Yesterday’s quite amusing editorial in which the Miami New Times stated its refusal to hand over its documents to Major League Baseball was notable for more than its fuzzy reasoning. It was notable because it revealed for the first time that the Florida Department of Health has opened up an investigation into the lab and its operator, Dr. Anthony Bosch.
Since that came out a number of heavy hitters including Buster Olney, Jeff Passan and others have noted that this could be the game-changer Major League Baseball needed. The argument: the government has subpoena power where MLB does not and that if there is to be a real investigation into what Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and everyone else implicated did, subpoena power is what’s needed.
Which is true. But I think it would be a bad idea for anyone to hold their breath until the perp walks get going, the hearings convene and the bombshells get dropped.
The Florida Department of Health is the agency in question. No one at the Florida Department of Health is going to get a promotion for getting Ryan Braun suspended. More to the point, no one at the Florida Department of Health is going to be able to get its budget increased to accommodate the sort of nasty litigation and administrative fights it would have on its hands if it tried to bring in a parade of baseball players in some sort of proxy investigation for the benefit of Major League Baseball. Even if some gunslinger at the Florida Department of Health was inclined to turn this into a baseball investigation, said gunslinger need only look at how poorly that all worked out for the grandstanding federal investigators and lawyers who went after baseball players in the past. Both in the p.r. department and the career advancement department, using government resources to do Major League Baseball’s job for it have been pretty ugly for them.
If you’re sitting in the Florida Department of Health, you’re sitting in a state where so-called anti-aging clinics like Biogenesis are on practically every corner and are patronized by a lot of older folks who vote. Even if you want to do the noble thing and get rid of apparent shysters like Anthony Bosch, you don’t want to set precedents in which the public will come to expect you to subpoena patients and, ultimately, make it so they are disciplined at their places of work. Oh, and some local officials and others who care about tax revenus may want to have a word about you getting super zealous about closing down money making businesses unique to the state.
I spent most of my time in private practice, but I did spend most of a year in state government, counseling agencies like the Florida Department of Health and learning from lawyers who did that for far longer than I did. While it’s possible that they do things differently in Florida than Ohio, the smart money is on the Florida Department of Health investigating with a primary aim of permanently shuttering Biogenesis, punishing Anthony Bosch for administrative and, potentially, criminal violations and making sure Bosch is ridden out of the state on a rail. If, in the meeting planning the investigation, someone said “when do we subpoena the patients and share the product of our investigation with their employer,” that person would probably be politely sent out for coffee and then marginalized going forward.
I understand the enthusiasm on the part of Major League Baseball and, it seems, on the part of some baseball writers to see the Florida Department of Health go after Ryan Bruan, A-Rod and everyone else, but really dudes, that’s not its job. And if it thought it was its job, any citizen of Florida should ask its government why in the hell believes such a thing.