. Or texting a drug dealer, calling one, sending one an email, and so on.
If a player is guilty under the rules of the JDP of violating their agreement (by testing positive), then that player should be punished accordingly. But by circumventing the JDP (and protecting a drug dealer), isn’t the Commissioner’s Office just as guilty – if not more so – than any player who would take performance enhancing drugs?
The payoff for Selig and MLB owners is obvious. Ensuring that owners will maintain power over players by marginalizing their Union using the perceptions of the casual baseball fan and pitting players against each other. And by ensuring that the MLBPA can’t defend the players without exposing that some of them are liars.
Yes, the Padres now own Ian Kennedy for what it’s worth. Unlike 99% in sports media, I’m not sold that giving up Joe Thatcher and Matt Stites and a draft pick will be worth it. Not that Kennedy wasn’t a good starting pitcher at one point, but that he hasn’t been recently. Thatcher is an amazing situational lefty and Stites is the next best thing to a can’t-miss prospect. We’ll see.
The New York Yankees are in town and Petco Park will be full all weekend. The Padres Andrew Cashner (7-5, 3.88) will face C. C. Sabathia (9-9, 4.65) on Friday, game time at 7:10 PM PDST. It will be a circus there if you have tickets, you’ll likely be better off taking the trolley and parking elsewhere. If you don’t have tickets, 1090 AM will carry the game on radio while Fox Sports San Diego will televise.