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Morosi: Messy realities of A-Rod investigation might cost MLB later
I won’t criticize Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, MLB COO Rob Manfred or star witness Anthony Bosch for appearing on “60 Minutes.” I can’t. The media member who does is a hypocrite or just plain jealous. Any serious reporter would have loved to land those interviews. Scott Pelley is one of the finest journalists in America. He proved it again Sunday.
The American public now is wiser to the messy realities surrounding MLB’s prosecution of Alex Rodriguez — because, let’s face it, that’s exactly what it was. From Manfred, we learned the commissioner’s office bought $125,000 in evidence from a man known only as “Bobby.” We also heard statements suggesting a Rodriguez associate threatened Bosch’s life.
The transparency is welcome, however unpleasant. But it’s the aftermath of the investigation I’m most worried about. Sunday night, the same question kept rolling through my mind.
Is it going to be worth it?
I realize there are two its in that sentence. Allow me to clarify: Four years from now, when Rodriguez is 42 and (probably) retired, how are we going to view the most expensive drug investigation in MLB history? As a righteous takedown of the game’s most famous — and, we are told, most egregious — steroid user? Or an overreach that poisoned relations between MLB and the MLB Players Association, leading to a cataclysmic end of labor peace?
In time, most baseball fans will forget whether MLB suspended Rodriguez for 211 games, 162 games, 100 games, 50 games — or any games at all. But if there’s a lockout or strike when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2016 season, MLB might think back on these 12 months of Biogenesis and wonder if less would have been more.
Selig is trying to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from the game. The goal is admirable. He has been pursuing it for years. But I’m not sure the Rodriguez suspension moved him any closer to fulfilling that objective. In fact, it might have pushed him further away.
Remember where we stood not long ago: When the Biogenesis scandal broke last January, and as it continued making news throughout the season, player after player spoke out. They supported the MLB investigation. They were ready to approve stiffer penalties. They wanted the cheaters out of the game.
Sunday, we had this statement from the MLBPA: “Players have expressed anger over, among other things, MLB’s inability to let the result of yesterday’s decision speak for itself. As a result, the Players Association is considering all legal options available to remedy any breaches committed by MLB.”
It sounds like MLB might have lost its most important ally in battling PEDs: the players themselves.
That’s not to suggest the anti-aging clinics of America are about to experience a run on Bosch-inspired testosterone troches to spite Selig, Manfred, and their well-financed battalion of investigators. But if the point of the Biogenesis probe was to discourage other players from using, wouldn’t it have been helpful if the union membership nodded in agreement at the end?
MLB’s dream scenario involved such profound outcry from players that the union might have become amenable to the notion of changing guaranteed contracts to non-guaranteed as part of the penalty for a PED violation. That was a long shot from the start, but now there’s almost zero chance of it happening. The surreal nature of the Rodriguez investigation succeeded only in fomenting fear among the union ranks that MLB is reverting to its heavy-handed ways. And it’s hard to blame them.
One can imagine the clubhouse conversation as camps open across baseball next month: Man, did you hear how much they spent to bring A-Rod down? MLB saved the Yankees a lot of money. It doesn’t sound quite right.
Meanwhile, MLB was so determined to establish Bosch’s credibility as a witness against Rodriguez that the league unwittingly gave weight to his comments that were less germane to the case. The seminal moment of the “60 Minutes” piece came when Pelley asked Bosch how he could provide PEDs to major leaguers if he truly loved baseball and cared about its integrity.
“Because, unfortunately, this is part of baseball,” Bosch said.
“This is part of baseball,” Bosch continued. Then he invoked the rigorous travel schedule that for so long was the rationale behind rampant amphetamine use. “This has always been part of the game — always been part of the game . . . What is fair play? Follow me in thought: I’m Alex. I’m at the plate. And I know the guy throwing the 95-mph pitch is on performance-enhancing drugs. The guy who’s going to catch the ball is on a program. The guy I have to tag at third . . . he’s on it.
“Fair play? Fair play. If everybody’s on it, wouldn’t that be fair play?”
Is everybody on it, even after MLB has spent untold sums of money on a state-of-the-art testing program? No. Bosch was speaking theoretically. At least, I think he was.
I believe baseball’s testing program has reduced the incidence of PED use in the game, but I acknowledge that Bosch knows much more about doping than I do. He also has demonstrated an ability to outsmart the science behind MLB’s program. The vast majority of players suspended for links to Biogenesis never failed a drug test. If it hadn’t been for a leak to the Miami New Times, MLB might never have suspended Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, and all the rest.
What if Bosch knows of another faux doctor selling human growth hormone from a different strip mall in South Florida? Or New York? Or Los Angeles? With MLB paying for Bosch’s security and legal fees, one hopes they were able to wring that sort of information from him — if, in fact, the theory Bosch gave Pelley is something close to reality.
So, what if the sequel to Biogenesis breaks next week, through a different media outlet in a new city? Then we must ask a question that’s already taking shape: What has baseball really accomplished in all of this?
Does the Rodriguez suspension prove that MLB’s program is working at maximum efficiency? Or does it suggest quite the opposite, that Selig had to nail Rodriguez because he fears PEDs persist in the places he can’t see? And might the game’s future have been better served if the checks for all those billable hours had gone toward putting even more bats and gloves in the hands of kids who need them?
MLB got its man, all right. We have an idea about how much money the league spent. But it will be years before we know the cost.