FANALYTICS: Act I, Scene 1

As the wheels of justice creak forward, we are left to ponder the implications of the ever-expanding Biogenesis scandal.

Really though, it's less "scandal" than "theater," isn't it?

Ryan Braun was officially nailed this week after slipping through MLB's clutches earlier on an apparent technicality. There has been much outrage from the media, though it's sometimes hard to tell whether it's about Braun cheating or lying.

For me, it's more about the lying. Nobody wants to be made to look foolish, and everyone who believed his earlier denials are rightfully ticked off about being duped. The cheating? Well, everyone is doing that anyway.

As for the outrage, Joe Sheehan asks why there has not been more of it from other players:

"There's all this concern trolling about the clean players, the ones 'most hurt' by the cheaters' supposed advantage, but when Marlon Byrd signs with the Mets, where is Kirk Nieuwenhuis' outrage? If the players want a clean game, shouldn't Bartolo Colon's job belong to Sonny Gray? Isn't Anthony Gose getting screwed by Melky Cabrera? When Ryan Braun goes to spring training, who speaks for Logan Schafer? No one does."

Well, a few do.

Skip Schumacher was particularly vocal:

"I can't stand it. It needs to be eliminated from the game. I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I'll be taking down. I don't want my son identifying what I've worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have—I don't want him comparing Braun to me.

"In my opinion, he should be suspended, lifetime ban. One strike, you're out. It's enough. It's ridiculous. You're still doing this? This guy is one of the main guys that are the face of the franchise and the face of baseball. For him to do this and maybe get caught twice already is ridiculous. A guy loses his job because of it. Hopefully, he gets that back. He lied. He lied to a lot of people. I was convinced, after that MVP, that he didn't do it. I think he should hand over that MVP to Matt Kemp.

"Suspend them all. It needs to get out of baseball, so how are you going to do it? I know we have an agreement; we all agreed upon the agreement -- 50, 100. I thought that was enough at the beginning of it. But apparently not. Watching him talk right now makes me sick."

Brilliant. Based on this statement, one might conclude that there is no possible way Schumacher himself could be a PED user.

But here's the thing...

We've already learned about Braun's masterful abilities at the thespian arts, proclaiming his innocence without a facial tic for 18 months. Perhaps an equally likely conclusion about Schumacher is that he "doth protest too much, methinks."

Truth is, there has only been a handful of players who have spoken up. And why is that? Most likely because they do not want the spotlight cast on them. They'd rather ply their craft in the shadows at their own chosen level of cleanliness. Attaching their name to a media quote would only serve to draw unwanted light into their dark places.

And now, nobody is safe.

You see, the following players have never failed a drug test...

Nelson Cruz
Everth Cabrera
Jhonny Peralta
Jesus Montero
Francisco Cervelli
Fernando Martinez

...yet we are waiting to see what manner of punishment is going to be doled out for their Biogenesis-implicated infractions. Fifty games? 100 games? 500 games? Five games? All are within the range, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. So maybe Cruz will get nailed for 16 games because his name appears on only two purchase orders while Cervelli will have to sit out for 12 weeks because there are records of 14 phone calls, plus his name was written on the back of three business cards and in the margin of six cocktail napkins.

Again, no drug tests have been failed.

If it doesn't take a failed drug test to get suspended, that allows us to cast out a much wider speculative net. And if Major League Baseball does suspend these players, they will in effect be admitting that their drug testing policy is failing. One (me) might go so far as to call it a sham.

Once more, with feeling: Every one of the above players has passed all their drug tests.

Let's extend the logic. If these players passed all their drug tests yet are guilty—per Biogenesis—then how can we trust that any other player is not potentially guilty as well? There are dozens of PED labs and distributors worldwide. Just do a simple Google search.

So maybe there are handwritten notes with player names from a shuttered distributor in Philadelphia. Or maybe it's a less-trackable source somewhere in Europe. Or even one in Mill Creek, WA that's actually called Bio-Genesis. Take your pick. These sources could be supplying dozens—nay, hundreds—of major leaguers with banned substances. And all these players are skating through their drug tests because, well...

• Some PEDs can be cycled out of the bloodstream within 24-48 hours. Yes, it's a bit of Russian Roulette with random testing, but the odds are still in the players' favor.

• Players may be getting a heads-up on arriving testers. Don't you think it's possible that a travel agent might spill an itinerary or three for a few grand under the table?

• Laboratories are always developing new drugs and masking agents. Players can well afford these. Testers are always going to be one step behind the labs because you can't test for something you don't know exists.

Getting the problem under control via attacking these variables is darned near impossible. That's why the focus has been on using penalties as deterrents. But they are clearly not working.

If Braun's suspension is supposed to be a deterrent to others, that is laughable. He gets to sit out two months of a season in which he has battled injuries and his team is playing out the string. Yes, he's losing a few million dollars but he's not exactly going to need to apply for food stamps.

This is less a suspension than a vacation.

While his reputation may well be sullied for awhile, the public tends to have short memories and can be ridiculously forgiving. Even at the height of Barry Bonds' flagrant mockery, fans cheered him at AT&T Park. Many suspended players followed up their vacations by signing lucrative new contracts. Once Braun is back and hitting home runs -- albeit maybe at 20-25 per year rather than 30-35—past history will be forgotten.

And when it comes to players like Bartolo Colon and perhaps Raul Ibanez—aging former stars catching one last standing ovation—they have little to lose by getting some outside help. If they get caught, it will be: "I've had a great career. So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Deterrent indeed.

As always, my biggest beef is that all this screws up the performance prognostication process. We don't know which numbers are real and which are artificially enhanced. We can't determine nor track trends. And not one player is exempt from scrutiny.

Not Matt Kemp, who wants to lay claim to the 2011 NL MVP award.

Not Chris Davis, who had to deflect PED questions at the All Star Game.

And not Skip Schumacher, who can no more use his diminutive size as a red herring than can 175 lb. Everth Cabrera.

Allegedly, there could be upwards of 80 players involved in the first act of this Danse Macabre. The curtain has barely risen on Scene One.

Sit back.
 

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.