I noted yesterday the uncertainty surrounding potential double discipline of Biogenesis players. How the Melky Cabrera precedent may make it hard for MLB to give an enhanced suspension for those perceived to be lying to investigators. I also pondered whether simply not talking to investigators might serve as the basis. Ken Rosenthal, however, reminds us today that baseball has historically been unable to discipline players for clamming up:
In September 1980, former commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Ferguson Jenkins for declining to cooperate with baseball’s investigation after the pitcher was charged with possession of cocaine, hashish and marijuana in Toronto. An arbitrator lifted the suspension, according to the Associated Press, saying that “the commissioner was compelling Jenkins to jeopardize his defense in court.” Braun and others, by failing to answer questions, simply asserted their “Jenkins” rights.
There are some differences here, of course. Jenkins actually had charges pending against him while none of the Biogenesis players do. But if baseball’s past arbitrator respected the idea of protecting players from self-incrimination (and that was in a case in a foreign country, not subject to the Fifth Amendment) one would think that the precedent would demand continued respect of Fifth Amendment rights, even if Major League Baseball isn’t the government. And the way the Fifth Amendment works, one need not have an actual criminal case pending. Merely the potential of one must exist.
While it’s unlikely that any of the Biogenesis players will be prosecuted, it is a possibility. And that possibility may be enough to prevent Major League Baseball from imposing any added discipline for player’s failure to cooperate. Between that, the fact that most of these guys are facing a first offense, not a second, and given that the lying precedent is complicated by the Melky Precedent, how again is MLB supposed to suspend anyone for 100 games?