Detroit — Jhonny Peralta isn’t talking. But Anthony Bosch reportedly is.
And at the moment, that’s all that seems to matter, which makes at least one of Peralta’s veteran teammates in the Tigers’ clubhouse wonder just what it is that everyone else is talking about here.
“It’s like a witch hunt,” outfielder Torii Hunter said, reacting to news Major League Baseball is prepared to suspend as many as 20 players — maybe more, with Peralta reportedly among those in jeopardy — in an unraveling scandal involving accusations of performance-enhancing drug use and Bosch’s anti-aging clinic in south Florida.
There still is so much we don’t know about what MLB knows, or what it thinks it knows. Or even what it hopes to know soon, based on the records it already has from that Biogenesis clinic and the “full cooperation” Bosch has promised, according to ESPN, in exchange for helping him avoid financial ruin and possible jail time, among other perks.
But it’s obvious the commissioner’s office is intent on pursuing this to the bitter end, and determined to punish the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, huge stars and former MVPs who’ve been linked to PEDs in the past but escaped penalties. (Fool me once ...)
It seems clear, too, that the commissioner himself, Bud Selig, who says he’ll retire from his post after next season, would like to alter his legacy before it’s fully written. If he’s going to be the man on whose watch steroids first reared their ugly head — officially, at least — he’d like to exit being applauded for doing something about it.
And certainly, if there are suspensions handed down, ones that stand up to the inevitable appeals — if Bosch is the star witness, he’s also a sketchy one — then it’d be a victory for Selig, even if it sullies another summer for the national pastime.
Few know the real story
For now, though, it sure feels like a no-win proposition for everybody involved. Certainly for a player like Peralta, who months ago denied any PED use. His name now appears tainted even if his performance may not be. (And how’s that for a guilty-sounding presumption of innocence?) But also for the game, which remains guilty by association, and scrambling for cover from another round of questions about PEDs and baseball’s history of pitching around the issue.
“I think the best way I can sum it up,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, “is baseball as an industry, we’re paying a price for burying our heads in the sand some years ago.”
At the moment, you hardly can blame them, though. Tigers manager Jim Leyland balked when asked a general question about the issue Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m usually not afraid to speak my mind, but I want to know what I’m talking about when I do,” Leyland said. “And I truthfully know nothing about this stuff.”
Hunter and his teammates mostly were taking a pass, too.
“Players are not talking about it,” Hunter said. “We’re not talking about it at all. ... Just do what you want. We’re not gonna talk about it. We’re past it. Because we don’t want to get punished. I mean, I think the system works. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t have caught this. So it’s working.”
Well, I don’t know about that. This Biogenesis case, much like the BALCO investigation of a decade ago, certainly didn’t start with a failed drug test. And the notion that MLB’s new-and-improved drug policy — including random tests for human growth hormone — is somehow ahead of the game is as laughable as A-Rod’s contract. (Go ask BALCO kingpin Victor Conte about synthetic testosterone testing.)
Still, I can’t blame Hunter for insisting there’s nothing to talk about yet. Because there isn’t.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “We don’t know what guys did. We just know names. We don’t know what they did.”
We may never know, of course. But we certainly won’t until MLB officials interview Bosch and interview the players in the next few weeks and then decide on possible suspensions, perhaps sometime around the All-Star break. The MLB Players Association was quick to wave the caution flag Wednesday, saying it would be “unfortunate” if anyone “prejudged” this investigation. Translated: Before you start leaking stories about catching the bad guys, and about double-jeopardy suspensions, you’d better make sure you’ve got a real case.
But you know who really got caught in this? Anybody who ever believed in the “post-steroids era” of baseball. And frankly, that’s a list that includes many more names than any Bosch had in his possession. (A quick Google search of that phrase, in fact, returns a mere 120,000 results.)
“My concern is about the game and the game being clean, and the game just being good,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters in New York on Wednesday. “I’d hoped we were through it, but obviously, maybe we're not. We’re going to find out."
Hey, Joe, I’ve got news for you: We’re not.
There is no fountain of youth. But this being a kids’ game, some of the grown-ups who play baseball for a living — to say nothing of the other major pro sports — will forever search for one. And where that’ll take many of them, we already know.
As former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who authored baseball’s first extensive steroid investigation in 2007, explained in a Sirius XM radio interview earlier this winter, “There’s never gonna be an end to this.”
We have laws against murder and robbery, Mitchell noted, yet no one expects murder and robbery to end, do they? So, he concluded, “I don’t think you can expect that you’re gonna reach a point where you say, ‘Well, that’s it, there’s no more of this stuff and it’s all over.’”
Nope, but there’ll be plenty more to talk about.