Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

Neither the timeline for nor the severity of Biogenesis discipline has been determined


Michael Weiner condemned the leaks in the Biogenesis case earlier today. Specifically, it seemed, he was condemning the reports from ESPN in recent days that (a) Major League Baseball is poised to announce suspensions as early as next week; and (b) that it is determined to apply 100-game suspensions to some of the players involved, most often assumed to be Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

I spoke with a source familiar with the Biogenesis investigation today, however, and I’m told that, despite what most people are assuming based on the ESPN reports, neither of those things have yet been decided upon.

With respect to timeline, my source tells me that a discipline announcement as early as ESPN’s report suggested, while theoretically possible, is unlikely, as Major League Baseball is still talking to players and gathering information. My source tells me that if you were treating this like an over/under — or maybe a sooner-or-later after the All-Star Break — that the better bet would be later. Baseball has likewise not made any firm decisions regarding the extent of discipline. Specifically, whether any player is subject to a 100-game suspension.

About the 100-game suspension possibility: I’m told that, yes, it’s still on the table and being discussed. I was also told that my argument of the past two days — that the Melky Cabrera fake website example more or less precludes the league from leveling double discipline here — is not particularly persuasive to Major League Baseball and that they still think they can do it regardless of what happened with Melky. A second source — also familiar with the Biogenesis investigation and the Melky Cabrera investigation — backs the first source up, telling me that Melky had double discipline staring him in the face and essentially plea bargained his way out of it by agreeing to drop his appeal. As such, his case does not have precedential value.  They could have popped him for the deception as well, my sources say.

One question that has arisen is that if MLB is really trying to go after Braun or Rodriguez for two offenses, why is it 100 games instead of 150 games that is being discussed? After all, first offense = 50, second offense = 100, and we can certainly do the math. The answer, according to my source, is that the league likely views the 100 games as some sort of happy medium or, perhaps leniency of some kind with the acknowledgment that we’re in uncharted waters here (all of those are my words, not my source’s). But again, all of this is still being considered by the league, it’s still a very fluid discussion and no firm decisions have been made.

A final note about timeline: there have been many people wondering about the impact of suspensions. Would it interfere with a playoff race if 20 guys disappeared in the middle of September or something? Would it be worse to let them all play only to later find out that a World Series champ had a PED guy on it who maybe should have been suspended? All interesting questions, but not ones that are at the forefront of Major League Baseball’s decision making process, my source tells me. The league is going to issue discipline once its investigation is completed. The chips will fall were they may and it is the investigative process — not the potential competitive fallout of it — that will determine timing. I don’t know how else one could proceed with respect to that issue, as there are no good answers to the question.

So that’s the state of the world. I still have several issues with the Biogenesis matter. I don’t like the sorts of people MLB appears to be getting in bed with in order to get its evidence. I don’t like the reports we’ve heard that some players are more in the crosshairs than others due to past transgressions, perceived or otherwise. I still think it’s anything but a slam dunk that an arbitrator will side with MLB once this is all said and done and that because of that risk, MLB’s decision to proceed as it has presents long term risks to the drug program as a whole (i.e. if they shoot and miss on non-clinical suspensions now, they’ll have a hard time shooting again in the future).

But all of that said, if my sources are correct, it seems to me that MLB is doing this about as well as it can under the circumstances. And we will all be watching it unfold over a much longer timeframe than many people are suggesting.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.