Prepare to hear a lot about performance-enhancing drugs this summer. The possible suspensions that threaten to sideline about 20 players won’t begin any time soon, assuming they are in fact issued.
Several MLB stars face potential suspensions for their alleged involvement with a Miami-based clinic with links to performance-enhancing drugs, T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish of ESPN.com first reported Tuesday.
Players such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera could face suspensions of up to 100 games now that Tony Bosch, the founder of the defunct Biogenesis clinic, has agreed to cooperate with MLB’s investigation.
The possible suspensions would have major consequences on and off the field. Everyone from owners, players, general managers, agents, arbitrators and fans has a stake in the process.
Here are the essential facts surrounding the possible suspensions:
Players facing possible suspensions:
Braun, Rodriguez, Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Francisco Cervelli, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto.
Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record has reported that other major names are also involved in the case.
What players are saying:
- Braun to MLB.com: "I've already addressed everything related to the Miami situation," Braun said. "I addressed it in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it. The truth has not changed. I don't know the specifics of the story that came out today, but I've already addressed it, I've already commented on it, and I'll say nothing further about it."
- Cabrera to USA Today: "I don't know anything about it," Cabrera said in Spanish. "This is the first I hear of it. If they suspend me again, I think that would be a harsh punishment because I already served my sentence. But it's up to them. I believe I've already served my sentence, especially missing the playoffs. That's what hurt me the most, getting suspended and not being able to play in the playoffs.''
- Rodriguez to reporters on opening day: “ I’m not going to further discuss this. At some point, I feel that everything will be good.
- A Yankees official to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand on Robinson Cano: "Cano is not a part of this."
- Cruz to ESPNDallas.com's Todd Wills: "I cannot say anything about it. I guess it's part of the process. They are doing their jobs."
The role of the MLBPA:
MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner issued a statement confirming that the union has been in regular contact with MLB regarding the investigation.
"The Commissioner’s Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations," Weiner said.
"The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner’s Office shares these interests."
Players are now being interviewed with representation from MLBPA attorneys.
Expect the MLB Players Association to defend those targeted for MLB for possible suspensions. It won’t be a surprise if the players appeal suspensions with the support of the union.
Precedent for overturning a suspension now exists, as Braun successfully appealed a possible suspension during the 2011-12 off-season.
What the Joint Drug Agreement says:
The collective bargaining agreement enables MLB players to file grievances following drug-related suspensions. The process can lead to an arbitration hearing, as it did in Braun’s 2012 case, when a drug suspension was overturned in a grievance for the first time.
The Joint Drug Agreement covers the specifics of suspensions and appeals. Some highlights from the 34-page document:
Section 7 (H, 2) of the Joint Drug Agreement reads "all suspensions imposed pursuant to this Section 7 shall be without pay."
Clubs can’t discipline players on their own, as "all authority to discipline players for violations of the program shall repose with the commissioner's office."
The burden of proving that a player tested positive lies with the commissioner's office.
- Players are ineligible for participation in the All-Star Game if they are suspended during the off-season, spring training or during the regular season before the All-Star Game.
Timeline for possible suspensions:
This story isn’t going away any time soon. The process of issuing and appealing suspensions could take months -- and MLB hasn’t even officially announced suspensions yet.
It took months for Braun to successfully appeal a 50-game suspension during the 2011-12 off-season. It was in December of 2011 that news leaked regarding MLB's intent to suspend the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, and it wasn't until February of 2012 that his appeal was successfully overturned.
The MLB-Bosch dynamic:
Bosch can give MLB access to information, materials and testimony they wouldn't otherwise have. He's perhaps the key figure for MLB’s case against the players.
Meanwhile, Bosch gets some measure of protection from MLB, which had been a possible threat. MLB filed a lawsuit against Bosch in March, but is now prepared to drop the lawsuit, provide Bosch with security and put in a good word with law enforcement agencies, according to ESPN.
Each side gets something in the arrangement, which reportedly took weeks to negotiate.
If MLB issues suspensions and the MLBPA appeals them, the cases could go in front of an independent arbitrator.
After Braun’s suspension was overturned, MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred made it clear that MLB "vehemently disagree[d] with the decision rendered."
Not long afterwards, MLB fired arbitrator Shyam Das, a reminder that, like managers, arbitrators are hired to be fired.