MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

When it comes to drugs, Major League Baseball has learned nothing from the past, wishes to learn nothing in the future

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I don’t know what Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez or Nelson Cruz or any of the other players thus far implicated in the Biogenesis mess has done. I don’t know what they’ve taken. I don’t know what they’ve said beyond their curt, lawyerly public statements. I don’t know if they’ve lied. But I know this much: any action Major League Baseball takes against them based on the cooperation of Anthony Bosch is equivalent to erecting a building on a rotten foundation. But of course, baseball has done this before, so it’s not all that surprising that they’ll attempt to do it again.

The lever Major League Baseball is using to get Bosch’s cooperation is a specious lawsuit.  I wrote about it at length when it was filed against Bosch back in March. The lawsuit is a transparent attempt to obtain documents as opposed to vindicate legal rights.Baseball has suffered no cognizable injury at law from Biogenesis. It has not been harmed financially nor has it had its reputation legally harmed in any way by this little clinic.

What it has done, however, is put the fear of God into the sleazy clinic owner at the center of it all. Bosch already faces professional ruination due to an investigation by the State of Florida. The MLB lawsuit, even if it never reached a conclusion, could mean financial ruination for him as well. He had no friends in the world and nowhere to turn. That is, until Bud Selig offered him a lifeline. “Sing for me, Tony, and your problems will largely disappear,” Bud is telling him.

And don’t think they won’t. This was Major League Baseball’s m.o. during the Mitchell Report. Drug dealers — actual felons, had they had the book thrown at them as they should have — got off with a slap on the wrist or nothing at all because Major League Baseball and, in the case of the Mitchell Report, a former United States Senator, went to bat for them with the government. In exchange they got dirt a-plenty. I presume the same arrangement is being constructed for Mr. Bosch as well.

Except the return baseball got for its past deals was pretty paltry, all things considered. Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski sang for the Mitchell Report investigators. And the result was a partial list of PED users. The lowest hanging fruit. The stupid guys who wrote personal checks for illegal drugs and used dealers who were well known among Major League Baseball officials. While this all made for a big splash in late 2007, as time has gone on we have learned that the Mitchell Report barely scratched the surface of the problem. PED use remained widespread, other, smarter drug dealers continued to ply their trade. And the end game of the entire exercise — the criminal prosecutions of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — ended in abject failure.

It didn’t have to be that way. Major League Baseball was hell-bent on hanging a few big-name players out to dry. Major League Baseball decided that the most interesting and important thing about steroids in baseball was who used and who didn’t as opposed to what steroids meant, how they damaged the game and how they damaged its users.  It did that rather than asking the real questions about PEDs. The ones that would make a difference. Questions about PED habits. Players’ introduction to PEDs. Questions about their actual impact. Questions about the culture of drugs in baseball that could, hopefully, provide answers about how to stop it.

But these questions were never answered, never asked. Indeed, Major League Baseball has evinced a profound lack of curiosity about such topics.  A lack of curiosity that mirrored the blinkered approach to the matter the press and the game took in the 1990s. To the extent we know the answers to any of these questions the information is piecemeal and, without the imprimatur of Major League Baseball, unofficial, unacknowledged and not at all rigorously researched.

Baseball is doing this again. Getting into bed with a drug dealer who, allegedly, provided PEDs to dozens and possibly scores of players. Using his likely unreliable and clearly self-serving words to nab a few big names rather than to understand and address the problem they have in front of them. If Bud Selig cared a wit about what actually went on with Biogenesis he’d ignore Bosch completely, work with the union to get players on board with spilling their guts in exchange for amnesty or reduced discipline and end the process with a far more thorough accounting of what went on than they can ever expect from a cornered man looking to save his neck.

But then again, Major League Baseball has never seemed too interested in what actually went on with any of this in any thorough way. The Mitchell Report was certainly not meant to answer any questions. It was meant to stop them. To put a bookend on the p.r. disaster that Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco uncorked in 2002. To put a bookend on the steroids era itself, really, and to allow fans, the press and the government to pretend that steroids use was limited to a certain unfortunate time and to certain unsavory group of people. Baseball is doing it again. It’s going to nip Biogenesis in the bud, hang a few big names out to dry and declare victory.

If, in fact, it actually achieves victory. Because the union is not going to simply sit back if Major League Baseball is going to attempt to level double-dip penalties against some of its highest profile players without a drug test or even a single reliable witness. Yes, “just cause” is a basis for discipline under the Joint Drug Agreement. But the words of a pressured, compromised and disgraced phony physician/criminal isn’t the stuff of “just cause” in most adversarial proceedings, baseball arbitrations included.

But no matter the outcome of all of that, in a few years, when the players who would cheat have learned all the lessons from Major League Baseball’s myopic approach to things, they’ll just deal with smarter dealers. Guys less susceptible to Major League Baseball’s squeeze play. And Baseball will have nothing other than an empty P.R. victory to show for itself. Nothing, because it never demonstrated a lick of curiosity about the problem itself beyond how it played in the papers.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.