Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

What happens next in the Biogenesis scandal?

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The news is out. Major League Baseball, ESPN reports, has enlisted the cooperation of the former head of the Biogenesis clinic, Anthony Bosch, who is expected to implicate multiple players as performance enhancing drugs users. Baseball will then seem to suspend these players for anywhere from 50 to 100 games.

The question: how, exactly, will they do this and how long might it take before we actually see players suspended?

It could take a while.  According to the ESPN report, Major League Baseball has yet to interview Anthony Bosch. Further, according to a statement issued by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, Major League Baseball is “in process of interviewing players ” and the league “has assured us no decisions regarding discipline have been made.”  This means that the league is still in fact-finding mode. It is still building its case against the players and has yet to even talk to the man who is expected to do most of the heavy lifting in that building: Bosch. It’s unclear how long that building may take, but it’s not unreasonable to think it could be weeks or even months.

Once Major League Baseball has decided to discipline players there is more waiting involved. That’s because the players, pursuant to the Joint Drug Agreement, have a right to appeal any suspension to an arbitration panel. Discipline is stayed until the arbitration panel has issued its ruling, determining whether or not the league’s discipline is justified.

Normally such appeals entail a relatively short procedure because normally suspensions are issued as the result of a positive drug test. Players have a limited avenue upon which they can appeal such tests, with few exceptions or defenses available to them. One notable example came in 2012 when Ryan Braun’s positive drug test and suspension were overturned based on a broken chain of custody of his urine sample. That appeal took several weeks.

Any Biogenesis-related suspensions are likely to lead to the most complex and lengthy appeals baseball has ever seen. Partially because of the sheer number of players involved. Mostly, however, because the evidence that would be used against the players is not something as simple and generally unassailable as a failed drug test. It is the testimony of Bosch, a man with serious credibility problems. A man who has very recently denied that any players he dealt with took performance enhancing drugs but who would now, presumably, be flip-flopping on those statements. A man who has been accused by many as a drug dealer, a criminal and a fraud. It is safe to say that the players, their lawyers and the union would spend considerable time attacking the evidence against them before the arbitration panel. And fairness would dictate that they be granted considerable time before any arbitration commenced to prepare their case.

And that’s before we even get to the punishment. The ESPN report from Tuesday night suggested that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend some players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, for 100 games, alleging that they actually committed two violations: taking PEDs and lying about it.  This would be a bold and controversial position for the league to take given that the Joint Drug Agreement does not specifically provide for double discipline arising out of what the players would argue is a first offense (neither Braun nor Rodriguez have ever been suspended before).  Expect those players’ lawyers to mount a vigorous defense to any such discipline. Indeed, given the stakes involved — tens of millions of dollars in salaries and possibly the effective end of their careers — it’s not inconceivable that they would try to take their fight beyond the arbitration setting and attempt to mount litigation of their own against Major League Baseball.

That’s a pretty complicated set of circumstances. As a result, it is quite possible that no players are actually suspended for months, even if the league were to complete its investigation in relatively short order.  Also as a result: it means that we’re going to be hearing about the Biogenesis case for a long, long time.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: