Bring out the witches!

I’ll be blunt: as I said on last night’s podcast, I’ve been a bit uneasy about the allegations that Tony Bosch was running a massive PED ring out of his anti-aging quackfest since they first surfaced in the Miami New Times. I certainly wouldn’t call it out and out disbelief or anything, but the combination of a small outlet beating the big boys like Yahoo or the New York Times to a major story like that and the inclusion of 2012 Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez in the report even though he admittedly was not linked to any banned substances gave off a distinct vibe that the paper was primarily trying to be the first ones to post a list of juicy names and claim a sure-t0-be-huge story as their own.

Well we’ve certainly reached that point now, haven’t we? The latest reports in the story amount to nothing more than an airing of certain names who appear in Bosch’s records (including Francisco Cervelli and Jesus Montero), even though said records don’t seem to tie them directly to doping, and apparently without seeking comment from the accused first. If nothing else, it’s a convenient reminder that the vast majority of prominent baseball writers simply can’t be trusted to treat a story with any semblance of objectivity or basic journalistic professionalism once there’s a doping angle in play.

The pinnacle of that phenomenon at the moment is, of course, Ryan Braun, who can more or less expect to be hounded by the zealots for the rest of his life simply for having the audacity to successfully defend himself against doping charges. That Braun was in Bosch’s documents, linked “again” to banned substances, was the big lead in the new round of reports. Except that it now appears as though there’s nothing of substance there. Braun is one of the players who aren’t directly linked to banned substances a la Alex Rodriguez or Melky Cabrera, and Braun and his lawyers now claim that Bosch was used as a consultant in his appeal. Of course, that’s no deterrent to national sportswriters, since everyone knows that one well documented effect of “PE”DOTTUBHA is to make J-school graduates experts in every conceivable area, including the common practices of high priced attorneys.

Which is not to say that this is wholly without merit. Last night was not a good night for A-Rod, for example, because the explanations offered up by Braun and Cervelli do more or less authenticate at least some of Bosch’s records, adding a lot of credibility to the evidence agaisnt Alex. Of course, I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere, because thus far it’s all been a mad rush to tar Braun once and for all. And to be clear, I’m not saying there might not be something here, merely that you simply can’t trust the media here at all. If you’re really interested in facts, your best bet is to wait for MLB and the government to finish their investigations.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

24 thoughts on “Bring out the witches!

  1. "your best bet is to wait for MLB and the government to finish their investigations"

    I want to 100% agree with that comment, Brien, but lordy, since when have either of those two organizations been correct/forthright/coherent/complete with any investigation?

    That said, your point about the ARod (and others) not having a good night due to the fact that Braun corroborated the evidence is not one I considered at the time, but I completely agree. Great point.

    • Just remember, MLB's "thorough" PED investigation centered primarily around Mitchell speaking to TWO highly-questionable people and believing everything they said. And not to fuel conspiracy theories, but let's not forget that Mitchell is a friend to the Red Sox—a team full of highly questionable or proven users—who put out a list primarily targeted at the Yankees.

      • The Mitchell report was shit, but not for the reasons you stated. Those "highly questionable people" were speaking with the feds in the room, meaning that they could be charged with crimes for making any false statements just like Martha Stewart and many others. And the report did not focus on Yankees because of any Red Sox connection. It focused on Yankees because Mitchell had no legal authority to do anything other than to gather information from the New York source busted by the Feds. If the feds had busted some Boston-based supplier, the report would have been filled with Red Sox instead of Yankees.

    • Maybe so, but no one else has any credibility at all. The Daily News article, for example, includes no indication at all as to whether Montero is tied to doping by the records or not, it just name drops.

  2. The corroboration of the legitimacy of the records is the most significant part of the story; I agree with that.

    Regarding Braun, I am an attorney, and it is credible that his lawyers would have hired an expert in doping to consult with them. Apparently one of Braun's lawyers is named in the records, and Braun said there was a payment dispute, which is also credible (experts can be paid a fixed fee or by the hour; if Bosch was the latter, it's imaginable that there was a dispute over the number of hours worked).

    But for the same reason, the other players named have a bigger cloud over their heads. Why would you be in the client list of a Jedi Doping Master like Bosch if you weren't doping? Did anyone really go to Balco for vitamins? Montero, moreover, is a client of the Levinsons, just like Cabrera, who was caught doping. That would be a helluva coincidence if Montero wasn't doping. The concomitant to innocent until proven guilty is, you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. If you're in Bosch's books, right now you got some fleas on you.

    • I don’t know that BALCO is a great comparison though, because the culture of doping is so much different now than it was then. And the parallel question is: if Bosch has detailed and accurate records of some of these guys doping, why wouldn’t he have similar records for everyone else if they were all doing it?

    • -continued-

      "If you’re really interested in facts, your best bet is to wait for MLB and the government to finish their investigations."

      I'm not so sure. Bosch is likely the target of the DEA investigation, so he's not going to be talking, unless he can lead the government to a bigger fish, and I'm not aware of any bigger fish as of now. That means that evidence is going to have to come from a Radomski or McNamee type whom the government flips to go after Bosch, at which point we have Son of the Mitchell Report, which as the Clemens trial demonstrated, is not convincing beyond a reasonable doubt.

    • As a fellow attorney, I pretty much agree with this. But, as I stated in the prior post, I would love to know how Braun's attorneys got Bosch's name as an expert in the first place. I would also like more information regarding Bosch's retention and payment and whether he submitted invoices for expert services rendered.

      • Yes, I just saw that (I'm reading down the blog list rather than chronologically as I probably should), and I agree with everything you say. I did find the lawyer's passive voice "Bosch was consulted" an interesting elision of who actually reached out to him. It's rank speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised if Braun himself did that based on what he'd heard from other players. As someone else pointed out, $20-30k is nothing compared to the cost of a 50-game suspension, and Braun might easily have been duped into vastly overpaying for "expert" advice.

    • This sure seems like something we (as fans) will never have concrete information one way or another.

      Oddly, part of me still thinks that professional sport leagues should just stop the witch hunt and let players do whatever they want to get ahead. If it shortens their lives because they are doing things that aren't remotely healthy to pursue to get ahead, let them do it and pay the price for seeking glory, fame, and money.

      The other part of me is annoyed that sports are now so tarnished by this that I'm always going to have doubts about it. Like Ed Reed's hurting his knee on a play after getting beat pretty badly and soon after jogging to the locker room "to get it checked out" according to the announcers and then coming back after the power outage in the superbowl and playing like a man possessed. I don't know about anyone else, but if I think I just hurt my knee then jogging isn't one of the things I would immediately do before getting it checked out further.

      • "Oddly, part of me still thinks that professional sport leagues should just stop the witch hunt and let players do whatever they want to get ahead. If it shortens their lives because they are doing things that aren't remotely healthy to pursue to get ahead, let them do it and pay the price for seeking glory, fame, and money."

        I'm not going to even get into the "integrity of the game/fairness" aspect. To me, the real problem with this is that it potentially "forces" someone to do steroids who doesn't want to. If MLB lets players do whatever they want, like in the 80s and 90s, then doesn't it pressure everyone to do it too just to keep up? I'm not talking about a megastar like Bonds who just wanted more attention because McGwire/Sosa stole his spotlight. I'm talking about middle-of-the-road guys. Guys who, on a level playing field, could make the bigs but may not because someone juices up and surpasses them. This in't about seeking "glory, fame and money" but about securing employment.

        • The middle-of-the-road guys are represented by the union that was complicit in what happened in the PED era. They turned as much of a blind-eye to it as anyone else. Where were the cries of the outraged middle-of-the-road guys during the pre-testing days? The union only changed their tune on testing because public opinion turned on them (and the owners tried to make them the fall guy on why there was inadequate testing).

          (For that matter, where was the outrage during the greenies days from the people who didn't do greenies?)

          As far as securing employment goes for a professional athlete … I'm so far removed from that world, I'm not sure how to relate to it. But if they were concerned about it, we should have heard about it way earlier than it came out.

          But even if they are concerned about it now, the average fan is still left in the dust. How do we tell if Braun, A-Rod , or Gio Gonzalez are really clean? There have been plenty of accusations, but short of a confession, we will ever be able to silence the doubt that the accusations create? I ask this because it is well documented that testing systems will never be perfect.

          So in the wake of that, what are the players and owners supposed to do to stop the conversation in baseball being about PEDs and the testing system?

          The other question I have is: Should any testing system used on employees only test for things that are illegal at the federal and/or state level?

        • I just want to politely point out that steroids were common in baseball in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. It blows my mind how people forget steroids were used heavily in the 60s and 70s, I guess that is when most writers were in their formative years and they couldn't handle the idea that their favorite players were likely using.

          • Thanks for pointing that out. It's a bit before my time of really paying attention to sports, so I wasn't aware of that.

          • There isn't direct evidence that people were using in the 60s, but steroids were widely available, used in many other sports, and players who retired in the mid 70s admitted to have used throughout their entire career (and obviously their careers would have started during the 60s). People definitely used in the 70s, and people even admitted to as much *!at the time!*. One early player who admitted to using steroids is Tom House, who claims he used all during the 70s and that it was a 'failed experiment.' He said that anywhere from 20 to 30% of each team in the MLB were using steroids and HGH. In the 1970s. It is like people went into a coma in the 80s and then feigned outrage in the 2000s about everything they had apparently missed.

            In the 1960s the east germans had a state sponsored program giving out anabolic steroids to its athletes so they could win more gold medals at the olympics. In 1954 the russian weight lifting coach admitted his teams training included shots of various forms of testosterone, and 1958 the American team was using anabolic steroids, since they didn't like the side effects of testosterone. Paul Lowe, the football player, said his team was taking steroids every day at lunch in the 1970s. The average weight of athletes around the world jumped dramatically from the 1950s to 1970s.

            Testosterone shots have been around for a long time. American athletes have been using them since the 50s. Anabolic steroids were first used for competitive advantage in 1958, and this is assuming people weren't doing it secretly before then. Once weight lifters began seeing massive improvements from steroids, all the other sports quickly jumped in. By the end of the 60s, many countries around the world were giving steroids to their athletes in state funded and state run programs. Players in all the major professional leagues admitted to using steroids in the 70s, and many hinted at using sooner than that.

  3. I'm all for skepticism, but don't let it cloud your judgement.

    For starters, the fact that the New Times beat out larger media outlets for the story really doesn't affect the veracity of the story. They most likely got the story because they are the MIAMI New Times. Their reputation makes a difference in their believability, but not their size.

    While Braun is not listed with specific treatments, the "Braun advantage" is referenced regarding (presumably) Melky Cabrera. If Braun consulted Bosch solely in defense of his case, what is the "Braun advantage"?

    Also, as a point of clarification, Passan did say on MLB Network last night that all of the "new" names were contacted in advance of the story's publication and that none of them replied.

  4. Why is it so hard for some people to accept that there are baseball players who still use PEDs? There is no vast conspiracy here. Braun got off on a technicality last year. Is it really so hard to fathom that he actually used PEDs and his connection to this Bosch goes beyond a "consulting" arrangement? Perhaps Cervelli is telling the truth but let's not pretend that PED use ended the day MLB implemented testing. The best cheaters will always be one step ahead of the testing, or fall victim to it as Melky demonstrated last year.

      • To be fair, Brien, it's more of a technicality than we care to admit. Now, I know I went over this ad nauseum when this first broke about Braun and the appeal decision was made, but not everyone had the benefit of seeing that discussion with myself and Larry (whose excellent and detailed explanation as to the "active matrix" aspects, etc. made more sense). But, again, there are aspects of "technicality" in the defense of chain of custody for something that was acceptable for other such collections this guy made for other tests — but not for the CBA. Larry's points effectively debunked why that shouldn't matter but, again, not everyone may have seen it.

  5. When it comes to the mainstream Mediots, you have to realise — Journalism had become all but extinct by the '90s. What *used* to be standard fodder for the front of The National Enquirer is what now passes for "News". Anyone familiar with what used to be known as "News Journalism" among the mainstream is now confined to the Interwebs.

    What the mainstream is bringing you is no more than a gossip mill. Why do y'all think all the writers for the "major" mediot outlets are on Twitter & the like, being no different than the grapevines at any workplace?

    I visit forums & blogs with knowledgeable writers and fans, and let them sift everything out before coming to conclusions. Anything seen in a mainstream "paper" or on "evening news" is half-truth/gossip at best.