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.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.