MLB Granting Immunity to out Cheaters Is Taking PED Witch Hunt Way Too Far

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

Bud's grin tells you that he means business.
Bud's grin tells you that he means business.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In its never-ending quest to satisfy a certain subsection of the media and fan base demanding justice for the evil that is performance-enhancing drugs, MLB has turned into a cartoon, with itself starring as Elmer Fudd and the players as Bugs Bunny. 

The latest mind-numbing development, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, will see MLB officials talk to the 90-plus players named in the Miami Biogenesis clinic report and be granted immunity from suspension if they admit to using PEDs. 

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.

Nightengale's report also says that, under the bylaws of the collective bargaining agreement, MLB would be allowed to suspend players who do no cooperate in this investigation. It also says that the investigation will likely happen "within the next two weeks."

For a brief refresher course, the Miami Biogenesis clinic, run by Tony Bosch, was named in a Miami New Times article on Jan. 31 as providing steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

Several athletes from various sports were associated with the clinic, with Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz as the most prominent baseball players mentioned by name. 

There is certainly nothing wrong with Bud Selig and MLB wanting to get drugs out of the sport. Even though my personal opinion is that the PED "crisis" is overblown because we have no way of knowing how much, if at all, these things actually help you play baseball, I can respect wanting any kind of illegal substance out of the game. 

However—and this is where things go from a waste of time to idiotic—Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the reason MLB is going through all of this is for the sole purpose of nailing Rodriguez and Braun. 

In addition to being the two biggest names in the Biogenesis logbooks, Rodriguez and Braun have in the past provided MLB with information about alleged PED use the league believes to be false, prompting the extra scrutiny, according to the sources. 

If you look up the definition of "witch hunt" in the latest edition of Webster's Dictionary, there is actually a picture of Bud Selig smiling behind his desk while throwing darts at a pictures of Rodriguez and Braun. 

How can you possibly define this as anything else?

That is what Passan's report is saying in so many words. It is a sad state of affairs for MLB that it has given into the pressure from the media and those few fans who really feel like this is an epidemic ruining the sport. 

Last time I checked, attendance was steady and the league just signed brand new contracts with Turner, Fox and ESPN that will bring in $12.4 billion over the next eight years. 

If that is the sign of a sport in trouble because of PEDs, we can only imagine how high the television revenue would climb without these things. 

But more to the point, where is the upside for players to actually say anything here?

Sure, Nightengale's report says that MLB would have some recourse to suspend players, but don't you think that the Players' Association would have something to say about its members being sat down without any kind of positive test?

Really, there is no proof the players named in this Biogenesis report took anything. The only public "evidence" (and that term is being used loosely) is a list of names written in Bosch's notebook. 

If you presented that in a courtroom as your main piece of evidence to get a guilty conviction, a judge would laugh you out of his chamber. 

Not only that, but what kind of immunity will these players really have? Is it just avoiding suspension? Will they avoid having their name made public and become part of the media scrutiny that goes along with it?

Even if MLB tries to promise these players that, they can't guarantee it. If you recall in 2003, when baseball was deciding if it needed to implement drug testing, survey tests were conducted and if enough players tested positive, a policy would be drafted. 

The tests were supposed to remain anonymous, but the New York Timesaccording to lawyers with knowledge of the results, in July 2009 printed seven players by name who are said to have tested positive for steroids or other PEDs. 

That became a public relations nightmare for the players named—most notably David Ortiz, who denied using steroids (h/t New York Times). 

So even if the players allegedly named in the Biogenesis report do decide to play along with Selig's witch hunt, there is no way to guarantee that their names won't ever be made public. We have seen the cracks in the foundation already. 

This is nothing more than a pointless crusade for Selig to try and show the media that he has some power over the players, even though there is no evidence that the game is suffering. 

And what does MLB really get out of this? Is it just trying to humiliate Braun and Rodriguez publicly as a way of sending a message to other players?

Braun, who failed a drug test last year only to avoid suspension due to a legal technicality when the sample collector failed to immediately send his test to a lab for analysis, was one of the best players in baseball in 2012.

The 2011 National League MVP apparently remained in the good graces of the fans since he had well over 3 million votes in last year's All-Star ballot. I think he got the last laugh in that situation. 

Rodriguez was humiliated last year in the postseason when he was benched late during close games against Baltimore and struck out 12 times in 25 at-bats. He had to undergo surgery for an ailing hip that may keep out until the All-Star break or later.

Everything he does gets beaten to death by fans and the media, so do you really think this will push him over the edge?

The mission statement for this whole immunity situation should just read: Trying to build up Bud's reputation, because that is all it is trying to do. 

Selig is like that kid in the corner of the sandbox who can't get anyone to include him. He wanted the Miami New Times to turn over its records, but the paper reportedly refused to do so for a variety of reasons, including "journalistic ethics" and investigation into Bosch. 

With some members of the media and fans crying foul, as well as wanting a form of Commissioner Justice to save baseball, the only other choice Selig had was to essentially blackmail players into talking. 

Trying to bait players to turn themselves in—and potentially sell others out—does nothing to benefit them.

Any thought of a suspension for being in contact with Bosch—again, as evidenced by having a name in a notebook—is all that Selig can hold over their heads. 

Baseball does have a problem that it needs to fix, but it does not involve steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. It is having leadership that wants to sell out its employees for the sake of grabbing a headline or two. 

To put it another way, Selig is walking around alone in the woods, hunting wabbits. 


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