For months, Major League Baseball has been seeking evidence that would allow suspensions for players linked to the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida. For months, MLB has been somewhat optimistic that it would uncover enough evidence.
So what changed Tuesday night with the news -- first reported by ESPN, later confirmed by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com -- that Tony Bosch has agreed to cooperate with the MLB investigation?
Potentially quite a bit, because Bosch could provide names and documents, and presumably could help tie it all together. It could well turn out that this was the big break that the MLB investigators needed, and could help build a case that can hold up in front of an arbitrator.
As of now, though, it's believed that MLB has not yet interviewed or acquired evidence from Bosch, leaving open the possibility that he could change his mind or that his information won't be as useful as expected. And while we know that MLB was "encouraged" by the investigation, even before getting Bosch to agree to cooperate, it will still be up to the investigators to build a case that can hold up in front of an arbitrator. It will be helpful if they can get others who can independently corroborate anything Bosch tells them.
As a result, it is not believed that MLB is close to announcing any suspensions.
So what does it all mean, and what could it mean for A-Rod, Braun, their teams, any other players or teams with Biogenesis ties, and to baseball itself?
• While no suspensions have yet been announced, and while it's not believed that any are yet close to being announced, MLB is proving that it is serious. Some will continue to look at any steroid revelations as a black eye for the sport, but at this point MLB is serious about cracking down. No matter how many suspensions we end up with, MLB clearly intends to crack down on players it believes have cheated.
• A-Rod will get the most attention, but as Heyman wrote Tuesday afternoon, it's not even clear whether he'll ever be healthy enough to play again. And while a drug suspension would further damage his reputation, that reputation has already taken so many hits that it will be hard to do it much more damage.
• Braun's reputation seems to have recovered quite a bit since the spring of 2012, when he successfully overturned a suspension for a positive drug test. While some fans have never forgiven him, enough have that he was among the top vote-getters in All-Star balloting announced Tuesday. If MLB is able to make a Biogenesis suspension stick, Braun would take a huge public hit.
• A-Rod has yet to play this season, and there's no guarantee that he will, and less guarantee that he'll play well. Braun has played well, but his Brewers are already far out of the pennant race. But other suspensions, if they were to come soon enough, could have a major impact on the postseason races. Bartolo Colon of the A's, Nelson Cruz of the Rangers, Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals have all been tied in some way to Biogenesis, although Colon has already served a suspension (for testing positive last year) and there have been multiple reports suggesting that Gonzalez is at somewhat less risk than other players.
• Whether baseball is able to make any suspensions stick, players involved are not thought to be in any danger of having their contracts voided. The drug program, agreed to by MLB and the players union, provides that all punishment for drug offenses can only come through the program, and that individual teams are not permitted to take any further action.