After Ryan Braun, what’s next for Jhonny Peralta?
The suspension of Ryan Braun for the rest of the 2013 season, without pay, answers a lot of questions about what will happen with Braun because of the Biogenesis scandal. And make no mistake that this whole mess is a big scandal. But for other players, including the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta, Braun’s suspension raises even more questions than it provides answers.
What we know, and all we really know about Peralta’s involvement with Biogenesis so far, is that Peralta’s name reportedly showed up somewhere in the records that Major League Baseball obtained from Biogenesis director Anthony Bosch. Exactly what evidence MLB has involving Peralta is not yet clear.
Reports from those close to the investigation--the reporters who are investigating the investigation--indicate that MLB has a massive amount of evidence from Biogenesis, which operated in Miami as an "anti aging clinic." This evidence reportedly includes receipts, records of transactions, sales records and testimony from Bosch.
MLB obtained such records when they cut a deal with Bosch to drop a lawsuit against him that threatened to ruin him. It was a lawsuit without any real merit or purpose other than to obtain the information that they eventually got when they forced Bosch to cooperate with their investigation.
Peralta, for his part, has flatly denied ever using performance enhancing drugs, although I have not seen a denial from the Tigers' All-Star that he was involved with Biogenesis or with Bosch. Chances are that where there is smoke, there is fire, but exactly what Peralta’s involvement with this operation was, we don’t know, and he won’t say up to this point.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported that Peralta did not appear to be directly linked to PEDs in the records.
Peralta does not appear to be directly tied to PEDs in the records, as was also the case with Montero. The Levinsons referred comment to an attorney for Peralta, Barry Boss, who released this statement on behalf of Peralta: "I have never used performance enhancing drugs. Period. Anybody who says otherwise is lying."
We also know that Peralta met with MLB officials about the Biogenesis matter, but refused to answer any questions. There could be a number of reasons for this, the biggest one being that he is not obligated to give information that could incriminate him, with no benefit to him. In fact, anything that he says could be used against him. He would not be wise to give information under those circumstances.
When the Braun suspension was announced, the reply from both the Detroit Tigers and Peralta was "no comment." That he won’t make any further comment to reporters about the matter is also understandable. If he did, the questions would never stop.
The significance of the Braun deal--and he did cut a deal--is that, for the first time, we have a case of a player using performance enhancing drugs who gets tagged with a suspension for more than 50 games, which is the penalty prescribed under the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) for first-time offenders.
Also significant in Braun’s case is the fact that the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) did not protect one of its members, when faced with strong evidence that the player was caught cheating.
Michael Weiner, head of the MLBPA, has said that suspensions in the Biogenesis case do not necessarily need to be dealt with under the terms of the JDA. Players could be suspended for any number of games under the collective bargaining agreement, just as they could in a case involving conduct on the field. Presumably, this is because the case does not involve a player who tested dirty.
When Braun, the 2011 national league’s most valuable player, tested dirty, he was able to get off on a technicality. He berated people involved in the testing process, and acted like a victim, as if he didn’t cheat after all. Very few believed him, but he paid no penalty.
The result of Braun getting off on that technicality is that MLB was more determined than ever to bust him, so they followed up on every lead they had, one of which was Biogenesis. We are now seeing the result of that witch hunt.
What is wrong with all this, is that Braun was able to issue a statement, forfeit just over $3 million in salary for the rest of this season, including the playoffs, and take the rest of the year off. His team is currently 19 games out of first place with no shot at the playoffs. Braun’s statement focused on how his "mistake" caused grief for him, his family, his team and fans.
He cheated, he lied, he got caught, and he cut a deal.
What is also wrong with this, is that there are players involved who are part of a team that actually has a chance to make the playoffs, and their status remains uncertain while Braun gets to sleep in and rest up until 2014, when he is due to receive a big raise. Both MLB and the MLBPA released statements praising Braun for taking his suspension. Is this about cleaning up the game, or is it all about cutting a deal to make it go away?
The process for Peralta could go any number of ways. If he is found to have purchased performance enhancing drugs, MLB will suspend him. It doesn’t have to be 50 games, since he didn’t test dirty and the suspension would not be issued pursuant to the JDA.
If MLB suspends a player under the JDA, they have a right to appeal. If MLB suspends a player outside of the JDA, he has a right to appeal. In either case, the appeals process would drag out past the end of the season. There is a multi-layered appeals process spelled out by the CBA, that could last well into next season.
If Peralta were to be found purchasing PEDs from Biogenesis, and the evidence will need to be more than just a name in a log book, and more than the word of Anthony Bosch, MLB might be able to suspend him and make it stick. They will need receipts or deliver records. Otherwise, there will very likely be an appeal.
If Peralta is found to have purchased PEDs by what Weiner referred to as "overwhelming evidence," the MLBPA will not back him, and he would likely then be forced to cut a deal. That could involve missing games this season, or paying a fine, or missing games next season (which is problematic since he is a free agent after this year). It’s whatever the two sides can agree upon.
The Detroit Tigers, for their part, have more to lose than any other team. They want their All-Star shortstop this season, and not just for the playoffs. If they don’t have Peralta, there might be no playoffs, since they have nothing resembling a major league caliber backup in the organization.
Others involved in the Biogenesis matter include Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Bartolo Colon of the Oakland A’s. Both clubs are involved in a pennant race, and those clubs, like the Tigers, stand to lose a lot more than a team whose cheaters are not involved in a playoff race. Both Cruz and Colon are important players, but not as important as Peralta is to the Tigers.
In fact, some teams stand to benefit by not having to pay the salaries of those who are suspended without pay. The Brewers, the Padres, and even the Yankees, who are clearly more interested in not paying Alex Rodriguez than they are in his return, stand to benefit if their players are suspended.
Porter Fischer, a former employee of Biogenesis, claimed that Anthony Bosch, founder of the clinic, visited A-Rod during the ALCS in Detroit last October, likely to help A-Rod combat his slump. Needless to say, it didn’t help.
Fischer also claimed that MLB payed him $5,000 in exchange for the list of names, that he chose to give up when he left Biogenesis. He reportedly left due to a conflict with Bosch, that included Bosch being $4,000 short on a payment to Fischer. On top of that, Fischer said that A-Rod, after hearing that he was going to release the info, gave Bosch "at least $ 4,000 ‘to make it go away.’"
Rodriguez has denied any involvement with Bosch or Biogenesis, and the Yankees claim that they want A-Rod back ASAP. But MLB could go after Rodriguez not only for purchasing drugs, but for interfering with their investigation. This is the same A -Rod who admitted using PEDs when he was a young All-Star with the Seattle Mariners. Frankly, I don’t believe him or the Yankees. I think the Yankees would like to get out of A-Rod's entire contract, but that’s just me.
The Tigers and Peralta would be in a better position if Peralta were not a free agent after this season. That would make his decision about whether to appeal or to cut a deal so much easier. Peralta no doubt wants to help his team to win a championship. He might appeal just so that he could help them win, and then deal with the consequences of Biogenesis, if any, later on, even if it costs him money in the future.
We might learn something from looking at the case of Melky Cabrera, the former San Francisco Giants’ outfielder, who made the All-Star team in 2012, helped them to the playoffs, and helped the National League gain home field advantage, before being suspended for 50 games. After serving his suspension, he was eligible for the post season, but the Giants didn’t take him back. Maybe they didn't want any more stigma from having a cheater on the roster, or maybe they just didn't want to tinker with a team that was on a roll. In any case, they chose to carry on without him.
In the off season, he still signed a two-year contract, at a reduced value, with the Toronto Blue Jays. For his cheating, Cabrera sat out the pennant drive, the post season, and paid a heavy financial price for his crime. But that was after he decided not to appeal his suspension. Unlike Braun, Cabrera was suspended under the JDA for testing positive for PEDs.
Would the Tigers encourage Peralta not to challenge a suspension, even though they sorely need his bat in the lineup? Would they feel that, if they finally win a championship, that their title would be tainted if Peralta was a big part of the team?
What happens in the case of Peralta and others boils down to evidence. Despite what the pundits on ESPN are saying about the impact of Braun cutting a deal, the credibility of Bosch is seriously in question. Every liar in history, and Bosch is a proven liar, has told the truth at least once in their lives. Just because his statements about Braun stood up doesn’t mean that he is a credible source of evidence regarding other players.
If MLB has proof that Peralta purchased PEDs from Biogenesis, then a suspension is likely. When that suspension takes place is up to Peralta. Without solid proof, Peralta will be with the Tigers for the rest of this season. MLB is likely to cut a deal with the MLBPA to pursue only those cases where there is strong evidence. Neither side wants a big public fight over this issue. But if the Tigers lose Jhonny Peralta for any part of this season, Mike Ilitch and Tiger fans stand to be the biggest losers in this whole mess.