Why I don't care about Biogenesis

Bud Selig is taking the wrong tack on the Biogenesis scandal.
Bud Selig is taking the wrong tack on the Biogenesis scandal. USATSI

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The ongoing and still unfurling Biogenesis scandal is undeniably big news that lends itself to bloviating or hand-wringing -- whichever you prefer. I don't really care about it, though.

I'm simply not outraged by PED use in sports. Athletes will seek an edge because they're hard-wired to do so, and there's only so much that can be done to stop them. I think MLB, as high-level sports leagues go, is tackling the PED problem as well as anyone. (If you honestly think MLB has a PED scourge on the scale of the NFL's, then I find your naïveté to border on the adorable.)

In a largely finesse-and-timing sport like baseball, I'm not confident that the PEDs that slip through the current layers of testing make all that much of a difference in terms of on-field performance. Maybe they do, but that doesn't so much concern me. Yes, players use them, which would seem to suggest that they make a difference, but they also wear Phiten necklaces to that same end. Doubtless my inner moral rot is to blame for such apathy, but whatever. Penalties are in place, they were negotiated by both vested parties (i.e., MLB and the MLBPA), and they catch a non-zero number of offenders. Good enough for me.

A small percentage of players will continue to use banned substances, and there's little evidence that more draconian penalties will reduce that percentage by any meaningful amount. The autocratic fever-dreams of some observers notwithstanding, penalties should be stiff but realistically stiff in that they must be agreed upon by stakeholders. To thunder on and on about driving out the "cheaters" forevermore betrays a child's grasp of the realities. Test, catch those who fail, follow procedures to the very letter, discipline those who run afoul in keeping with the collective bargaining agreement. Ibid. The world spins on, as do the breaking balls.

That's why the sordid particulars of the Biogenesis story don't bother me. After all, the players would have easy enough access to these substances even if Anthony Bosch never walked the earth. What bothers me is MLB's now habitual collaborations with people like Bosch (and Kirk Radomski and Jeff Novitzky, for that matter) compromises any integrity native to the system. These aren't reliable sources to be trusted; these are desperate, afflicted characters to be kept at arm's length, provided you have exceptionally long arms. This is not only overreach, but overreach that could potentially damage the strong relationship between players and owners so essential to the sport's tremendous revenue growth.

It also bears repeating that, in a moral sense, the players of today are no different from the players of previous sepia-toned eras. Players of the 1960s and 1970s used amphetamines with impunity. As any number of all-time greats have admitted -- Bob Gibson and Mike Schmidt among them -- they probably would have indulged in the current generation of PEDs had they been available. The tools have changed, but the instincts to use those tools haven't.

You're simply not going to ferret out every PED peddler around, and leaning on those you do hunt down for damning testimony makes you look like a cynical and careerist small-time prosecutor, not someone who's interested in being a steward of the game. The "black ops" nonsense does nothing but keep this thoroughly overblown story in the news cycle.

At this point, I suppose I should soften my original claim. Instead, I should say I don't really care about the aspects of L'Affaire Biogenesis that I'm supposed to care about.

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