Report: Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun among players MLB seeks to suspend for Biogensis connection

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Performance-enhancing drugs loomed large entering the baseball season, amid reports that dozens of players — many of them high-profile stars — could be suspended because of their reported involvement with a clinic that supplied PEDs.

That story just got bigger.

From ESPN.com investigative reporters T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish:

Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks, “Outside the Lines” has learned. If the suspensions are upheld, the performance-enhancing drug scandal would be the largest in American sports history.

Tony Bosch, the former director of the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic, is “expected to begin meeting with officials — and naming names — within a week,” according to the ESPN.com report. A source familiar with the case confirmed to The Associated Press early Wednesday morning that Bosch has indeed agreed to talk to MLB about players linked to PEDs, and that Bosch’s information could lead to suspensions. The suspensions could be issued within two weeks, though there’s likely to be an appeals process and that may take a few months.

NBCSports.com reached both Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association on Tuesday night, but both declined to comment. Terry Fahn, Rodriguez’s publicist as of January, said to contact New York publicist Ron Berkowitz; Berkowitz declined to comment when reached by phone.

MORE: A closer look at the players facing potential suspensions

The commissioner’s office will be seeking 100-game punishments for Braun and A-Rod because they both committed two offenses — the initial doping and then lying to Major League Baseball officials. The typical punishment for first-time performance-enhancing drug offenders is a 50-game suspension.

Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez is not a candidate for suspension, according to Quinn, because Bosch is expected to confirm to the investigators that Gio only bought league-approved substances. Some of the other names that were found in the Biogenesis documents: Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez, Everth Cabrera, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

MORE: Why a mass suspension would be a mass fail

The Biogenesis news broke in late January, when it was reported by multiple outlets that Major League Baseball was investigating Bosch under the suspicion that his clinic represented “ground zero” for performance enhancing drugs in Florida, where a disproportionate number of major leaguers grew up, played amateur and college baseball or where they currently make their offseason homes. On January 29, the Miami New Times obtained and published a large portion of the Biogenesis clinic’s records which contained the names of several major leaguers accompanied in many cases by notations which suggested that the players were given performance enhancing drugs. The documents were not conclusive of any player’s use and, in some cases — like with Gio Gonzalez — no connection could be found between the player and any substances which are banned by Major League Baseball.

Immediately after the Miami New Times report came out all of the players involved either denied any involvement with Biogenesis whatsoever or denied that they obtained banned substances.  For example, Gonzalez claims that his father was a patient of Bosch’s. Ryan Braun claims that his attorneys used Bosch as a consultant in his successful 2012 appeal of his PED suspension. Despite the denials, the report and the documents set off a media firestorm which caused Major League Baseball to step up its investigation of the players named therein.

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

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In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.