Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Went There - Ryan Braun Faces More PED Related Scrutiny

Ben, Alex, Jason, & Cheesehead Sports Nut (left to right).
I finally got to see the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers play for the first time in-person last night at Miller Park.  My cousin Jason was in from Colorado so I took the train up to Milwaukee from Chicago to attend the game with Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, and part of the extended Bojar Family (Jason, Jim, Marykay, Alex, Eve, Ben, and Becky).

The Brewers were outmatched most of the night trailing by three runs heading into the bottom of the 8th inning but tied the score thanks in large part to shortstop Jean Segura's triple that plated Rickie Weeks and Norichika Aoki.  The Brewers won in the 10th inning thanks to an RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt that plated Carlos Gomez.  In a Miller Park first for me, the post-game interview was conducted in Spanish with the interviewer summarizing Betancourt's answers in English before he got the celebratory shaving cream pie-in-the-face.

I took a quick look at my Twitter feed on the ride back to the Parental Cheese Palace and saw the ESPN report that Major League Baseball is going after Ryan Braun and everyone else mentioned in the Biogenesis saga.  Before I read the ESPN report, I planned on writing a post about how it was time for teams to buck conventional baseball wisdom (e.g. using your closer only for a "save" situation), about the recent roster moves by general manager Doug Melvin (traded minor league pitcher Thomas Keeling for infielder Juan Francisco, called up second baseman Scooter Gennett from the minors, sent Mike Fiers back down to the minors, and released infielder Alex Gonzalez), and how despite having the worst record in the National League the Brewers still look a little too talented offensively despite their lack of quality pitching to give up on 2013 already.  All of sudden those topics seems trivial with the specter that Ryan Braun, the face of the franchise, might be suspended for 100 games for the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Although Braun escaped suspension once before when Shyam Das cast the deciding vote to overturn his 50-game suspension for testing positive for PED's, it enraged MLB because they thought Braun's suspension should have been upheld.  Braun's name surfaced on documents along with other high profile MLB players suspected of using PED's earlier this year.  According to Braun, his legal team retained Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch's "consulting services" as a part of appealing his positive test results for the use of PED's.  That excuse seems flimsy at best but is probably the best possible spin his public relations team could muster.  This was just the in that MLB wanted to make an example of Braun and the other MLB players associated with the Biogenesis documents.

Even if MLB suspends Braun and others MLB player associated with Biogenesis, they will always have stink of PED's hanging over their sport so I am not sure that making an example of these guys achieves MLB's goal.  NFL players routinely get suspended for the use of PED's but that does not seem to diminish their accomplishments presumably because football is such a brutal sport.  Reports are that MLB is seeking to suspend anyone associated with Biogenesis documents for 100 games: 50 games for purchasing PED's and 50 games for lying to MLB.

I am not sure what MLB is trying to accomplish with these suspensions.  Keep in mind that MLB filed a lawsuit in March against Bosch and a handful of his Biogenesis business associates for "interfering with baseball contracts" under the legal theory of tortious interference presumably to try to squeeze as much information out of them as possible to mount a case against the players mentioned in the various Biogenesis documents obtained by media outlets.

MLB recently deposed Dr. Daniel Carpman, an anti-aging specialist that has been  identified in some Biogenesis documents.  Unfortunately the details of Dr. Carpman's deposition have not become public.  That means that so far only Bosch and Dr. Carpman are cooperating while other known associates of Bosch such as Carlos Acevedo and Juan Carlos Nunez (a registered MLB agents that apparently put Bosch in touch with a number of the MLB players named in the investigation) have been resistant to cooperate with MLB's investigation of Biogenesis.

I assume that Bosch is going to tell MLB what they want to hear with respect to the use of PED's by the players in question, especially because MLB has agreed to cover Bosch's legal fees if the government brings a case against Bosch.  That is obviously huge for Bosch because he is reportedly broke so getting his future legal bills covered might be reason enough to cooperate with MLB.  Even if Bosch provides documentation (e.g. canceled checks, text messages, FedEx shipment information, etc.), I would hope that MLB gets more authentication of the documents than just Bosch's word before they start suspending players.

This is not the first time that baseball used shady individuals to take down some of the biggest names in the sport.  In the Pete Rose gambling investigation they essentially traded the testimony of felon Ron Peters for a letter to a judge requesting leniency for Peters' punishment.  In the Roger Clemens PED investigation they relied on Brian McNamee and helped broker a deal with the government to get McNamee immunity from federal prosecution.

The biggest problem for Braun with the most recent revelations is that players can be suspended under the Joint Drug Agreement without ever actually testing positive for PED's.  MLB just needs to show the purchase, receipt, or use of performance enhancing drugs to obtain a suspension.  That said, to suspend Braun based on the flimsy documents and testimony of Bosch seems asinine but you never know given how salty they were about Braun pulling the Reverse Al Capone.

The outcome of this investigation will have huge financial ramifications on the Brewers and Braun because after this season the Brewers have Braun under contract for at least seven (possibly eight) more years for at least $121 million and possibly $132 million ($12 million in 2014, $14 million in 2015, $19 million in 2016, $19 million in 2017, $19 million in 2018, $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout in 2021).  If Braun is suspended because of his association with Bosch and Biogenesis, as crazy as it sounds, the Brewers might have to look into voiding Braun's contract or trading him for pennies on the dollar because any of his accomplishments will come with a huge asterisk.

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