MLB said to be encouraged with progress in Miami PED investigation
Baseball investigators are giving no indication of a timetable to call players alleged to be linked to drugs through the defunct Miami clinic Biogenesis, while players union officials are saying they hope the investigation doesn't drag long into the baseball season.
Major League Baseball's probe into the alleged Miami PED case is said by people who've spoken to the investigators to be "moving along," and MLB officials are said to be encouraged by progress made thus far.
However, MLB isn’t yet ready to set a timetable to call to testify any of the major leaguers whose names have come up in the case, including former MVPs Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun , suggesting MLB perhaps still seeks a smoking gun in the case.
MLB investigators, who have dedicated hundreds of man hours and spent millions of dollars on the case involving defunct Miami wellness clinic Biogenesis, have been thwarted by people connected to the clinic and Miami scene who have either sought compensation for information or been found to be out-and-out liars, say people briefed on the case.
MLB might have scored a possible coup, though, by buying Biogenesis documents, sources say, confirming a report in the New York Times. People with ties to the case say MLB people believe Rodriguez, through an intermediary, at some point tried to buy the documents as well, though A-Rod spokesman Terry Fahn said, "Alex flatly denies the allegations.''
MLB believes the documents to be authentic, but the MLB players union is sure to at least question documents that were produced after a cash transaction.
MLB officials declined comment on the investigation except to say it is ongoing. A union spokesperson expressed the hope that the investigation wouldn’t drag on long into the season.
Regardless, MLB is making no promises about the timetable. A person familiar with the thinking of baseball officials suggested investigators wish to be "locked and loaded" before what they believe might be their one chance to interview players allegedly involved, including Rodriguez and Braun.
Rodriguez, the injured New York Yankees slugger who admitted in 2009 that he failed the 2003 MLB survey test for performance-enhancing drugs after Sports Illustrated reported it, hired high-powered Miami lawyer Roy Black after the Miami New Times report surfaced naming him. Rodriguez has denied buying drugs from Biogenesis or being a "patient" of former Biogenesis proprietor Anthony Bosch, who isn’t a medical doctor.
Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers star and 2011 National League MVP, explained that his name showed up in the purported Biogensesis logbook as owing $20,000-$30,000 only because he used Bosch in a consulting capacity related to MLB's attempt to suspend him for a failed PED test in October 2011. Braun ultimately won his case against MLB in arbitration.
MLB people continue to interview employees and former employees of the closed clinic Biogenesis. The documents received are said by people who have seen them to be quite detailed as related to the players named. The MLB players union, which has spoken to these players, is considering everything reported to this point to come under the heading of "hearsay" and is prepared to defend the implicated players. Any player called by MLB would have the option to be accompanied by a union lawyer.
Sources who have spoken to MLB officials suggest the biggest names being looked at by MLB have already surfaced in the original Miami New Times report and other subsequent reports, and that while a stray new name or two might surface, baseball officials are said to believe occasionally-heard rumors going around baseball that there is evidence of a treasure trove of other star major-league players are incorrect.
Rodriguez and Braun, who have four MVPs between them, are big enough names to interest MLB investigators.
Baseball people were clearly unhappy to have lost Braun's case and believe he shouldn't have won based on what they view as a technicality. Braun won the case after his lawyers highlighted a weekend-long delay of the storage of his sample, and MLB has since tightened its testing and storing rules.
MLB people are said to be concerned that Rodriguez might have been less than truthful when he told the league that he hasn't used PEDs since the 2001-03 period when he admitted to have used what he said was baseball's "loosey-goosey" times. However, MLB people suggest they have no particular extra interest in targeting those two players and will simply follow any evidence they might encounter.
MLB was investigating in Miami even before the New Times report named Rodriguez and several other MLB players as customers of Biogenesis. MLB has looked at players connected to the University of Miami and also those with ties to Rodriguez (a Miami product).
MLB is additionally seeking evidence connected to the ACES agency, the Brooklyn-based baseball agency run by Seth and Sam Levinson, who represent many of the players tied to Biogenesis, as they also represented a disproportionate number of players in the MLB-produced Mitchell Report. The Levinsons have accused former employee Juan Nunez of concocting the false story about a website to explain Melky Cabrera s failed test for testosterone.
MLB has banned Nunez but still is struggling with the notion of whether Nunez could have acted alone and why the Levinsons have had so many PED-connected players over many years. The Levinsons have issued statements suggesting they don’t tolerate PED usage and have denied the assertion advanced in the Roger Clemens case by former trainer Brian McNamee that they provided major-league reliever Mike Stanton with HGH.
Evidence gathered by MLB investigators led to the spring suspension of Detroit Tigers minor-league pitcher Cesar Carrillo, suggesting progress is being made. Carrillo received a 100-game ban with 50 extra games added because MLB determined he was uncooperative with its investigators. MLB wouldn't have suspended Carrillo without believing it had proof, but union protection for major-league players means any suspension will be a much more time-consuming process. Any possible suspension of a major leaguer could be met with a grievance.
MLB investigators are still seeking to contact and interview Biogenesis proprietor Tony Bosch. However, he has yet to return their calls, and the chance for success in interviewing Bosch is questionable.
MLB is also suing Biogenesis with the hope that a judgment against the defunct company will serve as discouragement to companies considering supplying PEDs to major-league players, with the secondary goal to learn additional information through depositions.
MLB has said it will consider immunity for players who can provide information on a case-by-case basis. At least one player already has been presented with a possible immunity option. Personal admissions aren't enough to qualify for immunity, however.
Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez , Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz , the Toronto Blue Jays ' Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon , San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal , Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli , Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero , Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia are other names that have been tied to Biogenesis and are being looked at, sources confirm. Gonzalez, Cruz, Cabrera and Montero are all represented by the Levinsons, while Cervelli is a former client. None of the players has admitted procuring PEDs from Biogenesis.
Cabrera, Colon and Grandal all failed MLB tests last year and were given 50-game suspensions, with Cabrera and Colon's bans now over and Grandal's lasting until game 51 this year. It might be more difficult to suspend any players previously banned, but MLB hasn't ruled out going after those players, depending on the dates mentioned in conjunction with those players.