One of the many Blue Jays' prized off-season signings, Melky Cabrera is in the headlines again, but for all the wrong reasons. His name was one of a half-dozen major-leaguers linked to a recently-closed anti-aging clinic in a story in the Miami New Times. Fact is that Melky already has served a 50-game suspension last August for a failed PED test while with the Giants. Tuesday's revelations linking him to the Florida clinic are simply details.
There is no doubting that major-league baseball will continue to take body shots for years and years to come, as head-shaking, often sensational facts from a sad and embarassing period in the history of the National Pastime continue to emerge. The perception mess from the Steroid Era is slowly being cleaned up syringe by syringe, cheater by cheater. No, there will likely never be a landscape totally clear of this garbage, but the fact that the majority of players in the union are fighting the cheaters is a good sign. And they are.
On Tuesday MLB took another breathtaking blow to the solar plexus as New Times based in south Florida released a blockbuster story, which tragic hero once again is Alex Rodriguez.
Apparently, for four years, from 2009-12, Biogenesis, a modest anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, FL, had been helping normal citizens feel young (wink, wink). Get a legitimate prescription from a legitimate doctor and Biogenesis could supply the feel-goods. It was all legal, as long as the doctor had physically examined the patient. And that had been the catch a few years ago for all those other, online, anti-aging clinics that had been caught handing out prescriptions, sight unseen. They were breaking the law.
On the surface, Biogenesis was a legitimate business enterprise, but, at the same time as it was helping normal folks improve their lives, the clinic's owner, a 49-year-old hustler named Anthony Bosch, whose father is a well-respected physician in Miami, had allegedly been working with a an elite, more secretive client list, keeping personal, handwritten records and allegedly supplying performance enhancing drugs, steroids and human growth hormone to prominent athletes, including many well known MLB stars. Not good.
Biogenesis and its owner, Bosch, as a person of interest, had been well-known to major-league baseball and its Department of Investigations, an important new arm of the commissioner that came into existence as a recommendation of the Mitchell Report back in 2007. Bosch's father, Dr. Pedro Publio Bosch, had been part of an earlier investigation of former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, several years ago. Manny was suspended, twice.
It seems the younger Bosch was never a great businessman. He was forced to close his Biogenesis clinic in December. Unfortunately, he has had this annoying, habit, well-documented by New Times, through the years, with wives, creditors and business associates, of not paying his bills. So it came to be that a disgruntled employee had taken a box of Biogenesis records with him in lieu of salary, walked into New Times offices and dropped the evidence on the desk. Writer Tim Elfrink took it from there.
A startling nugget of information in the tremendously researched piece is that the distribution of Human Growth Hormone in America has become a $1.4 billion industry with the general public. So is pro sports a reflection of society or the other way around?
In any case, the true blockbuster news on Tuesday was that in its four-year existence ending in December, there existed a sloppy paper trail implicating current major-league players Rodriguez, Melky, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal.
There will be no further implications in terms of future punishment for Melky as he prepares to bat second and play left field for the Jays -- as long as he keeps his nose clean. Nothing new was learned of PED transgressions for the period after he was suspended. In fact, Cabrera, Colon and Grandal, a young catcher with the Padres, have already been punished with their 50-game suspensions for failed tests in 2012. But in the two other cases of A-Rod and Cruz, there will most certainly be more news to come.
When A-Rod allegedly came clean a few springs ago, he explained that his use of performance enhancers was restricted to a time between 2001-03 when he was with the Rangers. However, in the new story, his name appears over and over in the handwrittten records of Bosch – between the years 2009-12. The timelines don't jibe. Rodriguez will have some explaining to do to the Yankees and MLB.
As for Cruz, the Rangers' power-hitting outfielder has never failed a drug test that has become public and therein lies the rub. That is the basis for a player being suspended. But his reputation from this moment on in the court of public opinion, will likely never recover.
The current drug agreement in baseball's CBA suggests that what starts as random drug testing can be made more specific and more frequent if there's legitimate suspicion of wrongdoing -- as now seems to be in the cases of A-Rod and Cruz – but that a suspension cannot be issued unless there is a failed result.
By the way, the name of Nationals' lefthander Gio Gonzalez was also in the Biogenesis files, but the pitcher's father, a Miami resident, insisted to New Times that he, himself, was the client for personal health issues, not his son.
Clearly, Biogenesis, BALCO and other shady businesses of that type, have been a big part of baseball's problem. However, someone with an axe to grind wandering into a newspaper office and dumping a bunch of files onto a desk, taken from a clinic that is officially out of business is not enough to hold up in court, in producing further action against anyone, including Bosch. Biogenesis was obviously no BALCO in terms of efficiency, since three of the five named baseball clients all failed drug tests and have accepted their punishments. Then there was Manny and A-Rod, also now tied to Bosch. That incompetence in the art of cheating should also help to act as a deterrent to many young major-league players.
This is never good news to a sport that sells itself as family entertainment. But this entire cleansing process with more and more details from the Steroid Era continuing to become public, would seem a necessary evil to atone for earlier sins.
Two steps forward, one step back. MLB is confident that with a new hGH blood-testing program the World Anti-Doping Agency has labelled the most stringent in pro sports, that the sport is headed in the right direction in efforts to restore the game's image. Let's hope.