2013 Preview: Why Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and other big stars could face suspension this season

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As we approach Opening Day, HarballTalk will be spending the next few days previewing all 30 teams, all six division races and looking ahead at the major issues and storylines which will impact the 2013 season. This morning we look at the Biogenesis scandal, which could lead to the suspension of several high-profile players.

Some of baseball’s biggest stars including Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon and many, many more enter the 2013 season under a cloud. Or a threat, if you will.  The threat of suspension for their association with a now-closed Miami clinic called Biogenesis, which is alleged to have supplied these players and as many as 90 more with testosterone, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs which violate baseball’s rules against performance enhancing drugs. It is unknown if those suspensions will come. It is unknown when. But all teams with a player named in the documents of the Biogenesis clinic face uncertainty as Opening Day approaches.

The Biogenesis news broke in late January, when it was reported by multiple outlets that Major League Baseball was investigating the clinic and its operator, Anthony Bosch, under the suspicion that the clinic represented “ground zero” for performance enhancing drugs in Florida, where a disproportionate number of major leaguers grew up, played amateur and college baseball or where they currently make their offseason homes. On January 29, the Miami New Times obtained and published a large portion of the Biogenesis clinic’s records which contained the names of several major leaguers accompanied in many cases by notations which suggested that the players were given performance enhancing drugs. The documents were not conclusive of any player’s use and, in some cases — like with Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez — no connection could be found between the player and any substances which are banned by Major League Baseball.

source: APImmediately after the Miami New Times report came out all of the players involved either denied any involvement with Biogenesis whatsoever or denied that they obtained banned substances.  For example, Gonzalez claims that his father was a patient of Anthony Bosch’s. Ryan Braun claims that his attorneys used Bosch as a consultant in his successful 2012 appeal of his PED suspension. Despite the denials, the report and the documents set off a media firestorm which caused Major League Baseball to step up its investigation of the players named therein.

The biggest problem: Major League Baseball doesn’t actually have the Biogenesis documents. The Miami New Times and other media outlets which have seen all or part of them are unwilling to share them with the league and, at present, Anthony Bosch is nowhere to be found.  Last Friday Major League Baseball sued Biogenesis in an effort to obtain the documents, but it is not at all clear that they have any viable legal claims against the clinic. More significantly, many doubt that the original documents still exist at all.

What is clear is that Major League Baseball is stopping at nothing to investigate the matter with a clear eye towards suspending the players named in the clinic’s records if at all possible.  MLB is reported to be particularly interested in suspending 2011 NL MVP Braun, who they see as having evaded justice in prevailing on his appeal last year and Rodriguez who many in baseball believe lied to MLB investigators in 2009 when he admitted to past, but not present drug use.

MORE: The Rise and Fall of Alex Rodriguez

source: APCan Major League Baseball suspend these players without a positive drug test? Yes, it can. Pursuant to the Joint Drug Agreement which governs these matters, baseball can suspend players for “just cause” if there is non-clinical evidence suggesting that they have used performance enhancing drugs. Most believe that conclusive documentary evidence of past use, as may appear in the Biogenesis records, would provide such grounds. Baseball’s inability to obtain these records, however, is preventing almost all action at present. So far, all baseball has been able to do is to suspend one minor leaguer  — who happens to have been a college teammate and who is still a close friend of Braun’s — who was implicated based on the league’s belief that he was not cooperative when questioned. Major league players have not yet been questioned, but they almost certainly will be.  They will have greater legal and union protections from discipline than their minor league counterparts, however.

That’s where we are as the season dawns. Several players, including two former MVPs, in the crosshairs of a Major League Baseball investigation, the outcome of which and endpoint of is uncertain. At literally any time between today and, well, forever, baseball could suspend Braun, Rodriguez, Gonzalez, Cruz or any of players named in the Biogenesis documents for 50 games.

To put that in context, the most big leaguers Major League Baseball has ever suspended in a season for performance enhancing drugs is six, which occurred last year.  In most years it’s two or three.  Now dozens upon dozens of players may face a 50-game suspension for a first offense of the Joint Drug Agreement, with some facing 100-game suspensions for a second offense. Suspensions of this magnitude could conceivably tip the pennant races. And for that reason, even if you don’t care a lick about performance enhancing drugs in baseball, the Biogenesis matter is worth watching.

MORE: Team-by-team previews for 2013

There will be a street named after Barry Bonds in San Francisco

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The City of San Francisco is not renaming Market Street or some other main drag to honor Barry Bonds or anything, but yes, there will be a “Barry Bonds Street” or “Barry Bonds Avenue” or something like that in San Francisco soon. There will also be streets named after Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. Willie McCovey will have a park named after him.

This is all part of the redevelopment of the site of Candlestick Park, which was knocked down to make way for a mixed-use development But while the stadium is gone, the names of those who made Candlestick Park famous will be all over the place, mostly in the names of the streets. There will likewise be streets named after San Francisco 49ers luminaries such as Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and Bill Walsh. Owner Eddie DeBartolo and executive Carmen Policy get streets too.

Candlestick was home to the Giants for nearly 40 years and hosted a couple of World Series, but due to the wind and cold and the compromises necessary for a multi-use stadium, it wasn’t a great place for baseball. Maybe it’l be a better place to work or shop or whatever.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 7, Cubs 5:  I realize anything can happen in any given game, but I’m not sure that “40-year-old soft-tosser two years removed from baseball due to all kinds of elbow problems will allow only two runs on three hits over six innings against the World Series champs” would be a bet I would’ve made before the season. That’s what Bronson Arroyo did, though. And get this quote from Miguel Montero:

“He’s a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he’s throwing below hitting speed right now.”

Slowness: the new inefficiency. Montero is obviously joking here, but sometimes I wonder if we’ll see something of a junkball revolution some day soon. Pitchers are ahead of the hitters for the most part these days due to all the hard stuff they throw. Makes you wonder if hitters adjusting to that won’t create a little bit of daylight for some crafty dudes to come in and flummox people.

Astros 6, Rays 4: Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. It would be the only runs the Rays would score, however, and the Astros clawed back. Evan Gattis tied it in the ninth with a sac fly and then Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel each hit RBI singles.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning but the Orioles did not claw back. Obviously the game’s outcome was secondary to the storyline that began with Manny Machado‘s hard slide on Friday that hurt Dustin Pedroia and continued with Matt Barnes throwing a ball at Machado’s head here. That’s dumb, but it may be that the post-attempted-beanball was less dumb than the postgame chatter. First Pedroia apologizes to Machado on the field by saying “it’s not me,” which, OK, cool. But then after the game he says this:

“I had nothing to do with that. That’s not how you do that, man,” Pedroia said afterward. “I’m sorry to him and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away.”

Does that mean that the problem to Pedroia, for which he apologized, was not that someone threw at Machado’s head, but that someone threw at Machado’s head on Sunday instead of on Friday or Saturday? I dunno. Still, that’s not as dumb as this:

Good to see we’re about to enter a new, era of unwritten rules and clubhouse politics. The “veterans are responsible for controlling relief pitchers” rule. I fully expect someone to get on Chris Davis or whoever now for not controlling Britton and keeping him from commenting on the dynamics of another team’s clubhouse. Because this idiocy never ends.

Phillies 5, Braves 2: It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth when Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera hit back-to-back-to-back homers. The first two came off of Arodys Vizcaino, the third off of Ian Krol. The Phillies sweep the Braves and win their fourth in a row overall. They’re 9-9 after 18 games. Which is the first time they’ve done that since . . . last year, when they were 9-9 after 18 games.

Pirates 2, Yankees 1: Ivan Nova outdueled Jordan Montgomery, allowing only one run on four hits over seven innings. He also, somehow, walked Montgomery, who had not batted in a game since he was in high school six years ago. It was Nova’s first walk issued all season.

White Sox 6, Indians 4: The Sox snap a three game skid thanks to a strong outing from Derek Holland and a few runs for a change. Cleveland had blanked them on Friday and Saturday, holding them to a total of six hits in those two games. Here Melky Cabrera drove in a couple. The Indians’ five-game winning streak ended.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 4: Mike Leake scored a run in the third inning and hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in a 2-2 game in the fourth. Oh, he pitched too, allowing two runs over six.

Tigers 13, Twins 4: The good news: Chris Gimenez didn’t allow any runs in his outing today. The bad news: Chris Gimenez is the Twins’ backup catcher, and when your backup catcher is pitching, something has gone wrong. Here what went wrong was Kyle Gibson allowing seven runs on eight hits before the third inning was even over. John Hicks, filling in for the injured Miguel Cabrera at first base, hit a three-run homer and a two run single. Just about everyone on the Tigers had a good day as they scored 13 runs on 13 hits. Tyler Collins went 0-for-5, though, which has to feel weird. Andrew Romine flew out to center against Gimenez, which has to feel weirder.

Rangers 5, Royals 2: The Rangers complete a four-game sweep of Kansas City behind eight strong innings from Yu Darvish. It was Darvish’s longest outing since elbow surgery two years ago. Homers from Joey Gallo and Robinson Chirinros.

Rockies 8, Giants 0: The Rockies swept the Giants in Coors for the first time in 15 years. Baseball seasons are long and a lot of stuff happens, but one feels like the Giants’ entire season went into the crapper the second their plane landed in Denver on Wednesday night. Since then they lost their ace for an extended period to a minibike accident and then they got outscored by the Rockies 26-8 in this series. That’s four losses in a row for San Francisco, and six losses in their last seven games.

Blue Jays 6, Angels 2: Marcus Stroman tosses a complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits. Devon Travis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer during a four-run eighth inning. Jays manager John Gibbons got ejected after Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch and batter Kole Calhoun was awarded first base. That’s not a call you see every day.

Mariners 11, Athletics 1: Nelson Cruz homered an drove in five and Yovani Gallardo got his first win as a Mariner. Taylor Motter hit a grand slam. I’m angry that Motter played on Saturday too, though, because if he had had the day off I totally would’ve written “Welcome Back, Motter.” Now I can’t say such a hacky thing. Sigh.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 2: L.A. avoids a three game sweep thanks to Brandon McCarthy‘s seven strong innings of work. The Dodgers scored all six of their runs in the fifth inning. That’s the inning Shelby Miller left due to tightness in his forearm, so they were likely facing some damaged goods, unfortunately. Two driven in a piece for Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal, with the former doubling in two runs and the latter coming up next and driving in the former with a homer.

Marlins 7, Padres 3: Miami scored six runs in a single inning as well. That was the sixth, which was capped by a Justin Bour three-run homer. Up until that inning Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo had cruised. Then the first six Marlins batters reached in the sixth and it was Gas House Gorillas time:

Nationals 6, Mets 3: Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam against his old team. His career line against the Mets: .386/.421/.727, 8 homers and 25 RBI in 22 games. But I’m sure no one with the Mets or any Mets fans have taken the slightest bit of notice of that.