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TODAY: It may yet take a few weeks or months for the MLB players involved to be publicly disclosed, but Quinn says (Twitter links) it appears at least a few “fairly significant” but not “major” names could be linked to PEDs.
YESTERDAY: If you haven’t seen the news, a series of arrests were made today of figures involved in operating the Biogenesis clinic and facilitating its distribution of PEDs (which is alleged to include not only professional athletes, but also high school athletes in the Miami area). Among the arrested parties were Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch (who surrendered to the DEA on charges of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids) and the cousin of Alex Rodriguez — Yuri Sucart. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale adds that former ACES consultant Juan Carlos Nunez — who was behind Melky Cabrera‘s web site scandal –was also arrested. Thirteen MLB players were suspended last year, on today’s exact date, for using or possessing PEDs distributed by the Biogenesis clinic.
The federal investigation that brought about those arrests have “revealed previously unnamed MLB players,” ESPN.com’s T.J. Quinn reports on Twitter, which could well lead to another round of suspensions. (Quinn, whose Twitter timeline has quite a bit of additional coverage, says to “expect more suspensions.”) It can only be hoped that we will not see a repeat of last year’s seemingly endless saga. Nevertheless, the potential impact on baseball’s transactional side remains a realistic consideration.
Reports have not yet surfaced regarding the details of the newly-discovered information, such as what players might be involved and what sort of evidence arguably incriminates them. The bulk of the suspensions that came down last year were for fifty games apiece, and several notable players — including Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta — ultimately missed the playoff push for contending clubs.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is conducting an investigation to determine the roles of certain agents in last year’s Biogenesis scandal, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reports. Specifically, Quinn writes, the investigation will look into ACES — who represented 10 Biogenesis clients — and CAA (Ryan Braun‘s agency).
This isn’t the first time that ACES has come under investigation by the MLBPA. Following Melky Cabrera‘s 2012 suspension for PED use, ACES employee Juan Carlos Nunez assisted Cabrera in creating a fake web site in a bizarre attempt to explain the failed drug test. Brothers Seth and Sam Levinson, the founders of ACES, said at the time that although Nunez was certified as an agent, he was a consultant and they were unaware of his actions. Late MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner released a statement at the time that said a “thorough investigation” had been conducted that cleared any ACES principals of involvement with the scam.
This new investigation, Quinn reports, will seek to determine if the Levinson brothers were aware of Nunez’s work with Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch or his involvement in Cabrera’s web site. Quinn adds that any agents who are found to have been complicit or to have violated their duties could lose their certification, though the MLBPA’s agent regulations do allow for lesser penalties.
The investigation is being run by veteran attorney Robert Muse, according to Quinn. He and his team are expected to release a report within a few weeks.
Alex Rodriguez has voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's office, and the MLBPA, tweets Jim Baumbach of Newsday. Though the suit can be refiled, Rodriguez's decision likely indicates that he will no longer contest his suspension for all of next season.
Rodriguez had filed the lawsuit to challenge the arbitrator's decision to uphold most of the term of his suspension for using prohibited performance enhancing drugs. Though the Yankees will be without their everyday third baseman, the club will now definitively be off of the hook for the $25MM they owed him for 2014. The 38-year-old still is owed $61MM over 2015-17, in addition to $6MM bonuses for home run milestones begining with number 660.
Though Rodriguez had vowed to fight to the bitter end, there is no question that his legal case stood little chance of success. (Today was the deadline for his team to respond to the motions to dismiss the action.) If indeed this proves the end of Rodriguez's efforts to overturn his suspension, it could also be the final chapter in the Biogenesis saga.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred testified, during the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing, baseball did not concern itself if Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch distributed illegal substances to minors and was only interested in possible criminal activity involving players. Today, Manfred called the report "ridiculous" telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his testimony was "totally out of context and mischaracterized" and accused the A-Rod camp of leaking the story. "The larger point is this: From our perspective, one of the reasons we pursue cases like the A-Rod case is we think players should be role models for kids," Manfred explained to Haudricourt. "It's almost comical that A-Rod, who already has admitted in the past he used steroids, would express an opinion on our stance on children and PEDs." The hearing will resume next month. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Mike Napoli's strong postseason is further proof his avascular necrosis is not an issue as he enters free agency for the second time, reports MLB.com's Lindsay Berra. Napoli was frustrated by having to settle for a one-year, $5MM deal (incentives pushed the eventual value to $13MM) after a three-year, $39MM contract was scrapped because of the AVN diagnosis. "I waited seven years for free agency and then got an opportunity, and it got taken away because of something I didn't even know I had and had never had any pain from," said Napoli. "I'm a little more confident about negotiating a contract now that I've shown all year that my hips aren't an issue, but I'm sure I'm going to have to go through all the steps again, with all the MRIs and talking to doctors."
- There are six questions the Tigers must answer this offseason, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. Among the answers, Iott predicts Jim Leyland will return as manager, the Tigers will not re-sign Jhonny Peralta (despite his desire to remain in Detroit), but will re-sign Joaquin Benoit and Omar Infante.
- The Orioles don't have a lot of inventory to deal this winter after trading away six players in midseason acquisitions, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson head the list of tradeable players, according to Dubroff.
- Nolan Ryan left his imprint on the Rangers, especially the pitching staff, with his attitude and focus on conditioning, opines Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Ryan received a $10MM buyout (his ownership stake plus incentives) when he announced his retirement from the Rangers, Grant reports in separate article. However, according to Forbes, Ryan wound up losing money on his ownership investment. Ryan's original equity interest was valued at $13MM (6% ownership); but, dwindled to $7MM (1% ownership) because he declined to participate in various cash calls to cover his share of the losses the franchise incurred.
In August, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's lawyers wrote a letter to the Major League Baseball Players Association requesting that it stop representing him, Serge F. Kovaleski and Steve Eder of the New York Times report. The letter, which the Times acquired only recently, shows Rodriguez as suspicious not only of Major League Baseball and the arbitration system, but also of the players' union, Kovaleski and Eder suggest.
The letter claims that the MLBPA did not "fairly represent [Rodriguez's] interests" in the Biogenesis investigation. Rodriguez's attorneys also claim that MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner did Rodriguez a disservice by suggesting in a radio interview that Rodriguez should have accepted a suspension.
The MLBPA has "has made matters worse by failing to protest M.L.B.’s thuggish tactics in its investigation, including paying individuals to produce documents and to testify on M.L.B.’s behalf, and bullying and intimidating those individuals who refuse to cooperate with their ‘witch hunt’ against the players — indeed principally Mr. Rodriguez," according to the letter.
The MLBPA's David Prouty still participated in representing Rodriguez in arbitration hearings this month. Rodriguez continues to fight his 211-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
11:14am: Major League Baseball has issued a statement in which it "vehemently denies" Rodriguez's allegations. MLB also calls Rodriguez's lawsuit is a "desperate attempt to circumvent the circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement" and distract from the real issue, which is whether or not he used Testosterone and HGH over multiple years and violated the Basic Agreement by attempting to interfere with the Biogenesis investigation.
10:01am: Alex Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, accusing MLB of buying the cooperation of Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch to further a "witch hunt" to push him out of the game permanently, according to Steve Eder, Serge Kovaleski, and Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times.
The lawsuit claims that an investigator paid $150K for stolen records pertaining to Rodriguez (part of which was reportedly exchanged in a paper bag at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant). The lawsuit also claims that MLB has paid Bosch as much as $5MM for his cooperation in addition to promising to provide him security, cover his legal bills and indemnify him from civil liability. Rodriguez is quoted as stating that this lawsuit is separate from the ongoing arbitration hearing regarding his 211-game suspension:
"The entire legal dynamic is very complex, and my legal team is doing what they need to in order to vindicate me and pursue all of my rights. This matter is entirely separate from the ongoing arbitration. I look forward to the arbitration proceedings continuing, and for the day to come when I can share my story with the public and my supporters."
MLB and the Yankees have both denied claims of conspiracy to force Rodriguez out of the game, the NY Times team notes. Commissioner Bud Selig is listed as a defendant on the claim, but the Yankees and Yankees team officials are not.
Major League Baseball considers the Biogenesis investigation closed in terms of looking into players, but they're still investigating the possible involvement of some agents, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Here's more from around baseball..
- Speaking of Biogenesis, MLB released a statement saying that Miguel Tejada did not warrant any discipline based on what they uncovered in the investigation, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Of course, Tejada will still have to serve his 105-game suspension for amphetamine use.
- Jose Dariel Abreu is working on establishing residency in Haiti and there isn't an open showcase scheduled yet, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter). Abreu has drawn interest from several clubs so far including the Red Sox, Orioles, Pirates, and White Sox.
- The status of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is expected to be updated if not entirely clarified within the next few days, people familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. When asked about speculation that the M's could make a play for Brian Cashman, club president Chuck Armstrong spoke positively of the Yankees GM but wouldn't discuss him in context.
- The Athletics continue to look for catching help as they have been for the past couple of weeks or so, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- In retrospect, the Cardinals really could have used Kyle Lohse this season, writes Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Alex Rodriguez's newly retained attorney, Joseph Tacopina, has issued fighting words regarding the club's medical treatment of its embattled third baseman. As the New York Times' Steve Eder reports, Tacopina claims that the club put Rodriguez in the lineup late last year despite knowing of tear in the labrum of his hip — failing to advise Rodriguez of that fact and hoping to shorten his playing career. The allegations are presumably intended to form the basis for a defense against Rodriguez's historic PED suspension, which Rodriguez has appealed.
According to Eder, the Rodriguez rep further alleged that the Yankees were "working in conjunction" with Major League Baseball to put him out of the game and avoid paying the remainder of his massive contract. (MLB executive vice president Robert Manfred called this charge a "red herring," explaining that the suspension had no impact on Rodriguez's contract beyond lost pay for the suspension itself.) Claiming that confidentiality concerns prevented him from denying PED use by Rodriguez, Tacopina did insist that no suspension was warranted.
Yankees president Randy Levine responded with equal force, saying that "each and every one of these allegations is specious and completely false." Levine warned that, "if they continue, all parties will be held accountable." He said that the club was willing to disprove the alleged mistreatment by releasing Rodriguez's health records, if the three-time MVP would consent.
As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman further reports, Levine also invoked other aspects of Rodriguez's medical history, such as his alleged treatment in early 2009 by disgraced physician Anthony Galea. "The only medical issue we can't confirm is [Rodriguez's] treatment by Dr. Anthony Galea," said Levine. "We didn't authorize it. Since [Rodriguez] has put his condition into play, he should release his records with Galea."
Two other factual disputes have also arisen. First, Tacopina says that Levine told Rodriguez surgeon Bryan Kelly that "I don't ever want to see him on the field again." Levine denied that claim, offering to release transcripts of communications with the surgeon, while Kelly has declined comment. Second, the parties offered competing characterizations of emails exchanged between Rodriguez and Levine, with Tacopina calling them "very damaging" and Levine saying the correspondence would demonstrate only his support for Rodriguez.
With Rodriguez's grievance proceeding still in the preliminary stages, the issues at play could be destined to multiply and become more complicated. As I explored a few weeks ago, in the context of examining possible legal action by a team against PED users, unauthorized medical treatment involving PEDs could conceivably form an independent basis for a team to pursue relief against a player. Should Rodriguez seek to deploy medical mistreatment as a defense or even an affirmative claim of his own, he would potentially open himself to charges that his PED use — or other undisclosed, unauthorized treatment — constituted a violation of his contract's medical provisions.
With ESPN's Buster Olney on vacation, Scott Boras stepped in as a guest blogger for ESPN today and wrote about his take on the new collective bargaining agreement, specifically the qualifying offer system and draft pools. Boras writes that the qualifying offer system is flawed because it punishes veteran players for having strong years. Veterans who receive qualifying offers but are on the wrong side of 30 are punished due to the "artificial scarcity" of draft dollars. Boras also tackles the hard slotting system and how he feels young American talent is punished under the new CBA in his blog, which is an excellent read. Here's more from around the league…
- MLB owners are meeting today to discuss a massive expansion of instant replay in Major League Baseball, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The proposed expansion would make replay available on virtually every aspect of the game with the exception of balls and strikes, but it would also be costly to implement. One executive said the start-up fee would likely be $25-40MM.
- Alex Rodriguez has to be extremely careful if he brings a federal lawsuit against MLB, writes Tom Harvey of the New York Daily News. If the Yankees veteran goes through with it, he'll be forced to address his allegations of drug use and his link to the Biogenesis clinic.
- Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins was convinced two months ago that this season would be his last, but the 40-year-old now sees himself pitching in 2014, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
MONDAY: Major League Baseball has announced that Alex Rodriguez has officially been suspended for 211 games. That punishment would take effect on Thursday, August 8. However, unlike the other 12 players who were issued suspensions today, Rodriguez will appeal his suspension and therefore be allowed to play until that appeal has been heard. MLB issued the following statement regarding his suspension:
Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation.
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner issued his own statement regarding Rodriguez's situation:
We agree with [Rodriguez's] decision to fight the suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously. The Union’s members have made it clear that they want a clean game. They support efforts to discipline players, and harshly, to help ensure an even playing field for all. The players support the Union’s efforts to uphold the JDA while at the same time guaranteeing that players receive the due process rights and confidentiality protections granted under the agreement.
Rodriguez's suspension is far and away the largest of anyone connected to the Biogenesis investigation — coming in at 146 games longer than 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun. Rodriguez stands to lose the entirety of his $25MM salary in 2014 and would lose an additional $7.96MM if he were to drop his appeal prior to Thursday.