Stop me if you think that you've heard this one (from ESPN) before:
Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, who has repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs, refused to answer questions during a recent meeting with Major League Baseball about his connection to Tony Bosch and the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, sources told "Outside the Lines."
Commissioner Bud Selig's office is expected to suspend Braun and Rodriguez, along with as many as 20 players sometime after next week's All-Star break, for their roles in the Biogenesis case, several sources told "Outside the Lines." As OTL reported, MLB started building cases against the players last month after Bosch agreed to cooperate with investigators.
The question is the length of the suspensions.
Would an innocent man refuse to answer questions? Sure. But it's hard to figure what this innocent man might have gained by remaining silent. If not answering gets you suspended, why not answer? Just so Commissioner Bud doesn't get the satisfaction?
Okay, so that's mostly a rhetorical question. I'm sure that Braun, if innocent, has his reasons. And he does seem like such a nice young man. Anyway, the timing of these supposed suspensions does seem at least a little ... calculated. Why not before the All-Star break? Well, maybe because the i's and t's won't be dotted and crossed soon enough. Or maybe because Major League Baseball just wants to delay the bad news until after the summer's biggest event. For that matter, though, why not wait until after the season? Some of the pennant races might be seriously affected, if so many players are really going to draw significant suspensions.
Well, I think it's about balancing the desire for the least possible bad publicity with the desire to avoid the appearance of feet-dragging, which certainly would be a reasonable accusation if they waited until November. As I've said about the Biogenesis investigation before, Baseball's betwixt and between; there's no good way, so instead it's just about trying to find the least-bad way.
Ah, but what about the players? Don't they have anything to say about all this?
You know, as much as Bud Selig likes to talk about labor peace, he's sure going out of his way to piss off the MLBPA right about now.— Colin Wyers (@cwyers) July 9, 2013
This isn't how I read the situation. With Major League Baseball and the Players Association enjoying an unprecedented stretch of labor peace, and with ever-larger revenues rolling in every year, and with Selig supposedly retiring in a year or so -- I know, I know, we'll believe it when we see it -- I think that pissing off the players is just about the last thing Commissioner Bud wants to do, right about now.
Which is why I think the players aren't going to be pissed off. Were players pissed off when Melky Cabrera drew a 50-game suspension last year? Some of them were undoubtedly pissed off at Cabrera. If any of them were pissed off at the Commissioner, it didn't make the newspapers. Do you remember when a rule was instituted with the express purpose of disqualifying Cabrera from winning the batting title? Do you think Melky was just sitting around some afternoon, between twiddling his thumbs and creating fake websites, when he thought, "Hey, I know! I'll beg Major League Baseball to create 'the Melky Rule'! And maybe if I beg even harder, the union won't make a fuss!"
No. That one was in the bag. While it's true that Major League Baseball obviously didn't want Melky winning a batting title, it also seems manifestly true that the players didn't want Melky winning a batting title. And in the face of unified opposition, he saved as much face as he could by making it seem like the whole thing was his idea.
The players are sick of it. They're sick of taking illegal drugs supplied by shady characters. They're sick of the bad publicity, and they're sick of the testing. And every time Melky Cabrera or Alex Rodriguez gets busted, everyone else faces the prospect of more bad publicity and more testing.
The culture has changed. Ten years ago, even the clean players -- however few of them there were -- wouldn't say anything negative about drug users. In that culture, they couldn't, for fear of getting beaten down by the majority, and particularly the veterans who ran (and run) the clubhouses.
Ten years ago, when players said things like, "No, of course I don't use drugs or condone them, but I'm not here to judge," they were really saying either, "Yeah, of course I use steroids, but I'm not telling you," or "Man, I wish I could tell you how much I hate steroids and how many of my teammates are using them, but these guys will kill me if I say anything."
The culture has changed. Last week, Rick Reilly essentially tried and convicted Chris Davis for drug use. I'm not going to dissect Reilly's sloppy, lazy thinking here; Mike Bates has done that dirty work already. But here's essentially where Reilly went off the rails ... He writes as if absolutely nothing has changed in the last 10 years, and in one respect he's right: Human nature has not changed one iota. But somehow he's missed something huge, which is that the culture has changed. Not human nature, which is the same. Not the drive to succeed, athletically and financially, which is also the same. But the culture has changed.
If you don't believe that -- say, if you're Rick Reilly -- then you essentially have to believe that the Major League Baseball Players Association is engaged in some sort of vast conspiracy of disinformation, wherein dozens and dozens of players don't just deny using drugs, but also castigate those who do, and advocate severe penalties.
That would be a hell of a thing. If it existed. Which it doesn't.
Everything Commissioner Selig is doing, he's doing with the acquiescence, and perhaps the assistance, of the Players Association. Otherwise, he couldn't get these things done. There's a big conspiracy, all right. And everybody's involved, except for a few rogues who just can't resist the lure of better living through illegal chemistry.
There will always be a few rogues. But Rick Reilly's ability to ferret them out is highly suspect. In the parlance of the game, he's a "guess hitter."
Swinging with his eyes closed.