Dirty Harry

The Biogenesis investigation turns into a Dirty Harry movie

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We read the story of a former Biogenesis employee the other day. Porter Fischer, the man who blew the whistle to the Miami New Times allowed that paper to tell his story and it was one full of intrigue. MLB investigators are intimidating him, he says. Tony Bosch is the devil. People are following him and breaking into his car and all of that. It’s good reading!

Today Tim Brown of Yahoo! looks at that story and concludes from it that Major League Baseball has taken the gloves off. They’ve gone to the mattresses. They’ve done every cliche from every mob and/or crime drama you’ve ever seen. Because this time it’s personal!

Their mistake was overestimating Major League Baseball’s leaders’ preference for restraint, their distaste for ugly public dramas.

Biogenesis, Tony Bosch, Tony’s dad, a new character with store-bought pecs and a spray-on tan namedPorter Fischer who currently can be found raging against MLB’s duplicity, the ballplayers who became clients and their many puppy-dog retrievers, all of them, they never thought MLB – Bud Selig, Rob Manfred, the 15 full-time investigators on the job, many others – would get this dirty.

Banging on doors? Rolling up in smoke-windowed sedans? Throwing grease money around? Flipping witnesses? Bringing muscle?

These are the guys are from Park Avenue?

The article itself suggests no small amount of satisfaction on Brown’s part at Major League Baseball appearing to get tough on PED guys. All of the back-slapping Brown is getting this afternoon from other writers on Twitter suggests that he is not alone in enjoying watching MLB get down and dirty and in the muck and all of that. It’s the same sort of satisfaction people take at movies in which cops play by their own rules and become criminals’ worst nightmares.

But what I’m not seeing a bit of is anyone questioning whether this Fischer guy is actually the most accurate narrator on the planet. And if he isn’t, doesn’t that totally change the story about how MLB is actually proceeding?

Possibility #1: Fischer is a b.s.-artist who, at the very least, is spinning normal investigative conduct into high drama. Personally, that’s my take on it, as everything he says in the Miami New Times story has that whiff of phoniness to it.  I’m not suggesting that anything he says is technically not true. No reason at all to question the basic facts of what he provides. But the way he puts it — the high drama, the intrigue, the danger and the conduct of everyone who is not him — just doesn’t pass the smell test. I feel like he’s a guy who interprets every event in the most dramatic and sinister fashion and I feel like he’s someone who gets some degree of satisfaction from placing himself in the middle of that drama.

A guy like that would be inclined to characterize visits from MLB investigators as something far more sinister than they really were. He’d be inclined to exaggerate offers from said investigators and A-Rod’s representatives to play up his importance in the narrative. He’d also be inclined to exaggerate take-it-or-leave-it offers into threats. He’d be inclined to turn his personal enemies like Tony Bosch into sinister arch enemies who have the ability to unleash evil. Go back and read his comments in that Miami New Times report and tell me he doesn’t strike you as that kind of fabulist. If that’s the case — and again, it’s my own personal opinion on that — Brown is probably not on the most solid ground using this guy’s story as evidence of MLB dramatically changing the nature of its investigatory tactics.

To be clear: I have no doubt MLB is vigorously investigating the Biogenesis stuff. I have no doubt that they are pouring considerable resources into it. I just think that characterizing it as some sort of Dirty Harry-style ruthless mission to take down the cheaters with extreme prejudice and at any cost is a case of a desired narrative obscuring what is, in all likelihood, a methodical and businesslike investigation led by lawyers and investigators whose goal is to impress an arbitrator, not win the girl, clean up the streets and show that hardass Captain of theirs that sometimes you gotta break the rules.

Possibility #2: Everything Fischer says is true in both fact and in tone and both he and Brown are right that MLB is engaging in behavior that is “despicable, unethical and potentially illegal.” Words, by the way, A-Rod’s attorney David Cornwell uses and which Brown notes could accurately describe the situation. If that’s the case, why is this something anyone should approve of? Why is one allegedly despicable act — PED use — properly fought by despicable acts in return? If that is the case — and again, this is what Fischer and, by extension, Brown says is going on — why is MLB not to be condemned instead of praised?

But like I said above: I seriously doubt MLB is cracking skulls. I think they may be happy to have that impression out there because maybe that’s useful for the sake of deterrence, but I think it’s just an impression. I find it fascinating how eager people seem to be to eat it up and I think it reveals just how much some folks think of the overall story of PEDs in baseball as a drama pitting good against evil as opposed to anything resembling real life.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.