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: MLB is willing to cut a deal with a drug seller who allegedly supplied its biggest stars with performance-enhancing substances in order to catch and suspend the very stars the drug seller 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 distributor 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 maninto 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 may very well 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 peddler 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 and 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. He 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 disreputable drug businessmen—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.