A-Rod received therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone for several seasons before Biogenesis hit

41 Comments

There’s a book coming out soon about the Biogenesis scandal. It’s called “Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era” by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday. Sports Illustrated is running a very tasty excerpt from it today.

The subject: Alex Rodriguez, not surprisingly. And while part of it is sexy — apparently, the first words out of A-Rod’s mouth to Tony Bosch were “What were you giving Manny Ramiez?” — there’s a more significant and more interesting part of it all too. Specifically: about the many therapeutic use exemptions A-Rod received to legally take testosterone before he hooked up with Biogenesis.

Therapeutic Use Exemptions — or TUEs as they’re often called — allow players to take otherwise banned drugs if they demonstrate a medical need to do so. These days we hear about them most often in connection with stimulants like Adderall, which are used to treat attention deficit disorder. Of course, a far greater percentage of players in Major League Baseball have therapeutic use exemptions for ADD medicine than the population at large has ADD, and for this reasons many look at the TUEs given for them with suspicion. As a means of players to obtain performance enhancing drugs without having to worry about being suspended.

In the book excerpt we learn that A-Rod received multiple TUEs during his time with the Yankees. But they weren’t for ADD medication. They were for testosterone, which is a really damn rare exemption to get. But A-Rod got it:

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The IPA in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

A-Rod won the MVP that year and, at the end of the year, famously opted out of his Yankees deal and signed his ten-year contract extension. Even after securing what he had to know was his last professional contract, A-Rod continued to apply for and receive TUEs. In 2008 he received a TUE for Clomid, which is similar to the drug that Manny Ramirez got busted for when he was with the Dodgers. A-Rod took it with Major League Baseball’s approval, however.

I’d be pretty interested to learn more about those TUEs A-Rod got. Why he got them when, apparently, a lot of people didn’t. Whether MLB believes it had been too permissive with them back then and whether A-Rod’s decision to quit relying on those and, instead, go an illegal route with Tony Bosch, angered them in some way. I’d also be curious to know if there is a psychological dependency at work with testosterone and other such drugs and whether Major League Baseball approving A-Rod’s use of the stuff contributed to whatever it was that drove A-Rod to continue to take PEDs, long after he ceased to have much if anything to prove on a baseball diamond.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
22 Comments

We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.