We were really thrown a curveball earlier today when MLBPA head Michael Weiner, addressing the media, said that the penalties facing Biogenesis-implicated players are not ruled by the Joint Drug Agreement’s 50-game, 100-game, lifetime ban specifications. When asked about why that was, Weiner pointed to the Commissioner’s “just cause” powers under the JDA.
Which seems odd to me because, as Wendy Thurm pointed out earlier today, the JDA says this about discipline:
A player who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance, or otherwise violates the Program through the possession or use of a Performance Enhancing Substance, will be subject to the discipline set forth below. (emphasis mine) 1. First violation: 50-game suspension; 2. Second violation: 100-game suspension; 3. Third violation: Permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball.
That italicized language seems to say that the discipline regime applies whether it’s a testing positive or, as will be the case with Biogenesis, non-analytical positives, circumstantial evidence-based violations, etc. There’s nowhere else in the agreement which speaks to Commissioner discretion with respect to discipline beyond the mere words “just cause,” which again, seems to speak to the violation, not the discipline.
Could this be a negotiated thing? The union and the league having an understanding, either now or having had it always, about what might happen if they’re dealing with a non-testing-based violation? And no matter when it was decided that any amount of discipline could apply for such violations, could it not mean that some guys get less than 50 games? Some way more.
As an example: say a Biogenesis Player — let’s call him Theo Blonzalez — has very weak evidence against him in the documents and testimony, but that the league wants to discipline him anyway. Might they take this discretion and give him, say, a five game suspension? That might be a nice break for someone like Blonzalez who, otherwise, might be subject to an automatic 50, which would seem overly harsh. At the same time, might another player with stronger evidence against him — say Schmalex Rodriguez — be slapped with unlimited discipline even if it’s a first offense?
I don’t know what it means, frankly. But I find it fascinating. And it further underscores my suspicion that a lot more conversations are happening between the union and the league than we know about. And that, just maybe, it’s nowhere near as adversarial as we might think.