By Phil Rogers Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — The 2013 baseball season could be unlike any in history, with an unprecedented wave of suspensions possible by the All-Star break in the mushrooming Biogenesis scandal.
Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who beat the rap after one positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, and Alex Rodriguez are the most prominent of 20-plus players who could face season-ending suspensions if Commissioner Bud Selig and his enforcers get their way.
They appear to have already managed one feat few thought they could, flipping Tony Bosch, the central figure at the Miami anti-aging clinic tied to PED use by major leaguers.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” is reporting Bosch has been persuaded to cooperate with Major League Baseball’s investigation, corroborating a series of records MLB has had for about a month. ESPN also is reporting MLB will seek unprecedented 100-game suspensions for the players, claiming that first and second offenses were committed when players obtained banned substances from the clinic and subsequently lied to MLB investigators about their involvement.
Players tied to the Biogenesis scandal include the following:
Braun, who at 29 is at the height of his career and owed about $133 million from the Brewers through 2020.
Rodriguez, 37, who has been sidelined all season after hip surgery and previously acknowledged a positive test in 2003, when testing was supposed to be anonymous. He has 647 career home runs, 2,901 hits and is owed about $105 million from the Yankees through 2017. The team might try to void his contract if he is suspended.
Nelson Cruz, the slugging right fielder for the Rangers, one of baseball’s best teams.
Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers shortstop enjoying a renaissance season.
Everth Cabrera, the 26-year-old Padres shortstop who is one of the NL’s best young players.
Bartolo Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner, who is 6-2 for the Athletics.
Melky Cabrera, the MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game. He signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jays after a positive test ended his tenure with the Giants, who won the World Series without him.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who is on track to be the most widely pursued free agent next season. He has been linked only indirectly through Sonia Cruz, a spokeswoman for his foundation.
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He was included in the Biogenesis records first reported by the Miami New Times but reportedly has cooperated with MLB investigators, demonstrating he purchased only legal substances from the clinic.
The MLB Players Association will find itself in an interesting position if the suspensions come down. It could appeal their validity because of a lack of positive tests — the drug-testing agreement allows for non-analytical positives, terminology for an anti-doping violation without a positive test — and it almost certainly would appeal the length of a 100-game suspension. But baseball’s rank-and-file players do not appear sympathetic to Braun, Rodriguez and the others involved.
Some previously unnamed players could find themselves dragged into the mess through Bosch’s testimony. In his only interview since the scandal broke Jan. 31, Bosch denied ever having dealt PEDs and banned substances, refuting the claims of former clinic workers and his connection to documents.
But Bosch apparently has decided cooperating with MLB is his best option to limit personal damage from the investigation. ESPN reported MLB will attempt to limit his criminal exposure from the case, drop a lawsuit it had filed against Bosch and indemnify him for lawsuits he could face as the result of his cooperation.
Braun has been consistent with his strong denials about steroid use. He successfully blamed the positive test during a 2011 playoff series against the Diamondbacks on the handling of the specimen, although officials with the World Anti-Doping Agency have said nothing done to the sample affected its integrity. Most recently Braun explained records showing he paid Bosch by saying his lawyers consulted with Bosch during their appeal in 2012.
ESPN has reported Bosch would travel to Rodriguez’s Miami home to give him injections. If Bosch is talking now, any player who has asked him for help beating MLB’s steroid policies will have a new problem in upcoming weeks — sleepless nights.