Following up on the whole discipline angle from the last post, it definitely seems like more is going to happen before there is either any legal action or baseball disciplinary action in the A-Rod case. I mean, last I checked we don’t prosecute people based on newspaper articles alone.
But what that next step is will be extremely interesting. Because it will tell us whether Major League Baseball and the DEA is more interested in drug users or drug dealers.
Back in the Mitchell Report days, MLB, George Mitchell and federal agents went to the drug dealers first and gave them various degrees of immunity. Why? Because no one cared about drug dealers. The Mitchell Report, as I wrote at length back in the day, was a public relations exercise and everyone involved wanted to get the names of PED-using players out in the open. The league wanted to look like it was taking action, George Mitchell wanted prestige and billable hours for his law firm and the feds wanted some big, celebrity heads on pikes. This, by the way, is a lot of the reason why the lowest hanging fruit was picked back then and guys like A-Rod and Biogenesis went unmentioned.
But what now? Once again we have MLB and the DEA pursuing PEDs. Based on the Miami New Times report, the next obvious move for law enforcement is to either get players like A-Rod, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Gio Gonzalez and others in a room to talk about the clinic’s possibly illegal prescriptions or else to get the clinic’s operators in to talk about the users. That’s how the next phase of this has to go.
Will the DEA decide to pursue distributors or end users? Will MLB seek out the quickest means to get “just cause” suspension evidence on the players, or will it attempt to learn everything it can about what may very well be the biggest pipeline of drugs into its sport?
The choices that are made about all of this in the coming days will tell us a lot about the league’s and the feds’ priorities.
Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.
For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:
“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”
Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.
Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.
Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.