Jul 31

Alex Rodriguez Must Stand Up To Bud Selig

The issues in the Biogenesis case are two-fold: 1) the accused players supposedly used PEDs, which is against the rules of MLB’s drug policy, and 2) they used illegal drugs, thereby breaking the real law.

It is there that gives Commissioner Bud Selig authority to go after these guys and dole out punishments, some exceeding the 50-game ban for a first offense.

RODRIGUEZ: Not doing much smiling these days.

RODRIGUEZ: Not doing much smiling these days.

Cleaning up the game is admirable, but I am wondering if the ends justify these means. Selig has gone to bed with Tony Bosch, whose reputation is tainted and word questionable at best. Major League Baseball couldn’t get its own evidence, so they paid for it.

Kind of sleazy, don’t you think?

Major League Baseball paying Bosch taints its case, but Ryan Braun rolling over without a whimper gave Bosch a large degree of credibility, at least in the eyes of the other players cited. And, union chief Michael Weiner’s meek approach of coming out and saying the union would not support the players charged seriously weakens the Players Associations’ leverage not only in this case, but possibly in future labor negotiations.

Currently, Selig holds all the cards, and that’s not healthy for the future of the sport. He now has absolute power to do what he wants, but baseball is making a pile of money so nobody will contest him on any issue.

Braun did his fellow players a disservice by not challenging the charge and just taking the punishment. It showed he was out just for himself. Others will do the same. If the accused work out their own deals, what does that say about the union?

As for Alex Rodriguez, there’s a lot of evidence that makes him look bad, including his admission of using steroids prior to MLB’s get tough drug policy. Since he admitted using prior to the policy, there was no suspension.

There’s a lot of evidence Rodriguez is hip deep in all this, from recruiting other players to Bosch and trying to cover his butt. But, how credible is the evidence if it is supplied by Bosch, who is trying to save his own skin? How much of that evidence is real and documented, and how much of it circumstantial?

If nothing else, Rodriguez has to show he’s a team player in the eyes of his colleagues by forcing Selig’s hand.

I want the game clean, just as Selig does, but I wonder if the evidence he has is real or myth. The man is a used car salesman. He made his fortune bluffing. This isn’t a regular court where discovery must be turned over to the defense. This has the makings of a kangaroo court.

If Selig is relying on circumstantial evidence and has no witnesses other than Bosch, he’s playing a game of chicken with the players, and so far the players are blinking. They are doing so because they don’t feel any backing from the union.

Rodriguez has long been accused of being a selfish player, and rightfully so. However, in this case Rodriguez must contest Selig to make him show his cards. And, the union, if it wants to continue being a viable force, must go to bat for these guys. If Rodriguez contests this he will be doing his fellow players more than just a favor.

Defending the Biogenesis players seems ridiculous on the surface if the intent is to clean up the sport. However, there’s a right way to do things, and because of that the union must contest the suspensions to ensure proper due process protocols are followed.

The union must stand up to Selig to show it is still a viable force and won’t capitulate at everything the owners and commissioner wants, because what they want isn’t always in the game’s best interest, but their own financial gains.

ON DECK: Jenrry Mejia and game preview.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 23

Has The Players Association Lost Its Teeth?

Is the Baseball Players Association, usually regarded as professional sports’ most powerful union, no more? Perhaps not as toothless as the impotent unions representing players in football, basketball and hockey, but in light of the Biogenesis disgrace that’s the impression.

Director Michael Weiner’s recent comments the MLBPA would not stand in the way of Biogenesis suspensions – with Ryan Braun’s for the remainder of the 2013 season the first – is not representative of a vibrant union.

The union’s rap was it would defend an ax murderer, but there is a minimum understanding in the reasoning for such a reputation. The union’s job is to not only enhance its members’ financial position, but also defend them against often overzealous owners.

While it is understandable and admirable of Commissioner Bud Selig for wanting to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the sport, the terms of Major League Baseball’s drug policy was defined by collective bargaining.

Selig’s heart is in the right place in wanting to clean his sport, despite that he and the owners initially looked the other way during the height of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa steroid-fueled home run chase in 1998, and subsequent shameful acceptance of Barry Bonds’ assault on Hank Aaron’s true home run record.

The policy has checks and balances and an appeals process, one Braun utilized and skated on a technicality. Braun beat the suspension because a MLB handler made a mistake. The process was in place to enable Braun to walk.

It is a process designed to avoid a witch-hunt and unfair prosecution of a player. I have no sympathy for a cheater and as a Hall of Fame voter will not vote for player linked to steroids. I want steroids gone from the sport, but want them eliminated the right way.

The Biogenesis case has been ugly from the start, with the evidence more than circumstantial against Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others. However, MLB did not have subpoena powers to obtain records from Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, who for a price, since went to bed with Selig against the players.

That’s distasteful and creates the impression of Selig being vindictive against Braun for beating the first suspension. It was undoubtedly embarrassing for Selig and MLB to lose that case, but it was a sign the drug policy was working.

For MLB’s drug policy to continue to work it must have an appeals process and the players can’t be denied due process. Weiner should not accept MLB’s case against the Biogenesis players without question and simply taking Selig’s word, especially with him having to purchase the evidence against players from Bosch, whose reputation is certainly not above reproach.

There have been eight work stoppages in baseball, the last one the 1994 strike forced on the players by the owners for their refusal to bargain in good faith on the issues of revenue sharing and a salary cap. This one bled into two seasons and forced Selig to sack the World Series. After that, it was hoped the two sides learned something as to never have another stoppage, and after a near miss in 2002, that turned out to be the case.

However, did peace come at the price of the MLBPA selling out to Selig and the owners? For all practical purposes, Selig has his salary cap. And, if the MLBPA gives in without a hint of due process, in what other areas will the union capitulate?

And, how healthy is that to baseball’s growth?

ON DECK: About Last Night: Not liking Bobby Parnell’s response.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 06

Major League Baseball’s Case Against Rodriguez And Braun Not Ironclad

What I want to see is the Mets play as compelling and emotional game as the Boston Bruins played last night. However, as it is with the Mets’ luck, it isn’t surprising that the Major League Baseball war against PED users in the Biogenesis case is set to explode at the All-Star Game.

It will be interesting to see how Major League Baseball spins off the Home Run Derby as its lawyers are running to court and back.

It is admirable Bud Selig wants to clean up the sport he allowed to get sullied by looking at steroid usage in the first place; how he tried to buy back the good will of the fans he alienated by killing off the 1994 World Series in the owner-initiated work stoppage with the chemically-enhanced Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase.

Caving under the pressure of attendance drops coupled by the criticism from the not-knowing that the game is too boring, Selig sold out for the quick fix of the home run.

That decision, along with the interleague play gimmick – also in the wake of the work stoppage – will forever be Selig’s legacy as commissioner.

Now, add the Biogenesis case.

Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend 20 players for connection to Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch, but its primary guns are aimed at Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, who have made a mockery of the sport’s drug policy.

Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids for only a three-year period while with Texas and not with the Yankees, has repeatedly denied using again. Braun tested positive after his MVP season, but escaped punishment on a technicality.

Major League Baseball has been fuming since and this is coming off as the vendetta it is rather than a simple cleansing act.

While the picture looks bleak for Rodriguez and Braun, Major League Baseball shouldn’t celebrate too soon, as a sharp lawyer will attempt to turn this around.

Bosch initially refuted MLB’s request to turn over his records – he had no legal obligation to do so – and only is cooperating with Selig dropping the lawsuit against him. It was a lawsuit Bosch arguably could have won if he was able to afford to go against Major League Baseball’s deep pockets.

Bosch’s decision to go to bed with MLB came after Rodriguez refused to give him financial support, one of the few smart things the troubled Yankees’ third baseman has done in recent years.

It looks as if Bosch is turning on Rodriguez because he is, and that appearance doesn’t look good for Major League Baseball, which, when it comes to PEDs, has looked bad before Congress, and couldn’t put away Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds.

The technicality in which Braun escaped might be valid, but the sport comes off as a sore loser in not winning in arbitration.

If Selig wants to play hardball against PED users, that’s great, but there are other ways, and he will need the backing of the Players Association, which can’t be happy about this case. Instead, Major League Baseball is putting all its eggs in the Bosch basket, and he hasn’t been reputable from the start.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 02

MLB Chooses Non-Confrontational Route In Discipline Of Umpire Tom Hallion

Not surprisingly, Major League Baseball took the path of least resistance in its decision to fine all the parties involved in the Tom Hallion-David Price incident last Sunday.

Long story short, according to Price on Twitter, Hallion told him: “Throw the [expletive] ball over the plate.’’ Later, Hallion called Price “a liar.’’

MLB fined Price, and Rays pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore – caught in the cross fire – $1,000 apiece, claiming Price violated baseball’s social media policy. Fair enough, as MLB has a policy in place on social media.

Hallion was fined an undisclosed amount, and one could only hope it was more because MLB feels the umpire provoked and escalated the issue. MLB isn’t saying, and of course, neither is the umpire’s union.

Joe Torre, who oversees MLB disciplinary cases, was dealing with an untenable situation. For years MLB placated the umpires to the point where they’ve become overcome with self-importance and arrogance. He knows there are fine limitations set by collective bargaining with the players, but the umpire’s union plays hardball on every issue, big or small. The Players Association won’t go to war with a fine or limited suspension; the umpires will cross swords if Torre raised his eyebrows to them.

Umpiring is a tough job and these guys, for all the static they receive, do it better than anybody. That’s not to say they can’t do better and improvement can’t be made.

I still say the only way to avoid these “he said, he said’’ confrontations is to have the umpires wired to microphones they can’t control.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos