NEW YORK -- You've no doubt heard that suspensions are coming soon in baseball's Biogenesis case.
That's true, depending on what you mean by soon.
Interview sessions with commissioner Bud Selig and players association chief Michael Weiner at Tuesday's meeting of the Baseball Writers Association of America didn't shed much light on which players are in most danger of a suspension, but did provide significant answers on how the process will work and how long it could take.
The key points:
• There's a real chance that no players will serve any suspensions this season. The union expects that appeals won't begin until September at the earliest, and will all be held before a single arbitrator. Scheduling concerns alone make quick decisions unlikely, thus making it more likely that any suspensions would take effect next season. It is possible that a player could either agree to serve a suspension without appeal, or (more likely) negotiate a shorter suspension in exchange for agreeing not to appeal. In that case, the suspension would be served immediately.
• It's not clear how long any suspensions would be. The joint drug agreement between MLB and the union provides for a 50-game suspension the first time a player violates the program, and a 100-game suspension for a second violation. Weiner suggested that suspensions in this case may not be tied to those limits. "In theory, a player in the Biogenesis case could be suspended for five games or 500 games," he said. Baseball could try to claim two offenses in one, with the idea that a player violated the program by using, then lied about it and later violated a second time. It's clear that the union would strenuously fight that, and that an arbitrator would need to decide.
• It's still not clear whether players' names will be released before the appeal process begins. MLB believes that a clause in the joint drug agreement allows release of the names, since many have already been named in press reports. The union disagrees. The issue could end up going to the arbitrator.
• MLB says it will not be tied to the baseball calendar -- say, to get suspensions announced before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. "When they're done with the investigation, that will be the time," Selig said. "We have to do what we have to do."
MLB insisted that the investigation is not yet complete, and the union people said they have yet to be told which players baseball will try to suspend.
Once baseball completes the investigation and decides which suspensions it plans to pursue, the next step will be a meeting with the union. While baseball may not need the union's approval to proceed, the players (through the union) would have the right to appeal to the arbitrator, and thus need to be involved in the process.
Weiner said the union doesn't plan to fight suspensions just for the sake of fighting.
"Players who deserve to be suspended will be suspended," he said.
Selig once again defended baseball's drug program, and also the Biogenesis investigation.
"We have left no stone unturned," he said.
On a separate but related issue, Weiner said that he has heard from some players who would favor stiffer penalties for failed drug tests. But the union head said he has also heard from many players who don't want the penalties changed.