The Biogenesis Sudoku game

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So, for a while there, I was kind of into Sudoku, you know, that math puzzle game. Someone told me it is good for the mind to actively work on puzzles. I played a lot of Words With Friends for a time. I have tried at various times to get into things like crossword puzzles, though I’m terrible at those.

These days, though, I occupy my mind by playing Candy Crush and trying to figure just how the heck this Alex Rodriguez-Biogenesis fiasco went down. I’m having more luck with Candy Crush.

The Biogenesis nightmare is a magnificent thought puzzle featuring slimy people from all walks of life. If you have a notebook handy, I’ll get you started and you can play along. We’ll use this spectacular primer from Newsday as our guide.

We begin with a man named Anthony Bosch; it seems like his friends call him Tony. Though he ran Biogenesis, he’s actually a minor character in this story. Bosch grew up in Miami and from a young age seemed determined to become a character in a Carl Hiaasen novel. His father was a physician and it seems that Tony was also interested in the health field. Well, he liked calling himself Dr. Tony. Aren’t we all doctors in a way?

Dr. Tony’s interests tended to revolve more around biochemistry than family medicine. He lived on the periphery, opened and closed several similarly themed businesses designed to keep people young through the power of, you know, drugs. He would sometimes call himself an “anti-aging doctor.”

At some point, Bosch opened up a version of his business with the sciency sounding name, “Biogenesis.” and began hooking up with athletes. You may wonder how athletes got involved with a character like Bosch. Well, as rich and famous as athletes are, there really aren’t many high-end performance enhancing drug stores they can go to for their designer enhancers. They would undoubtedly feel more comfortable in sort of a Nieman Marcus Steroid Store or at Gucci Growth Hormone, but such places don’t exist … certainly not after the U.S. government and American media made clear that they might actually want to punish people for using PEDs. So, athletes were stuck having to deal with shadowy and mildly competent street hustlers like Tony Bosch if they wanted to cheat chemically.

Bosch built up a pretty healthy client list with Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun as his biggest stars.

And it’s likely nobody would have gotten caught … except somebody always gets angry over money. And that’s where our game begins.

Player 1: Porter Fischer

Official media title: “Disgruntled former Biogenesis employee” or “Whistleblower.”

The Biogenesis scandal began in January 2013, when Porter Fischer leaked boxes of files from the clinic to a Miami newspaper called ‘The Miami New Times.” Why did Fischer do this? There have been various motivations ascribed. It seems unchallenged that Fischer felt that Bosch owed him $4,000 — perhaps an unpaid loan (the most prominent story seems to be that Fischer lent Bosch $4,000 with the expectation he’d get back $4,800, which is kind of like, you know, loan sharking), perhaps an investment he wanted returned, perhaps a dispute of some kind. The reasons vary by story, but oddly that number — $4,000 — seems consistent. It is the smallest money number you will hear

Point is: Fischer leaked the files to get revenge on Bosch. Everything else that happened was just a bonus.

Fischer, in his own telling of the story, has a different motivation. He said that he knew illegal activities going on and, being a vigilant citizen, he felt it was important that he notify federal authorities.

The people who lean toward the Fischer explanation tend to be the ones who call him “whistleblower.”

Once the thorough and fascinating New Times report came out, Fischer found himself a popular guy. He would tell police that everybody wanted those files — friends, enemies, everybody. He got the most interest from investigators working with Major League Baseball AND investigators who claimed to be working with Alex Rodriguez. You know, it’s worth pausing here and considering the word “investigators.” It sounds so official but, realistically, you don’t need a license or anything else to be an “investigator.”

I bring this up because the Major League Baseball cronies, in various stories, are called “investigators.” But the Alex Rodriguez investigators, in various stories, are called “cronies.” I’m not sure there’s a difference there.

Fischer would say the MLB investigators were particularly determined and he admitted to police that they gave him $5,000 in what Fischer described as a “down payment.” I’m not sure what this was a “down payment” for but he did say that that Major League Baseball vice president and deputy general council Steven Gonzalez offered him $125,000 for the files.

According to Newsday, this man willing to leak boxes of information over a $4,000 disagreement, turned down the $125,000 from Major League Baseball because “it wasn’t enough to start a new life.”

“The people running Major League Baseball,” Fischer would tell the New Times, “are the biggest scumbags on Earth.” But that wasn’t until AFTER he got robbed.

You know what this story needs now? A friend.

* * *

Player 2: Peter Carbone

Official media title: “Long Island friend.”

Peter Carbone, it seems, knew how to make friends. He was friends with Bosch, going back to their days at “Boca Body,” a whole other anti-aging clinic that Newsday says was run from a tanning salon in Coral Gables. He was also friends with Fischer. Pete also may have been friends with Alex Rodriguez, though that part seems a bit more suspect. I call him “Pete” because I’m sure we’d be friends too.

Carbone’s role in this is somewhat baffling — everything gets so much fuzzier from here — but best I can tell Fischer claimed that Carbone offered to serve as some kind of middleman. At a different time, Fischer also claimed that Pete Carbone was the one who suggested leaking the files to get back at Bosch in the first place. What a good friend.

Again, best I can tell, Carbone’s offer was that he would take the files from Fischer and return them to Bosch in exchange for the money Bosch owed him. Why Fischer would turn down $125,000 from MLB and instead take $4,000 from the guy he hated enough to start this whole thing in the first place is only one of 17 million questions worth asking. It seems certain that Carbone may or may not have given Fischer money here.

Fischer also claimed that Carbone double-crossed him and instead sold the files to an associate of Alex Rodriguez. Or just gave him the files. There’s another Carbone friend, Oggi Velasquez, who may or may not have been …. well, let’s try not to get off-track here with friends who aren’t a direct part of the story.

Carbone, by his own admission, did give/sell those files to the A-Rod camp but at the same time he also told Major League Baseball that he had another friend who somehow had a zip drive of the files, someone who would “do a onetime deal.”

You know what this story needs? A tanning bed repairman.

* * *

Player 3: Gary L. Jones (The “L” stands for “Love”).

Official media title: “Tanning bed repairman.”

Jones’ official media title also could have been “counterfeiter” since he served two years for passing counterfeit bills. But that title isn’t nearly as much fun. Jones, it seems, did have the USB drives, and he was indeed happy to do a one-time deal. According to the Boca Raton police report, Jones sold MLB four USB drives filled with Biogenesis records for $100,000. It is unclear how Jones actually got these USB drives.

Jones would later sign a sworn affidavit claiming that MLB said it would have paid him a lot more than $100,000 if the documents had been originals. Hint hint! Jones later said he didn’t mean that; he had not read the affidavit before signing it.

This is only going to get better.

Jones, it turns out, was not only friends with Peter Carbone, he was also friends with Porter Fischer. Everybody’s friends here. It’s hard to deduce exactly what Fischer’s was doing at this point, but he seems to have realized that these boxes of files he somehow got out of the Biogenesis Clinic were kind of important. So he decided to take them out of the storage facility where he had them hidden and, instead, put them in the trunk of his rented Toyota Corolla. It is a well-known fact that one of the safest places you can hide valuable things is in the trunk of a Corolla.

Fischer was driving that Corolla to meet with investigators from the Department of Health — it seems Fischer wanted to show them the files to help them collar his old pal Tony Bosch on practicing medicine without a license — when he got a call from Gary L. Jones (the L stands for “listener”). Well, of course he did.

Here is my best effort to recap how that call went, based on Fischer’s recollections.

Fischer: Yo.

Jones: Yo.

Fischer: What’s happening?

Jones: You gotta come by?

Fischer: Kinda busy here, man.

Jones: No, seriously dude, it’s here.

Fischer: What’s there?

Jones: That new tanning spray I was telling you about.

Fischer: No way.

Jones: Seriously.

Fischer: This is the spray you’ve been developing, right?

Jones: Yeah. It’s my best work man. This stuff will seriously tan.

Fischer: I am looking awful white, man. Been indoors a lot lately. I haven’t been wanting to be seen, you know?

Jones: I know. Bosch don’t play. You owe it to yourself.

Fischer: I don’t know man. Got a pretty important meeting.

Jones: Pamper yourself, man. Nobody else will.

Fischer: All right. I’ll stop by.

So Fischer stopped on his way to meeting with the Department of Health to see this new spray that Jones had developed. None of this is made up. This was at the Boca Tanning Club.

You know what this story needs? Another Carbone.

* * *

Player 4: Anthony Carbone

Official Media Title: The younger brother.

Anthony Carbone is the younger brother of Peter AND the owner of the aforementioned Boca Tanning Club. The Carbones seem to be tanning moguls. Carbone’s role in this is unclear, but then, everything is unclear. Fischer parked his car and went inside Anthony Carbone’s tanning club. He said he was in the tanning booth for no more than 10 minutes. I guess he just wanted a light bronze for the Department of Health meeting.

When he came out — this will shock you — his car had been broken into, everything was stolen, including the Beretta .32 pistol he kept and, oh yeah, the Biogenesis files in the trunk. There was a spot of blood on the door.

So, now the Department of Health was ticked off and repeatedly told Major League Baseball, hey, back off, we are dealing with stolen documents here, there are a few illegalities going on, you’re going to get in a lot of trouble and so on. But MLB investigators, you know, were pretty determined.

Wait, before going on, you know what this story needs? A bumbling young petty thief with a comically overwrought name.

* * *

Player 5: Reginald St. Fleur

Official Media Title: Doer of odd jobs.

Reginald St. Fleur was a 20-year-old guy who did various odd jobs for Anthony Carbone and Gary L. Jones. What does he have to do with any of this? Well, remember that blood smear on the door handle of the Corolla? Funny thing about that: The DNA matched St. Fleur’s. His trial for burglary is upcoming.

So, hmm, what do you think happened here? Boca Raton police seemed to think — crazy as it may sound — that Carbone and Jones may have been involved in this robbery. Newsday quoted an audio recording of the interview between the Boca Raton police and St. Fleur … there’s one particularly wonderful paragraph.

“I know that you don’t have an interest in this. It’s the whole Major League Baseball thing where people are stealing from each other, trying to make money, sell thing. And I don’t think you would do it without somebody asking you to do it.”

Anthony Carbone paid for St. Fleur’s attorney and, according to that attorney, “might have stepped up and given the bond.” Carbone though insists he had absolutely, positively nothing to do with the burglary. What? Him?

Here’s how he insisted to Newsday:

“I feel pretty confident that — whatever — I didn’t do anything. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty.”

Yes. Whatever happened to that.

Fischer would say that after the robbery, Major League Baseball no longer seemed interested in him. Funny how that works. The Florida Department of Health, he said, gave Bosch a citation, fined him, and stopped their investigation. According to the police report, Gary L. Jones (the L. stands for “lucky”) met again with MLB investigators about three weeks after the break-in and, amazingly, had new Biogenesis files to sell. Where did he get those from? This batch went for $25,000. Maybe.

* * *

You know what this story needs? Nothing else. Major League Baseball attorney Daniel Halem reportedly offered a theory to police that Fischer and Jones made up the whole robbery in order to get more money, which makes as much sense as anything else. Fischer told the police that it was possible that Major League Baseball arranged the robbery, which makes as much sense as anything else. The Department of Health claimed that it warned Major League Baseball not to buy those stolen files, which makes as much sense as anything else.

Major League Baseball in addition to all this also pressured Tony Bosch to play ball … which makes as much sense as anything else.

When this sham of a sham inside a sham ended, Major League Baseball agreed to have the commissioner of baseball Bud Selig and the leading candidate to for next commissioner Rob Manfred appear on 60 Minutes to talk about how they nailed Alex Rodriguez. It was an extraordinary display of corruption and payoffs and the smarmy people who show up when there’s money to be had and what happens when people get blood in their eyes. Major League Baseball was going to get Alex Rodriguez. They just were.

And why? Well, yeah, what about Alex Rodriguez, the player who started it all?

* * *

Player 6: Alex Rodriguez

Official Media Title: “A-Rod” or “Disgraced star” or “Once thought of as a Hall of Famer.”

Alex Rodriguez used various drugs without a prescription in an attempt to play baseball better.

Don’t let Rob Manfred pass the buck

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Yesterday morning, in Ken Rosenthal’s article, Rob Manfred made it pretty clear what his aim is at the moment: throw blame on the union for the sign stealing scandal getting to the place it is. It was clear in both his words and Rosenthal’s words, actually:

In fairness, Manfred was not alone in failing to see the future clearly. As far back as 2015, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) expressed concerns to MLB about the rise of technology in the sport. The union, however, did not directly focus on the threat to the game’s integrity.

Then, in his press conference yesterday, he went farther, saying that the union refused to allow a situation in which punishment might happen, going so far as to claim that the union refused to make Astros players available for interviews without blanket immunity.

The union, both in its official statement last night and in Tony Clark’s words to Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser earlier this afternoon, is basically saying Manfred is full of it:

“We were approached with respect to their intentions to not discipline players. Our legal role and responsibility is inherent in accepting that consideration, which is what we did.”

Which is to say, it was Rob Manfred, and not the union, which started from the presumption that there was immunity for Astros players. Manfred is the one who settled on that at the outset, and he’s now trying to make it look like the union was the side that insisted on it so that people who are mad will get mad at Tony Clark for defending the indefensible as opposed to getting mad at him for creating a situation in which there was no legal way to punish Astros players.

And, as we have noted many times already, he did create that situation.

It’s undisputed that Manfred never attempted to make rules or set forth discipline for players stealing signs. Indeed, he did the opposite of that, saying over two years ago that GMs and managers, not players, would be held responsible. If he wanted to discipline players now, he’d have a big problem because he specifically excluded them from discipline then. I’d argue it was a mistake for him to do that — he should’ve said, three years ago, that everyone’s butt would be on the line if the cheating continued — but he didn’t.

Some people I’ve spoken to are taking the position that the union is still to blame here. I’m sort of at a loss as to how that could be.

It is the union’s job to protect its members from arbitrary punishment by management. It is not the union’s job to say “hey, I know our workers were off the hook here based on the specific thing you said, but maybe we should give them some retroactive punishment anyway?” If someone in charge of a union proposed that, they’d be in dereliction of their duties and could be fired and/or sued. Probably should be, actually. A lot of people might be mad about that, and I know fully well that unions aren’t popular. But then again, neither are criminal defense attorneys, and they don’t go up to prosecutors and say “well, there isn’t a law against what my client did — in fact, the governor issued an order a couple of years ago saying that what he did wasn’t prohibited — but we’re all kind of mad about it, so why don’t we work together to find a way to put him in jail, eh?” It’d be insane.

That doesn’t make anyone feel better now. The players are certainly mad, with new ones every day finding a camera to yell at over all of this. I get it. What has happened is upsetting. It’s a situation in which some members of the union are at odds with other members. It’s not an easy situation to navigate.

They should take that anger, however, and channel it into telling their leader, Tony Clark, that they don’t want this to happen again. That, to the extent Rob Manfred now, belatedly, proposes new rules and new punishments for sign-stealing or other things, he should get on board with that. They should also — after the yelling dies down — maybe think a little bit about how, if the facts were slightly different here, they would never argue that Rob Manfred should have the power to impose retroactive or other non-previously-negotiated punishment on players.

Either way, neither they nor any of the rest of us should take Manfred’s bait and try to claim that what’s happening now is the union’s fault. If, for no other reason, than because he doesn’t have much credibility when it comes to this whole scandal. Remember, he’s the guy who issued a report saying that, except for Alex Cora, it was only players involved despite knowing at the time he said it that the front office had hatched the scheme in the first place. Which, by the way, similarly sought to make the players out to be the only ones to blame while protecting people on management’s side. He’s not someone who can be trusted in any of this, frankly.

At the end of the day, this was a scheme perpetrated by both front office and uniformed personnel of the Houston Astros. To the extent nothing more can be done about that than already has been done, blame it on Rob Manfred’s failure of leadership. Not on the MLB Players Association.