Major League Baseball is going to appalling lengths to find evidence that it can use to punish Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun for performance-enhancing drugs.
A report by Bob Nightengale of USA Today says MLB already is pestering Braun's friends and associates, and soon will be going after his peers, digging for any information that can damage Braun, the only major leaguer known ever to overturn a positive drug test. Hey, did you know that FBI stands for Futile Baseball Informants?
MLB has no leverage against potential informants who fall outside of baseball, but the league is going to try and play "good cop/bad cop" with Braun's peers. The names of at least 90 players, including Braun's, reportedly appear in the records of the Biogenesis Clinic of Miami, which has been reputed to dispense PEDs. Nightengale writes:
These players will have no choice but to talk to MLB officials. If they don't cooperate, MLB can suspend them, according to the bylaws of the collective bargaining agreement.
In some cases, according to two officials who spoke to USA TODAY Sports but were unauthorized to speak publicly, some players will be granted immunity even if they admit guilt to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. They would have to fully disclose their arrangement with Tony Bosch, former director of the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic, including any possible involvement by their agents or knowledge of other players who received performance-enhancing drugs from him. (Emphasis ours)
Astonishing. First, Braun infuriated baseball by winning an arbitrator's judgment to get his drug test overturned. Then, the Miami New Times poured salt in the wound by refusing to turn over its Biogenesis records to MLB. The league talks about wanting justice while it lets anger make it blind.
MLB vice president Rob Manfred, of course, denies to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the league is out to get Braun:
"Everyone whose name has surfaced surrounding the Miami New Times story and Biogenesis is being investigated with equal vigor," Manfred said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel.
But no longer can MLB pretend it's not only about Braun, or that it just wants to clean up the sport, or take down Bosch (which should be the government's job, if anyone's). MLB will give a free pass to a player who admits PED use — the same thing MLB thinks Braun should have been punished for — if that player helps them take down Braun. From one side of its mouth, MLB wants us to think Braun should be treated equally as any other player caught with PEDs. From the other side, Braun somehow is "more guilty" than others, and it's more important that he be punished, because he embarrassed MLB by getting its test overturned.
It's a vendetta, and if Nightengale's story doesn't scuttle MLB's credibility on this issue once and for all, nothing can.
One minor leaguer, Cesar Carillo of the Detroit Tigers organization, was suspended 100 games for a connection to Biogenesis. Carillo didn't have the weight of the players union behind him, and MLB basically can do what it wants with minor leaguers, particularly those not on a 40-man major league roster.
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All MLB can do with Braun is try to intimidate him and those who know him. Baseball's behavior is much more shameful than that of anyone who failed a drug test.
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