Suspensions won’t clean up the Biogenesis mess

Posted Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Top five Red Sox: Seemingly everyone contributing en route to most wins in AL. A’s: Enjoying relatively good health to narrowly stay atop AL West. Rangers: Believe best is yet to come once wounded get healthy again. Rays: Hottest team in baseball has surged back into playoff contention. Cardinals: Still NL’s best despite some recent hiccups from young players. Bottom five Astros: Charged into lead for No. 1 pick, playing bad enough to keep it. Marlins: Miffed by Houston surge, owner Loria laments not signing C.J. Wilson. Brewers: Local boy Yovani Gallardo could be changing addresses soon. Twins: Best play of 2013? Rocking chair of broken bats to Mariano Rivera. White Sox: Plenty of veterans, lousy farm system. Time to make deals.

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The first half of the 2013 Major League Baseball season will come to a close today with teams having played between 56.2 percent and 59.9 percent of their games.

Not exactly half, but close enough.

Much has happened, as is typically the case, ahead of the All-Star break, but what didn’t happen over the first half is more important than Chris Davis becoming a star in a non-Rangers uniform or Josh Hamilton stinking it up in non-Rangers uniform in his first season of a five-year, $125 million contract.

The results of MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis of America clinic and the alleged distribution of performance-enhancing drugs are pending — still — though media reports continue to promise that suspensions are coming at any moment.

That moment could be in a few days, after the All-Star Game, or whenever MLB is done bribing and strong-arming witnesses and sorting out the credible evidence from the not-so-credible.

But the story isn’t going to end with the penalties, whenever they are handed down.

Players have the right to appeal any suspension and can continue playing during the process, which presents another long time frame.

Under the joint drug-prevention program, a hearing before a three-person arbitration panel must be held within 20 days of the appeal, and an opinion must be formed within 25 days of the opening of the appeal hearing.

There is room for that time frame to be extended. Such was the case in 2011 after Ryan Braun failed a random drug test in October. It was revealed Dec. 10. His appeal wasn’t heard until Jan. 19, and it took 35 more days for the judgment to be made.

That was the timeline for one case during an off-season. That was also the timeline for a failed drug test, and many linked to the Biogenesis clinic haven’t failed a test.

MLB reportedly could be suspending 20 players and could have 20 cases to hear. That’s a tight schedule, which theoretically could be alleviated by staggering the suspensions to lessen the burden on the panel.

The Rangers, should right fielder Nelson Cruz be punished, are hoping for the over. Cruz hasn’t failed a drug test, and any testimony against him from clinic founder Tony Bosch is sure to be scrutinized.

Bosch is hardly an ideal witness. He has spilled his guts to MLB only after negotiating a suitable bribe, which reportedly included dropping a lawsuit it had filed against him, paying his legal bills and providing him with security.

So, he agreed to help aide the sport he willingly tarnished by distributing PEDs.

Further adding to his slimeball factor: He struck the deal after his request for financial help from stand-up citizen Alex Rodriguez, who is implicated in the scandal, was denied.

It doesn’t take Perry Mason or even Hamilton Burger, not to mention arbitrators or a club with a key player’s hide on the line, to realize that Bosch would say everything investigators would want to hear as long as the price was right.

There’s also this, though no one seems to have considered it: Some of these players could genuinely be innocent. It seems far-fetched, really far-fetched, but it’s not impossible, right?

The Rangers would be one of four contenders who could lose a key player to suspension, so don’t blame them for wanting to see the process drag out. The chances of finding a suitable replacement for Cruz are remote, unless Miami decides to cash in on Giancarlo Stanton.

Alex Rios is a nice player, though two years ago he hit only 13 homers and posted a minus-1.7 WAR for the Chicago White Sox. Norichika Aoki is also on the Rangers’ radar, but as a left-handed hitter isn’t a good fit. Plus, Milwaukee might not want to trade away his friendly contract for 2014.

The caveat to the whole appeals process is Cruz himself. He’s a free agent after this season, and teams might be wary of signing him to a lucrative deal if his first season is to include a 50-game suspension.

If he is suspended and chooses to serve the punishment this season, he would enter his first year of free agency as a much more attractive option. That’s the road Melky Cabrera took last season, and it worked out pretty nicely for him when Toronto came calling with a two-year, $16 million contract.

Cruz and Cabrera, by the way, share the same agents.

The wheels will start turning only when MLB feels it has enough air-tight evidence to suspend each accused player. That could very well be later this week, but it could very well be further down the road.

But the story won’t end with the penalties. Not by a long shot.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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