Friday, March 22, 2013

Media names all players connected with MLB suit, except Braun

No more clear example of racial bias in the sports media than there is today. The AP, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated all covered the MLB lawsuit against Biegenesis Labs. That's the lab accused of supplying muscle repairing drugs to several baseball players, including Ryan Braun.

And yet, none of the stories published by the above companies, even mention Braun's name. Coincidentally, Braun is the only white baseball player connected with this lab, but not the only one who TESTED POSITIVE for HGH. Braun's name appeared on a Biegenesis Labs list with a $ amount next to it. When that happened to Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera, for example, the media assumed both were guilty. Now the league is suing for damages claiming the lab lured players into using and sought to cover their tracks in a number of ways. That is not the point here. My point is to ask, how is it that the only white player's name to appear on Biegenesis Labs documents got left out of media reports of three major organizations? I think for the same reason Lance Armstrong was never suspected of of cheating, he's white. The mostly male, mostly white media is not only protecting Braun and Armstrong, in a sense they're protecting themselves.

The AP, CBS and SI stories are copied here below. Read them and ask yourself, if its fair to mention A-Rod everytime but never mention Braun.

Determined to find a route via which it can uncover enough evidence to discipline the players linked to the Miami anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, Major League Baseball is taking its fight to the courts. On Tursday night, the New York Times‘ Michael S. Schmidt reported that the league was planning to file a lawsuit against several individuals connected to the clinic, including Dr. Anthony Bosch, on the grounds that they damaged the sport by providing those players with performance-enhancing drugs.

As noted earlier this week, MLB lacks the subpoena power to compel testimony from the players who are said to be named in the clinic’s records, they have been stymied in their efforts to obtain the evidence uncovered by the Miami New Times, and the governmental interest in the case which they hoped would aid them has been limited to the Florida Department of Health’s investigation into Bosch. Thus far, MLB has only been able to hand down one suspension, a 100-game ban of minor league pitcher Cesar Carrillo, who isn’t on any team’s 40-man roster and thus is not protected by the drug policy that’s part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

This suit, which was filed in Florida state court on Friday morning, represents a new strategy via which the league would be able to subpoena the now-shuttered clinic’s records to compel testimony and produce enough evidence to suspend players for so-called non-analytic positives. But it appears to be a desperation move with little chance of success.

According to Schmidt, legal experts are split as to whether the strategy could work. He quotes lawyer Steven Eckhaus as one who thinks the suit could have merit: “If I sold drugs to a baseball player, the league might say it damaged the good will of the league and its ability to make money and prosper… That’s probably a good claim.”

Without further elaboration, however, even that statement seems shaky when one considers the extent to which baseball’s revenues have grown steadily over the past two decades even amid the BALCO scandal, the Mitchell Report and the implication of numerous stars — including Alex Rodriguez, who’s also one of the Biogenesis bunch — as having used steroids via other means, not to mention the global financial crisis. Almost exactly a year ago, Forbes magazine’s Mike Ozanian wrote, “The National Pastime is flourishing thanks to cable companies’ desire for live baseball programming. The average Major League Baseball team rose 16% in value during the past year, to an all-time high of $605 million.”

In December, Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown reported that after two years of relatively flat revenues, MLB took in $7.5 billion in 2012, and that after adjusting for inflation, baseball’s revenues have increased 257 percent since 1995.

Does that sound like a league whose good will and ability to prosper has been damaged? Brown also pointed out that new national broadcast television deals with Fox, ESPN and TBS, as well as franchise-based deals such as that of the Dodgers could push revenue above $9 billion in 2014. Those deals aren’t going anywhere even in the face of a scandal in which as many as 90 major and minor leaguers are said to have been named in the clinic’s records.

Schmidt doesn’t provide a quote from an expert more skeptical about MLB’s tack, but the baseball blogosphere has its share of lawyers who have offered their perspective. From HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra:

“Major League Baseball’s lawsuit against Biogenesis should be laughed out of court… this is a transparent and cynical attempt by Major League Baseball to obtain documents to discipline its employees, not an attempt to vindicate an actual legal injury, and courts do not like to be used in such a fashion.

“Baseball has loudly lamented that it (a) has no way of getting the Biogenesis documents; and thus (b) has no way of punishing the ballplayers named in the documents. For them to now, suddenly, tell a judge that this is really about redressing some legal injury it suffered at the hands of this little clinic is laughable in the extreme. If someone had handed them a box of documents last week they would have never considered suing Biogenesis. They are now suing with the sole intent of getting documents. Which is problematic because the purpose of the legal system is to redress legal injury, not to be used as a cudgel in some employment dispute involving non-parties to the lawsuit or to help sports leagues with their public relations problems.”

Via Twitter, FanGraphs’ Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) wrote, “I’m quite skeptical of MLB’s legal theory v Biogenesis. But we need to know which state’s law at issue … Perhaps Florida law recognizes broad interference claims. I doubt it but don’t know. Also, many state courts allow discovery before… viability of legal theory is resolved. CA courts allow document discovery to proceed while motions to dismiss are pending.”

In other words, MLB may have a window to obtain documents before the suit is dismissed — but as ESPN’s T.J Quinn said via Twitter, “Sources say they believe Bosch destroyed remaining documents.” Quinn also noted that MLB’s suit has since been filed in Florida state court:”They’re seeking all materials. Now, do they still exist…?”

Whether or not they do, it seems entirely possible that MLB could be handed another embarrassing high-profile defeat. In a follow-up post, Calcaterra wrote that “the contract MLB claims interference with is the Joint Drug Agreement, in which MLB has no direct financial interest. Indeed, it EXPECTS the JDA to be breached and has built in a punishment system because of it. Via Twitter, he added, “This lawsuit doesn’t survive a motion to dismiss.”

While the commissioner, owner and players have built the strongest drug policy in professional sports, its limitations — particularly its lack of teeth beyond the testing regime — will be on public display as the case goes forward. By compelling testimony from non-union players (as it did regarding Carillo) and offering immunity to users who testify against Bosch and other players — a strategy the league is said to be pursuing, according to officials who spoke to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale — the league has created the perception that it is abandoning two principles at the core of the Joint Drug Agreement: due process in handling each case and zero tolerance for violators.

Furthermore, if the case does somehow manage to proceed, it could linger for years; consider the lifespans of the BALCO proceedings, and the perjury/obstruction of justice trials of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, which cost millions upon millions of dollars and — in the case of the two superstars — resulted in one relatively minor conviction out of 10 counts brought to trial (six for Clemens, four for Bonds), that of Bonds for obstruction of justice by providing an evasive answer to a question under oath.

MLB and the players’ union have taken laudable steps in their attempts to clean up the game. While one can understand their frustration due to the limitations of their power in the Biogenesis case, the league’s desperation may well wind up doing more harm than good. Even a successful lawsuit won’t win back fans who have been turned off by the past two decades of PED scandals, and a frivolous one will only leave Bud Selig and company with egg on their faces.

(AP) -- Major League Baseball on Friday sued a now-shuttered South Florida clinic and its operators, accusing them of scheming to provide banned performance-enhancing drugs to players in violation of their contracts.
The lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court seeks unspecified damages from Coral Gables anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America and its operator, Anthony Bosch. Several other Bosch associates are named in the lawsuit. A phone message left for a Bosch representative wasn't immediately returned, and associates have previously said Anthony Bosch is out of the country.
MLB contends the clinic's operators solicited players to use banned substances knowing that would violate their contracts, specifically the drug prevention and treatment program that became effective in 2003. That program, part of baseball's collective bargaining agreement with players, includes a list of banned substances, lays out penalties for violations and imposes testing requirements.
Because of the alleged conspiracy, the lawsuit contends MLB has suffered "costs of investigation, loss of goodwill, loss of revenue and profits and injury to its reputation, image, strategic advantage and fan relationships," attorneys Allen Weitzman and Matthew Menchel wrote in the complaint.
Although it seeks money damages, the lawsuit also could provide a way for MLB to more deeply investigate Biogenesis and Bosch through depositions of witnesses and subpoenas to obtain documents. MLB was rebuffed in an effort to obtain clinic records from the alternative Miami New Times newspaper, which has published detailed accounts of the alleged player drug use.
Among those implicated are New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, outfielder Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. Most have denied the Biogenesis link, although Rodriguez has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career and Colon, Cabrera and Grandal were each suspended for 50 games last year for testing positive for elevated testosterone levels.
The lawsuit also contends that former star Manny Ramirez, who is now signed to play for a team in Taiwan, obtained a prohibited substance from Bosch in 2009 that ultimately resulted in Ramirez's 50-game suspension by MLB when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Elements of the scheme, according to the lawsuit, including use of fake or partial names on drug packages sent to players, visiting players at home or at hotels to personally administer the banned substances and claims made to the players that if used properly the drugs "would not result in a positive test" under the MLB drug program.
Among the banned drugs supplied, the lawsuit said, are testosterone, human growth hormone and human chorionic gonadotropin. The players were told the drugs would increase their strength and help them recover from injuries more quickly.'s Jon Heyman confirmed the report early Friday afternoon.

To recap, Bosch, under the auspices of his role as a Biogenesis clinician, is alleged to have served as a "PED pipeline" for the players named in the original Miami New Times report -- Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz, among them (again, allegedly on all counts).

MLB is moving forward with the suit likely in an effort to not only receive financial recompense, but also to coerce some parties into cooperating further with the ongoing investigation.

While IANAL, most legally informed takes I've read on this issue suggest MLB will have a difficult time proving its case to any meaningful effect. In part that's because Bosch is believed to have destroyed any number of relevant documents, and in part that's because the New Times recently declined MLB's request to view its Biogenesis files.

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