Brewers' Braun Suspended For Season
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
A Milwaukee Brewers outfielder has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. Ryan Braun was the National League's most valuable player two years ago. Braun was also part of an ongoing investigation in BioGenesis. That's a South Florida anti-aging clinic that's alleged to have supplied upwards of 20 players with performance-enhancing drugs. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us now. Good morning.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
MONTAGNE: So, Mike, it was thought for some time that Major League Baseball would be suspending some players, Braun among them, but it was something of a surprise that he agreed to the suspension. Why did he?
PESCA: Yeah. Well, it's because it's a complex case, and the way Major League Baseball got its evidence against BioGenesis was somewhat unique. So, it was well known that if a player wanted to, he could sort of drag out the appeals process. Why would a player want to? Well, if the player's team was in contention, it would help him to stay on the field. And there are a couple of players in that situation. The Milwaukee Brewers, Braun's team, are not a team in contention. Then you also have to look at the money. Braun's contract is structured so he gets more money in 2012. He gets more money in 2013. It will be 10 million in 2013, up to 12 million in 2015. So the 65 games he agreed to be suspended for this year actually is going to cost him less money than if he put off the suspension for a little while. And, of course, you know, Braun is sort of admitting guilt, although he didn't come quite out and say it. So that was sort of surprising.
MONTAGNE: How did baseball get the evidence against the players? I gather there were no positive tests.
PESCA: Right, not from the BioGenesis case. Now, in 2011, Braun did test positive. He appealed that. He won. Set that aside, because that doesn't deal with the situation here. What happened was this anti-aging clinic, BioGenesis, was run by a self-styled, though not literal doctor, Tony Bosch. And Major League Baseball sued him, and they sued him under tortious interference, which is - from what I understand, what the lawyers tell me - sort of like the hidden ball trick of legal strategies, in that people didn't think it would work, but it did work. They flipped Tony Bosch. They subpoenaed him. They deposed him, and they gave him immunity. And once Bosch gave testimony and sort of fleshed out all the notes he had and named names, it seemed like there was a pretty good case against a lot of these players.
MONTAGNE: So, what is the next shoe - well, cleat, maybe - to drop?
PESCA: A-Rod's the biggest name, Alex Rodriguez, but he's maybe even past his time as a useful player. He hasn't set foot on a Major League diamond this year, but he's apparently all over the BioGenesis records. Then you have guys who are on contending teams: Jhonny Peralta for the Tigers, Nelson Cruz for the Texas Rangers. And what Braun's admission and suspension does is it sort of - well, definitely - puts these players in a tough position.
How can they say, oh, all this BioGenesis stuff either didn't happen or this fruit from a poisoned tree, you know, argue that your investigation was improper, when the biggest name in terms of on-field accomplishment has already taken his penalties? Plus, we should also point out that under union rules, the penalty for a first-time offense was 50 games. Here, Braun took a 65-game suspension. So that would seem that the union allowed baseball to go beyond the letter of the agreement, or at least they didn't fight it hammer-and-tong as they could have. A lot of these players might be facing a suspension in a year, or sometime next season. And there are, apparently, at least 20 more names on the BioGenesis ledger.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Pesca on the suspension of Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun for violating the league's drug policies. Mike, thank you very much.
PESCA: You're welcome.