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.

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.