Tag: WideLeft

Albert Pujols, Jack Clark’s PED Accusations and the Picture-Perfect Denial

I don’t know if Albert Pujols has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. Frankly, I don’t care. The Steroid Era in baseball, which rather seamlessly morphed into the PED Era, has become so much more about defending one’s innocence that it could ever be about actually, you know, being innocent.

Baseball moralists—many of whom consistently looked the other way as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were saving the sport in the 1990s yet seem to revel in the demise of today’s cheaters with perverted delight—have a difficult conundrum on their hands: Should they believe Pujols when he defends his Hall of Fame-caliber career, or believe former St. Louis Cardinal All-Star Jack Clark, who recently accused Pujols of cheating?

Facts, in this particular drug allegation, are hard to come by. The only facts we know are that Clark went on his new radio show and accused Pujols of taking steroids early in his career, Pujols denied those claims, and Clark was removed from his radio job. That’s the black and white in this story, with the rest, like everything in this era in Major League Baseball, swathed in a sea of gray.

Clark claimed that Chris Mihlfeld, a former trainer for Pujols, told Clark in 2000—when both worked in the Dodgers organization—that the trainer “shot Pujols up” with drugs earlier in his career. Clark said that he didn’t know who Pujols was at the time, but Mihlfeld told him the slugger would soon be a star. Pujols debuted in the majors in 2001 and has been a star ever since.

Clark could have been seen as a former player outing one of this generation’s greats in an effort to clean up the game. Some in the moralizing media might love that. At the same time, Clark waited a decade to out Pujols, in the first week as host on a St. Louis sports talk radio show that, clearly, got him national attention. It also got him fired.

The moralists might have issue with that.

It’s easy to take the side of Pujols here, if you were inclined to take sides in public debates about players accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs with very little facts. There would be no reason not to believe him, especially after Clark was professionally exposed.

This all stems back to the Pujols denial. That glorious denial.

Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, here is the Pujols denial, broken into paragraphs with an explanation as to why this is, unequivocally, the greatest denial in PED history. The moralists should want to build a statue out of this denial.

I’ve said time and time again that I would never take, or even consider taking, anything illegal. I’ve been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and never once have I tested positive. It is irresponsible and reckless for Jack Clark to have falsely accused me of using PEDs.

First, Pujols isn’t just denying the claims by Clark, he’s reiterating his previous denials. This is subtle but smart in that he immediately reminds people that this is not the first time accusations have been levied against him and, per his defense, wrongfully so.

Not only would Pujols never take PEDs, he makes the case that he wouldn’t even consider it. He wouldn’t even consider considering it, really. And like all former cheaters in baseball—not suggesting Pujols is, but this part of his statement is something the former cheaters always say—he reminded everyone he’s never failed a test, which is a false argument anyway, considering that failing a drug test is barely even the way MLB catches cheaters in the game these days.

My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.

Respecting the game is great, but nothing and nobody trumps Jesus Christ. By invoking Jesus, Pujols effectively ends the entire conversation. Referencing faith as the reason he would never cheat—as if faith precludes people from any moral impropriety—is a moralist’s dream. Adding in the notion that he wouldn’t be able to look at his wife and kids is the syrup on this faith-and-family-values sundae. 

I know people are tired of athletes saying they are innocent, asking for the public to believe in them, only to have their sins exposed later down the road. But I am not one of those athletes, and I will not stand to have my name and my family’s name, dragged through the mud. I am currently in the process of taking legal action against Jack Clark and his employers at WGNU (920 AM).

This is where the Pujols denial separates itself from other denials. His agent, or whoever wrote this statement, deserves a raise.

The statement reminds people that known cheaters like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez have publicly professed innocence—without using their names, everyone knows who this statement is referencing—which makes the public skeptical when players who are actually clean say they are clean. By acknowledging that fact, the Pujols statement expertly separates him from the other unbelievable denials of the past, thereby doubling down on his own veracity. (This is so wonderfully meta.) 

In addition, Pujols invokes his family into the conversation for the second time. It’s one thing to sully his name, but HOW DARE YOU sully the name of his family, Jack Clark.

And then, the denial coup de grace: the threat of legal action. 

In today’s society, you don’t even have to take legal action on anyone, so long as you publicly and angrily announce that you plan to take legal action.

In this situation, the threat was enough for the radio station that sub-contracted Clark to terminate the relationship after a week. Now, in theory, Pujols won’t even have to sue Clark or the radio station because getting the public to think he will serves the same purpose. It’s brilliant, really. 

I am going to send a message that you cannot act in a reckless manner, like they have, and get away with it. If I have to be the athlete to carry the torch and pave the way for other innocent players to see that you can do something about it, I am proud to be that person.

Message sent and received.

I have five young children and I take being a role model very seriously. The last thing I want is for the fans, and especially the kids out there, to question my reputation and character.

It’s about the kids, folks. And not just his kids, but all of our kids, too. Thanks, Albert, for defending your name in such a way that my kids know, once and for all, you are not a cheater.

OK, fine. That part I’m mocking a bit because somewhere along the way, baseball hand-wringers have convinced players that cheating is about a message it sends to the kids. Jumping to conclusions and making decisions about players based on how good a quote they are might send a worse message to kids, but we never really talk much about that, do we?

Three references to family aside, the brilliance of combining family, society, religion, respect for the game and his past history of never failing a test is, truly, the greatest anti-drug statement of all time. This is better than Braun’s claims of innocence in 2011, which fans now look back on with rolled eyes. This is better than Rafael Palmiero’s finger wagging to Congress, too.

It’s the best. This is the holy grail of denials. Anytime a player is accused of taking PEDs in the future, his agent should copy and paste this statement and just change a few words to make it sound fresh.

For what it’s worth, I don’t want anyone to think I don’t believe Pujols. Frankly, the statement was so expertly ironclad it would be incredibly cynical for anyone to not believe it. In a way, it was too good.

Does Jack Clark’s 13-year-old story really deserve such a vehement statement? If anything, the level of defiance in this statement is the only thing that has me wondering if there’s some validity to the accusations. I’ve been on record that I’ve never cared if a player takes a substance to enhance his performance. It would be a much bigger issue if the rumors floated by Dan Le Batard in 2011—that Pujols is older than he claims—were true. That would show less respect for the game and personal integrity than taking a few drugs to help him hit a ball better.

And yet for those who care about a player’s drug-related cleanliness, this Pujols denial is manna to be devoured and regurgitated with all those other statements from players who want the game to be cleaned up for good.

It’s perfect, really. Almost too perfect.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

A Sports Fan’s PED Dilemma: How Great Do We Want Athletes to Be?

When I heard the news that Major League Baseball had finally suspended Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun for using performance-enhancing drugs, forcing him to sit for the remainder of the 2013 season, my first reaction was, “Huh, that really sucks for the Brewers, I guess.”

While some may feel a sense of accomplishment or an overwhelming feeling of karma catching up to a guy who cheated and defiantly lied about it time and again, I felt, “Huh.” Apathy. 

My tenor has changed on this over the years. I used to be one of the people who would pound on a table when player needed to be exposed for cheating. “The truth has to come out, dammit.”

I’ve long since resigned myself to the belief that players are always going to look for an edge, and it may be better for everyone if we all just sit back and let them find it.


The Braun Suspension

In a way, suspending Braun isn’t all that bad for the Brewers, as Milwaukee is way out of the hunt for the playoffs. It sucks for Braun, sure, as his reputation has been eternally sullied in the eyes of those who care about a clean game. If there is a winner in this whole mess, one might suppose it’s MLB itself, whose crusade to clean up the sport has now accomplished a significant milestone, with its own DEA-style photo opportunity to frame in the office break room.

What’s the baseball equivalent of a table full of drugs, guns and cash? Braun’s urine in a cup next to an open FedEx box, Alex Rodriguez‘s bat and a notebook full of Tony Bosch’s hand-written records?

The more I read into Braun’s suspension and the comments from MLB and the MLB Players Association, the more I was convinced that this drug crusade is, in a very real way, doing more harm to the sport than good.


Drugs are Bad

Before we delve too deep into the hypocrisy of performance-enhancing drug enforcement in major sports, it’s important to note that these drugs can be bad for your health and are illegal. The average youth player or even high school star at home shouldn’t read this and think, “Hey, I’m going to do drugs and make it to the majors.”

You probably won’t. (If my 10-year old nephew who is really good at baseball is reading this, I did not say you could do drugs.)

This is more about the tail-chasing nature of drugs in professional sports, and what it takes for a professional athlete to become the best. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best (as the old saying goes), and sometimes that means doing things to your body that could eventually kill you.

In a way, though, this is about everything. We are taught the mantra from a very young age that drugs are bad. “Say no to drugs”… unless the drugs are prescribed by a doctor, sanctioned by a national medical board and provided by a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical brand through an equally rich insurance company. Then, by all means, say “yes” to drugs.

Do you have problems focusing at work? Your doctor may prescribe Adderall. Major League Baseball players take Adderall with an MLB therapeutic-use exemption every day, while others have been suspended for taking the exact same pills, just without a prescription from a doctor.

Drugs are bad, unless you can find a doctor who says those same drugs are good.

Steroids are particularly bad, unless you have an injury that warrants a shot of cortisone to get back on the field. Cortisone, last I checked, is a steroid and yet doctors and scientists have classified cortisone differently from anabolic steroids, so in sports circles, the product is seen as a miracle drug. From the Mayo Clinic:

Cortisone shots usually include a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. In many cases, cortisone shots can be administered in your doctor’s office. However, the number of cortisone shots you can receive in one year may be limited because of potential side effects from the medication.

Nobody would ever call Derek Jeter a cheater, but he reportedly got shot up with cortisone during the playoffs before his ankle snapped last year. So did dozens of other players who are revered for trying to play hurt.

Steroids are bad, except the ones that are good.

Barry Bonds used to rub an ointment on his knees to help recover from the wear and tear of the long season as he got older. Bonds, who was a noted jerk, is viewed as the biggest cheater in the history of the game in some people’s eyes.

Would people have made such an issue with Bonds’ affiliation with BALCO if he was a nicer guy? Would reporters have been more willing to look the other way if it was Ken Griffey Jr.?

And do we, as a public, confuse anger over cheating with anger over lying? Dozens of players have cheated, but we always seem the most upset with those who lie to cover it up.

Which is more upsetting, the drugs or the lies?


Cortisone and HGH

Andy Pettitte, who is still pitching at age 41, said this week he would still support Rodriguez if he gets suspended by MLB. Pettitte, you might recall, was connected to Roger Clemens in the 2007 PED scandal, and admittied to using HGH in 2002 when he was injured. Remember, HGH was not banned by baseball until 2005.

At the time of his admission, Pettitte delved into a deep sea of justifications and moralizations, via ESPN.com

“In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow,” Pettitte said in the statement released to the Associated Press by agent Randy Hendricks.

“I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone…I wasn’t looking for an edge. I was looking to heal.”

So…wait…Pettitte wasn’t trying to cheat, he was just trying to get back on the field, which is ostensibly no different than a cortisone shot. If some anabolic steroids and HGH help your body recover so you can get back on the field faster, and a cortisone shot is a steroid that masks pain so you can get back on the field faster, why are players lauded for taking one type of steroid but suspended for taking another?

Drugs are bad, unless MLB says they are good.


Bigger than Baseball

Drugs are bad, unless any governing body in sports say they are good.

While the performance-enhancing drug scandal has repeatedly rocked baseball, most other professional American sports remain unscathed. The NFL and NFLPA are working on a program to include HGH testing this season. Why? There has been no clamoring for a clean game in the NFL, to judge from daily reading of the media.

Perhaps football fans don’t care if the players are on PEDs as long as whatever the players are taking helps their team win. (Note: Some baseball fans feel the same way, as any talk-show host could tell you, but it’s still an enormous issue in that sport.)

The NFL is more popular than it has ever been in history, so why would the league want to mess with that popularity by instituting a drug policy that could lead to more and longer suspensions for key players? This is a noble idea in theory, but it won’t be received with as much support when more Pro Bowl-caliber players start missing more time.


The War on Drugs in Sports

Somewhere within the “drugs are bad, let’s ban those who use them” world of sports (and media), there’s a sense of celebration whenever new drug policies are implemented.

To some, having a clean game is more important than having a good game.

Judging by public sentiment, though, more people want a good game by any means necessary. Are there really that many people who care about a clean game?

Is cleaning up the game a media crusade—the investigative arm of sports media sees a “clean game” as its white whale—or is it a public relations spin by the leagues to reach out to parents and kids who will grow up to be the next generation of great players?

Is that really what it is? Are we concerned about the message we’re sending to the kids?

Hey, little Billy, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs one year and IT WAS AWESOME and none of us will ever forget it, but it turns out that a few years later people who didn’t like him because he was a jerk went to great lengths to out him as a cheater even though dozens and maybe hundreds of other players in his game were also cheating and the cheating he did wasn’t even a suspendable offense at the time, so now a group of self-righteous fans and media want to ignore those 73 home runs which, at the time, WERE AWESOME, to go back to an era when 61 home runs was the record. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves. 

Whitewashing the history books is a slippery slope. It is incredibly precarious to pretend like an event didn’t take place because admitting it happened makes us feel bad. Punishing the cheaters is one thing. Revising history is entirely another.

Why do we allow the hand-wringing to attempt to force sports to “clean up their act” when the game is more exciting when the players are enhancing their performance by artificial means?


Historical Perspective

This never-ending crusade to level the playing field in baseball is laughable. The game has never, in its history, been level.

Many of the game’s greats played in an era where black players were not allowed in the major leagues or Latin American players had yet to come to the U.S. to play the game professionally. Some played in an era where amphetamines and uppers—call them “greenies” if you like—were snacked on like Skittles in the clubhouse. 

Hank Aaron said in 2009 that he thinks anyone who was suspected of taking PEDs should have an asterisk on their plaques if inducted into the Hall of Fame, and those proven to have taken drugs should be banned. Yet Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle have said they took amphetamines, according to T.J. Quinn of ESPN. Players like Mike Schmidt have also been open about how prevalent amphetamines were in previous decades of the game.

Should we go back and ban these all-time greats? Should they be kicked out of the Hall of Fame because the drug they took is illegal now?

No?…What does that say about a level playing field, then? 

Amphetamines were banned from MLB in 2006, which led players to find other ways to “up” their performance, increasing the use of drugs like Adderall. Should the statistics of players who used to pop “greenies” be taken out of the record books because it’s a banned substance now? 

If players in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were allowed to take drugs—or at least not tested and punished for them—that players today can’t, how are we in any way able to judge history fairly?

Baseball has gone through a dead-ball era and a juiced-ball era and neither were, contextually, fair to the hitters or pitchers of each respective time period.

In this current and ongoing era of steroids, people have made the case that performance enhancers have given the hitters a clear advantage over the pitchers—look at all the home runs by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Bonds, for example—and yet, Roger Clemens is still the most prominent name other than Bonds to be associated with PEDs

(It’s worth noting that since 2005, there have been 32 different major league players suspended for PEDs—36 suspensions with four players dinged twice—and 15 of them have been pitchers.)


Rationalizing, Moralizing & Sanitizing

The latest moral argument you hear from reporters is that most of the players want the game clean, and that is why it’s so important to eradicate the game of performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, that line of thinking takes the leap some of us are unwilling to make—trusting the players who haven’t yet been caught.

Ryan Braun was adamant about his innocence for years, until he wasn’t. Mark McGwire fought for his good name for nearly a decade, until he sat down and admitted everything to Bob Costas in 2010.

We talked about BALCO briefly, but the ringleader behind that PED-pushing outfit, Victor Conte, said in 2011 the number of players still cheating is incredibly high, via the Herald Sun:

Seven years after BALCO‘s demise, Conte believes that over half of top athletes are still doping.

“I believe that before the BALCO affair, 80 per cent of athletes were using steroids, today that figure stands at about 65 per cent,” Conte said in the hard-hitting interview.

It may be hard to believe someone like Conte, but he would probably be more reliable at this point than an athlete with everything to lose. With that, it’s certainly fair to ask if most of the players really do want the game clean or are just saying that to avoid suspicion.


Hell on Wheels

Lance Armstrong is the biggest villain in all of sports because he systematically lied and cheated and destroyed people’s lives in an effort to avoid being caught. Armstrong is a monster, not for the cheating as much as for the lying.

Look at the rest of his sport. Armstrong was only taken down because nearly every successful rider of his generation got caught first and rolled over on him.

Is cycling better now than it was then? Fans of the sport seem happy that it’s “finally” clean and speak to the ratings being up this season over previous years. When you look at the numbers, however, it’s fuzzy math to make a failing point. The ratings for the 100th running of the Tour de France were up this year in America, thanks in part to NBC putting several legs of the race on its main network, as opposed to the ratings-poor NBC Sports Network on which the race has traditionally aired.

If you look at the Tour from a general interest perspective in America, it’s non-existent. The only time anyone might talk about cycling in a non-niche setting is if Armstrong says something obnoxious or another rider gets caught cheating.


The Race to the Top

This fight to clean up sports goes back an entire generation, mind you. Ben Johnson was stripped of the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, which, at the time, was the biggest scandal in the sport’s history. It didn’t hurt that Johnson’s disqualification meant Carl Lewis, an American, won the gold.

Ben Johnson’s time in 1988 was 9.79, shattering the world record of 9.83. In history, only seven men have run faster than 9.8 seconds, eight if you include Johnson. Of those other seven men, five have been linked to some form of doping, with two—American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell—testing positive just last week

Justin Gatlin, who has run two of the fastest times this season, including a victory over world-record holder Usain Bolt in June, was out of racing for four years after failing a test in 2006. Now, we celebrate him again, just like Gay and Powell and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake and many other runners who wow us with their blazing speed.

And yet, with all the scandal surrounding the world’s top sprinters, the 100-meter dash is still the marquee event of the World Championships and the Olympics. Why? Because people want to see records being broken by the best sprinters of all time and all the top runners were (conveniently) clean at the time of the last Olympics. 

People want to marvel at a man running 100 meters down a track in 9.58 seconds. People don’t care how it’s done, it’s just amazing that it was done. If it turns out that Bolt was cheating, it shouldn’t lessen the amazing feat. Hell, if it turns out he’s an alien, it shouldn’t matter. Speed is what matters.

Johnson is still remembered as a pariah in Olympic sports—a cautionary tale of sorts. Today, he would likely be Bolt’s biggest rival.


Drugs Are Bad (Unless…)

Racing to become the world’s fastest man. Mashing 73 home runs. It can seem that drugs are bad, unless they make things more awesome. Then, drugs make sports a whole lot more fun to watch.

The issue, moving forward, becomes how to level the playing field for all athletes. Wouldn’t making all performance-enhancing drugs legal level that field? If there were no punishments for any performance enhancer, the playing field would essentially be even for everyone. 

From The Guardian:

Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist, has even called for stimulants to be legalised – with steroids, human growth hormone and blood doping remaining banned – warning that athletics “was not even bleeding any more. We have to get out the paddles because we have to be resuscitated now.”

Why stop at stimulants, honestly? If HGH can help players recover faster, which gets the best players back on the field faster, doesn’t that help everyone in the game?

While catching the cheaters is indeed a noble effort, doing so still sullies the game and poisons fans against the product.

Even Jeter, who has been widely regarded as Mr. Clean in his long MLB career, realizes what these PED scandals have done to his sport, via Newsday:

“Watching the game, that’s all they’re talking about,” he said of the TV commentators. “I get it, I understand it, but it’s not good for the game.”


Plausible Deniability

People don’t really care how the sausage is made, just that it tastes delicious on (or in baseball terms, at) the plate.

Owners would be happy if their best—read: highest paid—players are on the field more. Fans would be happy to see the best possible lineup each and every night in an effort to win championships. The players, themselves, would be happy because their playing field would actually be level.

There are just two factors stopping this from happening.

First, some think—scientists and doctors, not crazy fans—that steroids and PEDs are bad for people, creating a short-term benefit with long-lasting physical ramifications.

Is that different than any other facet of sports?

Thousands of people around this country strap on a football helmet knowing the technology is not advanced enough to properly protect their brain and neck—knowing they could be paralyzed or killed at any moment—and most of the people playing and watching are fine with that.

Race car drivers strap themselves into rockets on wheels week after week, defying death while rubbing bumpers with cars going 200 miles per hour around a bend. We are fine with that too.

We could sit here and think up any number of asinine things in sports that could impact an athlete’s physical well-being that fans are totally fine with witnessing. Why, then, do some people care about the effects drugs might have on our athletes later in life?


Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Second, our comical allegiance to history has created this system where major athletics are swimming upstream in an effort to keep the game clean.

We want 62 home runs or a 10-second 100-meter dash to matter because those records allow us to compare generations through numbers in a wildly arbitrary manner.

Players are already bigger and stronger and faster today even without PEDs. Jesse Owens may be the greatest Olympian of all time, but he wouldn’t even qualify for today’s Olympic Games, clean or not.

Owens ran a (hand-timed) world record of 10.2 in 1936. In 2012, Japanese sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu ran the fastest youth time in history at 10.19, when he was 16 years old. Times have changed.

In sports like baseball, golf and even basketball, the technology behind the equipment used is so far beyond what players a generation ago were using that it’s ridiculous to suggest the playing field is in any way historically level.

If baseball wants the home run record to have sanctity, it should do what golf has done and make the course longer. Move back the fences to 450 or 500 feet. That will protect the old home run record far more than dinging a few players for PEDs ever could.

Sure, making the outfield bigger could lead to more base hits which would lead to more runs but…wait a minute…more runs means more excitement and that might lead to (gasp) more interest in the sport.


Marketing the Product of Excellence

Baseball’s ratings are dwindling. The World Series gets nearly half the ratings it used to—in 1995, the year after a strike, baseball averaged 29 million viewers for the World Series, while over the last three seasons, MLB is averaging just over 14 million viewers—and even marquee events like the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby are down in viewers.

Baseball won’t stop trying to clean up its game, and in the process, it may actually be turning people off to the product.

Some have rejected the game because of the cheaters, angry at the sport’s best players for taking advantage of the fans’ trust. Others have rejected the game because, simply, it’s not as exciting anymore.

Blame drugs one way or the other, but the numbers are what they are.

All the while, the NFL becomes more and more popular. That is, until it screws things up by starting to suspend the game’s best players too.


The Never-Ending Fight

The war on drugs in this country has created a culture in sports that trumpets cleanliness over competitiveness. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

There are, admittedly, athletes who stay away from PEDs not because using them will lead to getting caught, but because morally, ethically or scientifically they feel that filling their bodies with production-boosting chemicals is wrong. That is immensely commendable, truly.

Not all players have to use drugs. Even though some performance enhancers are legal, it doesn’t mean everyone has to do them. Some athletes might prefer water to Gatorade, too. There’s a sliding scale of what people put in their bodies to make them run at maximum efficiency.

Imagine how amazing sports would be if everyone was able to maximize the most from their bodies without having to hide in the shadows, look over their shoulders and lie.

The cheating will never stop, unless it isn’t cheating anymore.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ryan Braun, A-Rod PED Case Shows MLB Will Fight by Any Means Necessary

This is a confusing time in baseball’s history. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting that Major League Baseball is prepared to suspend roughly 20 players for their alleged association with Miami-based “wellness” guru Tony Bosch and his now-defunct business Biogenesis. Some of the players, including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, could each face a 100-game suspension—some without ever failing a test.

This story gets confusing, certainly, but one thing is very clear: Major League Baseball is willing to cut a deal with a drug dealer who allegedly supplied its biggest stars with performance-enhancing substances in order to catch and suspend the very stars the drug dealer was in business to supply.

In other words, when the money ran dry and Tony Bosch had nowhere else to go, MLB was happy to lend a helping hand. Per ESPN.com:

In exchange for Bosch’s full cooperation, sources said, Major League Baseball will drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March; indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation; provide personal security for him and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that may bring charges against him. Sources said negotiations over the agreement, which lasted several weeks, stalled over the last point, as Bosch wanted the strongest assurances he could get that MLB would help mitigate any prosecution.

Forget for a second the issue of whether or not these 20 players cheated; I’ve long been under the assumption that nearly every player in baseball is on something, and some are just stupid enough to get caught. The ESPN report clearly indicates that MLB investigators are willing to work out a deal with Bosch in an effort to further their investigation.

Why should anyone, let alone MLB, trust Bosch in this situation? Moreover, how can anyone trust MLB if they are willing to trust Bosch now that he’s run out of options?

Bosch had no problem gaming the system and making his money off of baseball’s top stars, despite knowing full well he was helping them cheat the system. But now that the system has caught up with him and he’s reportedly broke and bouncing around from couch to couch of whatever family and friends he has left, MLB is willing to trust the guy?  

Again, per ESPN.com:

But sources said Bosch has been feeling pressure from both the MLB lawsuit, which claims tortious interference, and a potential criminal investigation, and that he sees full cooperation with MLB as one of his only refuges. Several attorneys have said they don’t think the lawsuit could survive a legal challenge, but Bosch likely would have to put up a costly fight in order to have the case dismissed. Several sources have told ESPN that Bosch is nearly broke, living alternately with family members and friends, and has tried unsuccessfully so far to revive his “wellness” business.

MLB found out about Biogenesis through media investigations, turned their own investigative team loose on the company and Bosch’s known associates for months and concocted a strong-arm lawsuit to pressure Bosch to cooperate, ostensibly forcing him out of business and squeezing him dry with legal fees until he had no options but to cooperate.

It’s pretty damn savvy, honestly. Baseball’s legal tactics are shrewd, if Bosch cooperates by telling the truth. If.

Honestly, why in the world would Bosch cooperate by telling the truth?

Is it not more likely that Bosch—who reportedly worked extensively in cash and had handwritten records with code names for high-profile clients—would tell investigators whatever the hell they want to hear so he can get himself out of trouble?

Baseball is suddenly willing to believe a drug dealer who peddled in lies, deceit and misdirection for years right under the league’s nose. Baseball is willing to file lawsuits with questionable legal bounds in an effort to scare this drug dealer into suddenly—after all this time and all these lies—telling the truth.

On top of that, MLB is willing to suspend some of the top stars in the sport—who very well may be taking performance-enhancing drugs previously supplied by Bosch or a hundred other “doctors” for all we know—50 or 100 games, based almost expressly on the records and testimony from a known and reputed drug dealer and liar.

Remember, there are no failed tests for some of these players, by the way. Forget about blood-testing, this process is akin to MLB throwing its players in the river and waiting to see if they sink, then lighting those who float on fire. Via ESPN’s report:

Corroborating evidence against some players could prove difficult to come by, however. Several sources told ESPN Bosch dealt only in cash, and usually used friends as couriers, sometimes never seeing some of the athletes he served.

In a recent interview with ESPN, his only one since the scandal broke, Bosch said he knew nothing about performance-enhancing drugs, and that media accounts of his PED distribution amounted to “character assassination.”

“I have been accused, tried and convicted in the media. And so I think [I] have been falsely accused throughout the media,” he told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Less than three months ago, Bosch was just a wellness guru in Florida who may have been on some people’s radars as a decent hookup for PEDs.

After his world imploded, Bosch went on the record, on camera with ESPN, to say he knew nothing about PEDs, suggesting the media was bordering on libel. Now…now it wasn’t libel; it was true, the whole time.

Bosch lied to reporters and investigators when it suited him and there’s no reason to think he won’t lie and do the same again if it keeps him out of court, or out of jail.

If all the accusations are true, Tony Bosch is at best a liar, a scoundrel and a stain on the game of baseball. And he might also be the biggest whistle-blower in the history of the game. This is, indeed, a confusing time in baseball’s history, where the league is willing to get in bed with drug dealers—the very people who have screwed MLB the hardest—in a last-ditch effort to clean up the game.

This news is damning, but it’s important to remember that ESPN broke the story of an MLB investigation that could lead to the biggest ring of suspensions in league history well in advance of Bosch meeting with the league, with MLB knowing the whole thing could fall apart.

Bosch is expected to begin meeting with officials — and naming names — within a week. The announcement of suspensions could follow within two weeks.

Investigators have had records naming about 20 players for more than a month. But without a sworn statement from Bosch that the records are accurate and reflect illicit interactions between the players and the self-described biochemist, the documents were little more than a road map.

Within a week, Bosch will begin meeting with MLB—an agreement that may or may not be contingent upon the league facilitating a deal with local and federal law enforcement to guarantee Bosch some kind of immunity from incriminating himself straight to jail.

If Bosch corroborates the information MLB has obtained through its investigation, suspensions could follow by the middle of the month.

Why, then, did this story get out now? Why is the story broken before Bosch talked to the investigators and not after that meeting? Why are the names of some of the 20 players out in public, again, without Bosch’s confirming testimony?

It could be that ESPN’s investigative team of T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish is just that damn good. It could also be that MLB isn’t upset about the names getting out, nor is the league upset at the news of a meeting with Bosch taking place in the near future.

Now that the news is out, Bosch really has no other options. And the players on the list who are primed for a long and arduous legal battle to determine if they can be suspended because a “wellness” professional in Florida had their name written in a notebook have already lost the fight in the only court that really matters: the court of public opinion.

The current system won’t curtail the cheaters, and anything short of a lifetime ban won’t stop the players from continuing to try for whatever edge they can find. But sullying the names of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and other high-profile players like, potentially, Robinson Cano, may not garner suspensions, but we won’t remember those players for anything other than (allegedly) using drugs, either.

Baseball will go to some dark places to protect the game from its own players. This is a really confusing time. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

The Steroid Era in Major League Baseball Will Never, Ever End

Do a quick Internet search for the term Steroid Era and the call backs include headlines like “Baseball Pays the Price for Steroid Era,” “Hall of Fame shuts out steroid-era stars” and, my personal favorite, “Baseball’s Steroid Era put in perspective,” as if that time in the history of the game is over, a time long since passed.

The Steroid Era isn’t over. It’s never going to be over.

There’s no way to put the Steroid Era into perspective because we have no idea when it’s going to end. We are acres into the performance-enhancing forest, with no idea how deep this thing will go.

Now Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times has published a damning report that links the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and a host of other major leaguers to businessman Anthony Bosch and his Miami-based company Biogenesisan organization the report calls “the East Coast version of BALCO“: 

The names are all included in an extraordinary batch of records from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic tucked into a two-story office building just a hard line drive’s distance from the UM campus. They were given to New Times by an employee who worked at Biogenesis before it closed last month and its owner abruptly disappeared. The records are clear in describing the firm’s real business: selling performance-enhancing drugs, from human growth hormone (HGH) to testosterone to anabolic steroids.

The report chronicles Bosch’s dealings with professional athletes, as documented in hand-written notebooks he kept with specific records of which steroids and performance enhancers he provided for which athletes, and how much money he was charging them. 

Per the report, some of the drugs he provided include HGH, IGF-1—a banned substance in baseball—and something called “pink cream” that includes testosterone. 

When exactly did the Steroid Era end?

Maybe all the people who pronounced the end of the Steroid Era in baseball when MLB finally put in actual punishments for failing drug tests just wanted us to stop using the term “steroid.” In fact, per the Miami New Times report and many documented cases over the last decade, anabolic steroids have become one of many different drugs to fall under the classification of performance enhancers. Perhaps, technically, the Steroid Era is over and we’ve reclassified it to a broader “PED Era.” 

That has to be it, because the darn thing isn’t over nor will it be any time soon.

The truth is, baseball players have been cheating for generations. Players would routinely pop greenies on their way out to the field. Greenies, for those unfamiliar with the term, were amphetamines and weren’t banned in the game until 2006. From a 2006 New York Times story on the ban:

But a practice that was essentially winked at will no longer go unpunished now that Major League Baseball has rules banning the use of amphetamines. For the first time, baseball will test for them, meaning that any number of players will have to adjust.

The suggestion by a host of Major Leaguers interviewed for that 2006 story was that coffee and energy drinks would become the replacement for greenies. Turns out, in addition to caffeine drinks, bogus prescriptions were the unspoken answer. 

So many players were hepped up on drugs like Adderall that MLB had to change the classification after last season to consider the drug a performance enhancer.

The drug of choice may be new, but the concept surely isn’t. Players have often been one or two steps ahead of the process. Hell, Rodriguez admitted in 2009 to taking drugs during the early part of his career while with the Texas Rangers.

Did Rodriguez publicly admit to taking drugs because he failed a drug test and was suspended? No. Sports Illustrated published a detailed report that said he had failed a test in 2003, back when MLB’s testing came with no enforceable punishment. Still, it took six years for that news to come out, and when it did, Rodriguez swore it was something he no longer did.

This era will never end, and reports like the Miami New Times one will continue to come out year after year after year because players will continue to find shady opportunists who will happily supply whatever they need to stay ahead of the competition, and the league. 

This wasn’t even a sophisticated system in Miami. Records were kept in hand-written notebooks by a fake doctor who was reportedly dumb enough to keep client nicknames right next to the players’ actual names.

Take a page in another notebook, which is labeled “2012” and looks to have been written last spring. Under the heading “A-Rod/Cacique,” Bosch writes, “He is paid through April 30th. He will owe May 1 $4,000… I need to see him between April 13-19, deliver troches, pink cream, and… May meds. Has three weeks of Sub-Q (as of April).”

Cabrera was listed 14 times in Bosch’s notebooks, sometimes under the nickname “Mostro.” Nelson Cruz was nicknamed “Mohamad.” Bosch also had a player he called “Josmany” and “Springs,” which was likely code for Yasmani Grandal, the former Miami Hurricanes catcher who played scholastically for the Miami Springs and now plies his trade for the San Diego Padres.

Think about this for a second: Baseball was being outwitted by a fake doctor dumb enough to put his clients’ actual names into a hand-written notebook, and the guy can’t even spell the names right.

Though to be fair, MLB did catch both Cabrera and Grandal last season, slapping them each with a 50-game suspension. Still, a lot of other players, even some named in this report, weren’t careless enough to get caught. 

That’s what the Steroid Era has become—it’s no longer about which players are cheating, it’s about which players are careless (read: dumb) enough to get caught. 

Baseball needs some players to get caught. Frankly, MLB needs enough players to get caught to justify the testing process but not too many to warrant further action. The testing will surely continue to get better, with the understanding it’s only in place to serve as a deterrent, and not a method of policing the game.

There is no way Bud Selig and those in charge at Major League Baseball want to catch the players who are cheating. They simply want to make it harder for those who are cheating to continue to circumvent the rules and hope it turns some players off the idea altogether.

While that’s a noble task, we can’t really believe the players are suddenly going to stop cheating because testing got a little bit harder. They’re just going to find better drugs and better ways to beat the tests. Those “troches” listed in the report are akin to throat lozenges. That’s how advanced the sciences have become that performance enhancers can come with a side of soothing throat relief.

The cheating will never stop. Those who can’t figure out a way to beat the system will continue to get caught, becoming the sacrificial lambs of the testing process.

Those who can beat the system—those who will never get caught and never get suspended despite a career fueled by PEDs—will probably end up in the Hall of Fame.

At least, well, those players will get voted into the Hall of Fame once the stigma of the Steroid Era finally disappears for the voters. Whenever that will be.  

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jeffrey Loria Has Let Down Miami and Marlins Fans Shouldn’t Take It Anymore

Jeffrey Loria is the worst.

The owner of the Miami Marlins has orchestrated another fire sale of his roster, reportedly jettisoning high-priced starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays along with catcher John Buck, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and high-priced superstar shortstop Jose Reyes for what amounts to a sack of baseballs and a few Fungo bats.

Loria duped Marlins fans into believing his team could be a contender as he opened his new stadium last season. After seeing the roster now, why would any of them trust him again? More importantly, why would anyone ever pay one dollar to line his pockets with money after this latest move?

The fans were used by the Marlins ownership. How can anyone support this unbelievable level of deceit?

Things looked so promising last year. After a very public flirtation with Albert Pujols, Marlins fans settled for only getting the likes of Buerhle and Reyes, a clear sign the newly branded Miami franchise had every intention of creating a contender. In September the Marlins announced the hiring of manager Ozzie Guillen. In December, Buehrle was signed to a four-year deal, Reyes was signed for six years and reliever Heath Bell was inked for three.

Less than 12 months later, they are all gone, and Marlins fans are left with a brand new stadium and very little talent to play in it.

Loria couldn’t even give his fans a single year of hope. Heck, he couldn‘t even give them a single season. The Marlins opened their new stadium last year thanks to millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and as soon as the team fell out of contention, the fire sale started and hasn’t stopped.

Miami traded Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in late July, jettisoned Hanley Ramirez two days later and completed the in-season roster dump by sending Gaby Sanchez out of town just for the heck of it. The Marlins were out of contention at the time of the trades, sure, but these transactions made little sense in the grand scheme of Miami’s new plan—unless another shoe was going to drop in the offseason.

All the shoes just dropped.

After seeing Loria unload all his remaining high-priced talent to the Blue Jays, it was clear the moves of Sanchez, Infante and Ramirez were nothing more than the pre-sale before the liquidation. Maybe we should consider this a pre-Black Friday sale. Everything must go!

Fans should have seen this coming (no, really), but a new stadium has invigorated so many baseball towns that it seemed plausible Loria would use the new-found interest in the team to reinvest in the product on the field.

The question Marlins fans should now be asking is whether Loria had planned this all along. Was the fire sale planned all along, using the big-name players as a payoff to getting the stadium built last season with no intention of keeping them? Or was he spooked by the dwindling attendance during the second half of the season and realized the new park and big-ticket superstars would never be a big enough draw in South Florida?

Rather than threaten to move the team to Las Vegas or some other faraway town he could use to leverage that new stadium getting built, Loria may have planned this salary dump all along, cutting payroll and going with another group of young players with something to prove.

This trade almost makes sense when you look at it that way. If the new Marlins Park wasn’t going to be filled anyway, the best way for Loria to make a return on his investment would be to lower his payroll by tens of millions of dollars.

What about the return on the taxpayers’ investment? What about the fans’ investment? It’s left to the fans now; they need to stop showing up to send a message that this kind of ownership model is not acceptable.

Marlins fans need to show how fed up they are with being played by an owner to whom they’ve dedicated their time and money. Fans need to quit on the team completely.

Can there be a bigger statement than a completely empty stadium on Opening Day? Would Loria get the hint that fans are not OK with his model of building a team just to break it down every few years when nobody showed up?

The Marlins averaged just over 27,000 fans last season, filling Loria’s new playground to just over 73 percent capacity each game. Wouldn’t it be a better statement if none of them ever came back until Loria stopped pulling this nonsense (or sold the team to someone who actually respects the fans)? 

Maybe they should all become Blue Jays fans. That seems far more rewarding than rooting for the Miami Marlins now.

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