Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times writes this morning about the relationship between the Drug Enforcement Agency and Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis clinic investigation. They are not working hand-in-hand:
While the league’s investigators are attempting to learn as much as they can about the report, they are hamstrung by players’ longstanding refusals to speak to them and by the federal government’s reluctance to provide baseball with information it has uncovered in its own investigations.
The lack of player cooperation Schmidt refers to is the refusal of players to talk about other players’ drug use which he contrasts with the cooperation cyclists have given the Unites States Anti-Doping Agency. Ratting out each other in exchange for reduced suspensions and the like. Which should be pretty understandable at this point given that Joint Drug Agreement entered into between the league and the union provides no basis for leniency in punishment. It’s, by design, a zero-tolerance program. If you start letting guys off for ratting out other guys, you don’t have a zero-tolerance program.
Indeed, what you have is a breeding ground for mistrust and a strong incentive for those players for whom a 50-game suspension is extremely financially harmful to throw their teammates under the bus based on either real or fabricated information. The players obviously wouldn’t want that. But the owners — and their employee, Bud Selig — wouldn’t want that either in all likelihood because in addition to violating baseball’s longstanding rule of “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse,” such a setup could serve to destabilize teams and create problems for managers, GMs and owners.
As for the lack of government cooperation with Major League Baseball: well, good. Major League Baseball is a private business, not an arm of the government and I have never been comfortable with the idea of the government doing special favors for private business, especially in a law enforcement context. If they want to do their own investigation, let them (and they are).
As Buster Olney noted on Twitter this morning, the fact that federal investigators gave drug dealers like Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee leniency for cooperating with the Mitchell Report investigators was ridiculous. George Mitchell did not represent the government. His interviewers worked for DLA Piper. We think of baseball as some greater institution, but that setup was no different than a cop compelling someone to talk to McDonalds or Microsoft or Wal-Mart. If law enforcement is to give leniency to criminals in exchange for cooperation, that cooperation should be to the benefit of the public good, not to the benefit of the corporate good.
This all goes back to what I was talking about on Tuesday: what are the priorities here? Is the priority to get headlines with famous names being hung out to dry or is the priority to break up what may very well be an illegal drug distribution network? Back in 2007 the feds, led by the overzealous-in-the-extreme Jeff Novitzky, decided that it was more important to prosecute famous people to get their names in the paper. That didn’t really work out too well, so it’s understandable now that the feds might not have all that great an interest in putting the squeeze to A-Rod — which is what would be the purpose of cooperation with MLB — and a much greater interest in taking down a drug operation. That would be benefited by NOT talking to folks outside of law enforcement. Folks who, you know, like to do things like leak information to the New York Daily News I-Team.
So good for the feds for treating this like any other law enforcement operation. The folks who are mad that government power isn’t being used to either make headlines or make a billion dollar corproation’s p.r. operation smoother probably need to ask why those things are important to them in the first place.