Union chief Michael Weiner called accused Biogenesis middleman Juan Nunez a “snake” in the New York Times this week, which presumably makes it official.
The Harvard–schooled leader of the MLBPA is not prone to flippancy and neither is the Times, so we are free to assume this man Nunez possesses reptilian qualities as they relate to the now defunct and ever scandalous wellness clinic of South Florida.
Let’s remember, he’s the one without the eyelids. The rest of us are free to blink violently when Nunez is cast as the villain in all that transpired this week, beginning with the suspension of 12 major-league players not named Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun. Not that Nunez doesn’t possess unpleasant, perhaps even criminal, traits. He does.
When MLB was done sorting the professional ballplayers from the desperate housewives and amateur bodybuilders in the Biogenesis documents, it would turn to Nunez and his employer, the New York-based agency ACES. Seeing as each of the 12 suspended players had relationships with Nunez and ACES, both the man and the firm are reasonable curiosities for the league’s Biogen-ical warfare.
The union, which certifies player agents, censured ACES operators Sam and Seth Levinson for failing to control Nunez. The Levinsons fired Nunez, who allegedly introduced ACES clients to Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch. In a more creative moment, Nunez helped Melky Cabrera create a phony website as an alibi for a flunked drug test, a clumsy ruse that distracted MLB investigators for about nine minutes.
At the end of a pretty good run turning major- and minor-league players onto pseudo doctors and their miracle drugs — and perhaps making a reasonable living off it — Nunez is being targeted as part of a larger suit brought by MLB. As it pertains to baseball, the union, and their hopes to soften the game’s muscle binge, he is a problem and he is not a good guy. Nunez is not, however, the problem.
The problem is the grown men who followed Nunez into a strip mall. The problem is the professional athletes who’d been raised on the principles and warnings and random testing of the Joint Drug Agreement, yet were talked out of their better judgment by a guy who loosely worked for their agent.
What follows the spikes in testosterone and performance levels is the inevitable drop in accountability, a side effect Bosch did not mention on the labels of those lozenges he administered.
This is not on Nunez, or Bosch, or the Levinson brothers. This is on Everth Cabrera. It’s on Nelson Cruz. It’s on Jhonny Peralta. All of them. And the others — grown men such as Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli. They can complain about sore shoulders and intestinal ailments. They can rail against a man — Nunez — who seemed OK, and came recommended by their agent, and then preyed on their physical and emotional frailties. NBA franchise owner Mark Cuban can take up for someone such as Alex Rodriguez, against whom MLB believes it has evidence of PED use in 2010, 2011 and 2012, none of it yet denied by Alex Rodriguez. Cuban can smirk at “Bud Selig’s mafia.”
And that’s the con.
Braun blamed the system. Everth Cabrera fingered the runner. Nelson Cruz fired the agent. The head of the players’ union called Juan Nunez a “snake.” Cuban smeared the commissioner.
You know what there was precious little of?
“I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret,” Peralta said this week. “I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment, and I accept my suspension.”
You know what Peralta said in February?
“I have never used performance-enhancing drugs. Period. Anybody who says otherwise is lying.”
This is accountability at gunpoint, which hardly counts. These are adults — role models, fathers, big brothers, educated men — who one day sat down, lashed a testosterone patch to the underside of their body and chose a path they knew could lead to this day.
Whatever. They made their decisions. They made their money. They found their fame. They were caught. It’s not Nunez’s fault, and it’s not their agent’s fault, and it’s certainly not Bud Selig’s goodfellas’ faults.
The folks at the union ought to take another look at the Levinsons and their place in this, because MLB is boxed out. Be assured, MLB is wholly dissatisfied with the union’s light judgment as it pertains to ACES, but labor law doesn’t generally allow an institution to choose who bargains for the other side.
So more than a dozen players serve their suspensions. Another, Rodriguez, awaits his date with an arbitrator. These are the men responsible for this week, after some really poor decisions. As much as we’d like it to be, it’s not Bosch. It’s not ACES. It’s not even Nunez.
An argument otherwise, to borrow Michael Weiner’s analogy, lacks legs.
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