As the Biogenesis scandal moves into its next phase, the obvious question is what repercussions, if any, the players associated with Tony Bosch will face. MLB would like to investigate the matter, but most of the records are in the possession of the Miami New Times, and they aren’t sure they want to hand them over to MLB:
Here’s the truth: We haven’t yet decided what do with the records from Tony Bosch’s clinic. We’ve shared many of them already, posting them online last week after carefully redacting names of people we didn’t think were well enough confirmed or sufficiently newsworthy.
The question of whether to release the records is thorny, and there are few precedents. They were given to us by a source who requested anonymity. We will not divulge that person’s name. We take this responsibility very seriously.
Moreover, reporters are not law enforcement. Nor do we discipline anybody for anything. Our job is to transparently lay out the facts and let the public — and responsible parties — decide whether action is needed.
Of course, we do want justice. And as a parent of three kids who play sports, I want badly to discourage use of these drugs that endanger peoples’ health.
Interestingly enough, a lot of reporters don’t think that the paper should aid MLB’s investigation, and Calcaterra agrees with them:
Major League Baseball is a business, not the government. If the New Times’ exposéwas about goings on at General Motors, there would be zero chance at all that it would turn the records of its reporting over to General Motors management, so why on Earth is it considering it now?
This can only be explained by that allusion to the editor’s kids — please, someone, think of the children — and the very successful, century-long campaign by Major League Baseball to make people think that it is some sort of national institution instead of a for-profit business. It already got Congress and the Supreme Court to agree that it’s something greater than a business, getting an antitrust exemption out of them. It likewise pulled that stuff with federal agents and prosecutors during the course of George Mitchell’s investigation, getting them to use their power to give Major League Baseball something it would not have otherwise gotten (i.e. coerced/bargained cooperation from accused drug dealers) because, well, just because.
Craig’s point about the government’s cooperation with MLB and the Mitchell Report is well taken, and I absolutely agree with him that federal investigators acted improperly in that case, but at the same time, I don’t think this is the same thing at all. And I certainly don’t agee with Buster Olney comparing it to MLB’s “refusal” to release a full list of players who failed a dud test during the 2003 screenings, because baseball can’t legally release those names, per their agreement with the union that made it possible in the first place. As I see it, if the paper wants to cooperate there’s nothing inherently unethical about it, provided that they don’t burn any sources they promised anonymity to in the process.
And, frankly, I think the New Times has the m0st sober perspective on the question:
Major League Baseball is the only body that can sanction players involved with performance-enhancing drugs. Though the league passed tough new testing standards, which will take effect this year, they have proven at times ineffective at disciplining players for drug use. Only a handful of players — including San Francisco Giants star Melky Cabrera, who was named in our report — have been suspended for PEDs. Even Alex Rodriguez, who publicly admitted use of steroids a decade ago, hasn’t been disciplined.
Well, maybe a little childish, but the point about MLB’s authority here is a good one in my opinion. To borrow a point William Juliano made earlier: if this were an example of journalists exposing corruption in the police department or city hall, wouldn’t we want them to cooperate with an investigation as much as ethics would allow in the name of serving the public interest? Isn’t affecting some sort of positive change/result the whole point of this sort of investigative reporting in the first place? And, if not, then what is? To bump their web traffic and brand value? And yes, I realize that doping ballplayers isn’t as serious as dirty cops, but then MLB can’t toss anyone in jail either (well, just as long as Walter doesn’t open up a wormhole that tears apart the fabric separating our universe from Mike Lupica’s, anyway).
My view is that the paper should employ a balancing test of possible outcomes here, and that such a test argues in favor of handing over the papers. Without doing that, MLB probably can’t conduct any sort of meaningful investigation into the matter, which woud be a shame for everyone, really. Not only because the rule breakers would get away with it, but because anyone who might be in the accounts without having actually done anything wrong will forever be left to twist in the wind, judged only by the public and the media. And we all know what that will mean for them.