With Major League Baseball’s investigation into the scandalous Biogenesis clinic in its final stages, look for any suspensions to come out of it to be handed down shortly after the all-star break.
There is no way MLB would take away from the upcoming All-Star Game in New York City by suspending a large number of players beforehand, even if its investigation were complete by then. Reports have indicated there are 20 or more players with ties to performance-enhancing drugs sold out of the now-shuttered clinic under former director Tony Bosch.
MLB is believed to be near completion of the final stage of its investigation — interviewing players connected to Biogenesis through documents leaked to the Miami New Times and other news organizations before the season began. One of those players is Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun, who in all likelihood already has been interviewed.
MLB waited to interview the players because it wanted to accumulate as much evidence as possible from documents, other records and extensive interviews with Bosch, who cut a deal to cooperate in exchange for litigation being dropped as well as other considerations. Accordingly, Braun likely knows what evidence — if any — MLB has regarding his ties to Biogenesis and whether the commissioner’s office will try to suspend him.
Braun maintained from the outset that his attorneys merely used Bosch as a consultant for what became a successful appeal of a positive test for elevated testosterone levels in October 2011. If Bosch’s testimony and the evidence accumulated verify that assertion, Braun has nothing to worry about.
But if Bosch reversed his previous public stance and indicated otherwise, with concrete evidence in support, MLB will try to suspend Braun. Former Bosch associate Porter Fischer, the original whistle-blower to the Miami New Times, reportedly also indicated he had evidence against Braun and the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez as well as others. Time will tell if that claim was true or some kind of grab for attention.
When a player fails a drug test and appeals the finding, any suspension levied by MLB is designed to remain confidential until an arbitrator gives his ruling. Obviously, it didn’t play out that way for Braun in the winter of 2011-’12, when nearly everything regarding his case leaked to the media.
But, because the names of players connected to Biogenesis already have been made public, MLB wants to announce any suspensions it levies before the appeal process. Then there would be the wait for arbitration hearings to be conducted, which could take several weeks depending on the number of players involved.
MLB plans to announce the suspensions en masse. So, one day we’re going to wake up and hear that several players will be playing with suspensions hanging over their heads while appeals are put into motion.
Should suspensions be announced at the end of July and appeals take a good portion of August, there will be a month or so remaining in the season, as well as the postseason, which could take on a whole new outlook. Any 50-game suspensions upheld would lapse into the 2014 season. And if MLB levies 100-game penalties on some players as has been speculated, the suspensions would carry well into next year if upheld.
Beyond the playoffs, the July 31 trade deadline could be affected by announcement of suspensions. If your team is in the hunt and you think a key player will be gone down the stretch, might you make a trade that you’d otherwise never consider?
So, look for MLB to celebrate in full glory the Midsummer Classic, then get down to the grim business of punishing those who bought PEDs from Biogenesis in violation of the drug policy. Commissioner Bud Selig is determined to deter players from circumventing that policy, which took many years to put into effect after the union finally stopped fighting it.
Tale of two pitchers
The Brewers’ shortcomings in developing major-league starting pitching have been well-chronicled in recent years. Before giving Wily Peralta a shot this season, the only prospect to stick in the rotation since Ben Sheets arrived in 2001 was Yovani Gallardo.
When Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey threw his second no-hitter Tuesday night since last September, it was a reminder of how little luck the Brewers have had on the pitching front. The Brewers had the fifth pick in the 2004 June amateur draft and focused on two highly touted high school pitchers — Bailey of La Grange High School in Texas and Mark Rogers of Mount Ararat High School in Maine.
Bailey threw a bit harder, but the Brewers were concerned about his workload in high school. Rogers, on the other hand, was lightly pitched in the cold climate of Maine and was considered a better athlete, so the Brewers went with him. Two picks later, the Reds took Bailey.
There was no way to know at the time that Rogers would be plagued by injuries while Bailey would progress quickly to the big leagues. In 2007, when Rogers was missing the first of two consecutive minor-league seasons because of shoulder surgery, Bailey debuted in Cincinnati, going 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA in nine outings.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Rogers threw his first major-league pitch as a September call-up to Milwaukee. The next year, carpel tunnel syndrome in both wrists made that season a wash.
Not that Bailey’s transition to the big leagues went smoothly. In 2008, he went 0-6 with a 7.93 ERA in eight starts, followed by 8-5, 4.53 in 20 starts in ‘09; 4-3, 4.46 in 19 starts in ‘10 and 9-7, 4.43 in 22 starts in ‘11, bouncing back and forth from the minors along the way.
Bailey finally became a mainstay in the Reds’ rotation in 2012, going 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 33 starts. This season, he is a deceiving 5-6 with a 3.57 ERA in 17 outings before facing the Brewers on Monday. Bailey has pitched the last two no-hitters in the majors.
The Brewers hoped Rogers was ready to join their rotation on a permanent basis when he came up last August and went 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts. But he immediately experienced shoulder weakness this spring, never had a chance to make the team and started the season on the DL.
Rogers later was assigned to Class AA Huntsville on minor-league rehab but compiled an 11.12 ERA in five relief outings and was shut down. He returned to the Brewers’ training facility in Phoenix to continue physical therapy and has remained there, working toward the current modest goal of throwing a live batting practice session.
At this point, Bailey has made 128 major-league starts, going 43-39 with a 4.36 ERA. Rogers has pitched in 11 big-league games (nine starts), going 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA.
This is not to suggest that the Brewers should have taken Bailey instead of Rogers in the ‘04 draft. They were considered by far the two best prep pitchers in the draft, and it was basically a pick-’em situation.
The point is that you have to have some luck as well. While Bailey already has two no-hitters under his belt and is a mainstay in the Reds’ rotation, Rogers remains an injury-plagued pitcher with an uncertain future. That’s not his fault or the organization’s. Simply bad luck.
That trend continued in 2009 when the Brewers used their first-round pick on Indiana right-hander Eric Arnett, who quickly became an injury-plagued flop. The next year, they chose prep right-hander Dylan Covey, only to learn in a pre-signing physical that he had Type 1 diabetes. Covey chose to go to college rather than sign a pro deal.
No team erred worse in the 2004 draft than San Diego, which had the first pick and chose local high school shortstop Matt Bush, perhaps the biggest flop of any No. 1 pick ever. With the next pick, Detroit chose Justin Verlander, who also has multiple no-hitters in the majors.
Aoki might not stay
A report last week by MLB.com revealed that the Brewers will not have six years of control over outfielder Norichika Aoki, as originally thought. Agent Nez Balelo and the Brewers confirmed that Aoki has language in his contract that makes him a free agent after the 2014 season.
The Brewers signed Aoki to a two-year, $2.5 million deal before the 2012 season with a club option for $1.5 million in 2014. But, instead of having three years of arbitration afterward as with new major leaguers from the States, Aoki will be a free agent at the end of this deal.
Whether this makes Aoki, 31, a trade chip before the July 31 non-waiver deadline remains to be seen. He has an extremely club-friendly contract and remains a productive player in the leadoff spot. As always, it will depend on what another team might offer the Brewers to acquire Aoki.
The Brewers certainly could cover a vacated outfield spot, even with Braun currently on the 15-day DL with a thumb issue. Logan Schafer could move to right field on an every-day basis, and outfield prospects Josh Prince and Caleb Gindl already have spent time in the majors this season before being returned to Class AAA Nashville.
Opening their checkbooks
The Brewers wanted to make a bigger splash in the Latin American market after years of doing little there, and that was evident when signing season opened last week for international players.
The Brewers quickly signed five Latin American prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Franly Mallen and centerfielder Nicolas Pierre. They gave both 16-year-old players a signing bonus of $800,000, establishing a new high for the organization.
The previous high signing bonus given to an international prospect by the Brewers was $750,000 in 2005 for right-hander Rolando Pascual. He no longer is in the organization, having never advanced beyond Class A ball.
Mallen was ranked No. 22 on MLB.com’s list of international prospects and Pierre was No. 28. The Brewers also signed Panamanian catcher Johel Atencio, who received a $130,000 bonus, as well as Venezuelan right-hander Nelson Hernandez and Dominican shortstop Henry Correa.
Assuming those players pass physical exams as well as the standard MLB age/identification checks, they will be assigned to the Brewers’ academy in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. They will be eligible to play in the Dominican Summer League next year.
Manny Batista, the Brewers’ new director of Latin American scouting, is in charge of increasing the team’s presence in that prospect-rich area of the world. Batista works in concert with Eduardo Brizuela, the organization’s director of Latin American operations.
The only player currently on the Brewers roster whom they signed as an international player is right-hander Wily Peralta, who received a $450,000 bonus in 2005 out of the Dominican.