60 Minutes’ piece tonight on Arod, Tony Bosch and Biogenesis was underwhelming. Bosch sat for about 15 minutes with Scott Pelley, explaining the various doping protocols he prepared and helped Arod carry out. He acknowledged that he would still be helping players take banned substances had he not been caught. He also wasn’t particularly apologetic about having helped Arod (and others) cheat, despite several admonishments from Pelley that he helped undermine the integrity of the game. Bosch boasted that he was a true expert on which combinations of drugs would both help boost performance and would make it “easy” to beat MLB’s drug-testing protocol. Of course, other Biogenesis clients, including Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Manny Ramirez failed tests, which raises questions about what kind of batting average is good for a doping expert.
Pelley also interviewed Commissioner Selig and Rob Manfred, the Chief Operating Officer for MLB. Selig said the usual about acting to defend the integrity of baseball. I’ve said before that I think he’s got little credibility in this area, but it doesn’t follow from his past actions that he was wrong to want to throw the book at Alex.
The real question is whether MLB’s evidence was sufficient to render such a long suspension – the longest for banned substances in the history of the sport. And the answer is: I don’t know. MLB is paying for Bosch’s lawyers and security, and has promised to help him avoid prosecution. In addition to Bosch’s checkered relationship to truth-telling, this has raised basic questions about his credibility. Unsurprisingly, one of Arod’s lawyer’s, Joe Tacopina, dripped with contempt as he talked about Bosch and considered laughable MLB’s attempt to portray Bosch as a reliable witness. When Pelley asked Manfred how he could know Bosch was credible, Manfred said that you had to “look him in the eye” and determine that as best you can.
This version of the “eye test” is close to useless. People invariably exaggerate their own capacity to judge accurately other people. The eye test is, of course, not the only basis for Manfred’s judgment. He’s hired an army of investigators to try to authenticate the Biogenesis documents that purport to show Arod’s use of banned drugs and to corroborate other elements of Bosch’s claims.
On one level, all that matters in this case is the opinion of baseball’s independent arbitrator, Frederic Horowitz. There’s been a lot of discussion of the validity of the arbitration process in the aftermath of Alex’ case. Arod impugned it as a kangaroo court and a farce during the proceedings in the fall. A key basis for Rodriguez’ and his lawyers’ criticism – that Arod’s “accuser,’ Bud Selig, didn’t testify – was, as I pointed out at the time, idiotic. But that doesn’t mean that arbitrators can’t make mistakes, or be swayed by evidence and testimony that they ought to treat more skeptically. Because the hearing was closed, we don’t know the particulars of the testimony and evidence offered there. But as dumb as Arod’s criticism of the process was in the fall – lots of media types this weekend have erred similarly in the opposite direction. Yes, arbitration is collectively bargained. No, it doesn’t follow from that that arbitrators can’t make mistakes, even fundamental ones. They’re people, with their biases and limitations just like everyone else. And it’s worth recalling that Horowitz’ predecessor, Shyam Das, who’d served in the position thirteen years, was canned by the owners after decision to render invalid Ryan Braun’s failed 2011 drug test – a decision about which MLB was livid. Whether that sort of behavior might influence Horowitz at all is hard to say. But it’s not impossible.
From everything we’ve heard, Arod has almost no chance of winning relief in the federal courts from his now year-long season long suspension. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Arod used banned substances. What he used, and how often, I obviously have no idea. But it’s also clear that Tony Bosch is a generally less than forthright individual, that baseball acquired his testimony under highly problematic circumstances, that Bud Selig is a hypocrite and that baseball has been willing in the past to remove arbitrators when it didn’t like their decisions.
All of which is to say – this is not a pristine process and no one here has covered themselves with glory.