So the Biogenesis suspensions came down this morning, and the only thing anyone wanted to care about was whether Alex Rodriguez would get the works.
And he did, although his appeal and Bud Selig’s decision not to override his appeal “in the best interests of the owners’ definition of baseball” means he’ll still probably play most of the rest of the season. He appealed, as is his right, Selig didn’t overplay his hand by suspending him anyway, which is his lawyers’ right, and Rodriguez will play tonight.
And so it goes. Baseball, late to the party on the issue, decides yet again to try and show up with a gigantic centerpiece designed only to make its commissioner LOOK tough on banquet tables. And it fails, because this is more proof that baseball only wants to LOOK tough on performance enhancing drugs. And because on this issue baseball essentially stinks on ice, it fails spectacularly.
And this time, nobody can blame the MLB Players Union. The union rolled in step with baseball on this one, either because the players really do want drugs stamped out of the game, because they’ve forgotten the struggles of their forbears on labor-management issues, or because they don’t like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. I don’t know – you’ll have to ask them, and hope someone screws up and actually diverts from the party line.
[RELATED: AP: A-Rod lone holdout in drug cases]
No, this is baseball’s failure, period. Not because they didn’t get everything they wanted out of Biogenesis (specifically, that Rodriguez’ last $90-some-odd million never reaches him), but because they cannot ever succeed at this.
For one, as we know, the chemists will always be ahead; there are undetectable PEDs out on the market now, making it at the very least far more difficult to catch players red-syringed. Biogenesis, after all, was not a bust based on testing, but on paperwork.
For two, baseball is working at cross purposes on this and always has been. They spent years ignoring the matter of PEDs because they liked the milk (money) the cows (players) were giving. Now they’ve figured other ways to make the registers sing, and Selig has been working hard not to end up in the legacy books as the Steroid Commissioner.
For three, baseball has the tools at its disposal to make PED use prohibitively dangerous but would never use it. It’s called the justice system. Don’t forget that possession, use and distribution of most PEDs are illegal, and baseball could easily turn over any evidence it could legally obtain to the authorities and say, “Have at ‘am, fellas.”
The danger in that, of course, is that some of those players might just be the ones baseball is trying to market at any given time, and no organization is willing to let its own right to punish employees be superseded by the law – unless it has no choice.
Even letting the labs that do their drug tests determine guilt and innocence based on science and keying the punishments based on those provable results is more than they are willing to delegate. Baseball wants to control as much of the process as possible, for obvious business reasons. As we said, this does not make the industry unique in any way.
Which brings us all back to why Biogenesis was such a hot mess. It was baseball at its ham-handed worst, overcompensating for its past connivance and more recent failures and trying to get back some of its own on its most expensive (and a largely unpopular) player.
If you don’t believe that, ask how does Ryan Braun get 65 games for one strike, while Rodriguez gets 214 for none.
On the other hand, this has never been about logic, or health and safety, or even basic problem solving. It was baseball’s PED fight in a nutshell – lots of noise, plenty of fury, and minimal accomplishment.
Unless you really thought this was about Jordany Valdespin all along.