The make-me-laugh moment came when a U.S. attorney, Wilfredo A. Ferrer, said this of Biogenesis scoundrel Anthony Bosch and his dirtbag associates after their arrests in south Florida: “These defendants were motivated by one thing: money. The reality was they were putting these athletes at risk by knowingly providing them with these drugs.”
Putting these athletes at risk? Oh, and Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Bartolo Colon and the rest were merely innocent, unknowing victims in the largest performance-enhancing-drugs scandal in American sports history, cajoled into taking PEDs by the evil Bosch. What, did he carjack them, handcuff them, lead them blindfolded into his “anti-aging’’ clinic in a run-down Coral Gables strip mall and force-feed the stuff down their throats?
Don’t make the mistake of viewing Bosch’s bust as some sort of triumphant moment for Sheriff Bud Selig, Deputy Rob Manfred and the boys at Major League Baseball. Now hear this: As recently as last year, several of the sport’s top stars were participating in a seedy PED scandal — these were just the ones who got caught — and we have no reason to think PEDs still are being used in clubhouses. Selig says there hasn’t been a positive PED test involving a major-leaguer this season, but if we’ve learned anything from the last 20 years, it’s that the scientists and the masking agents always are ahead of the cops. This week’s arrests only remind us that Selig and the owners let the drug stench reek for two decades, spilling into a would-be renaissance for the game. Tuesday should have been about the first-ever collision of Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, a titanic Hollywood showdown, a must-see showcase of baseball’s most dominant pitcher facing baseball’s most complete player.
Instead, Tuesday was about another PED scumbag being hauled away. That happened amid reports that the names of more sullied major-leaguers could be exposed, which could impact the postseason.
Putting these athletes at risk? All of the Biogenesis bums, all of the PEDers through the years, knew exactly what they were doing and what they were risking. What’s astonishing about the fallout — though I’m admittely as weary as anyone about this endless story — is that the public no longer seems to care. Cruz was voted into the All-Star Game, with a strong push from Baltimore Orioles fans in his new town. Braun received a standing ovation from fans on Opening Day in Milwaukee. Except for Rodriguez, who has been pinpointed by Selig’s office as the fall guy among players and has been rendered invisible while sitting out a season-long suspension, it’s business as usual for the guilt squad, with several expected to play key roles for teams in the postseason.
Why are fans forgiving the cheaters now? Are they simply sick of hearing about it, their sensibilities burned out by the seeming perpetuity of it all? Is it a case of “He’s a cheater, but he’s OUR cheater’’ rationalization among local fans who care more about winning than integrity? Or are we as a society, in America 2014, resigned that everyone cheats these days — from Wall Street scummery to CEOs to the girl who tries to charge you twice at the ice-cream shop — and that offenders receive clean slates once they’ve served the requisite punishment?
Fan apathy is not a victory for the Selig administration. It’s another disgrace, another indication that Bud and the owners were complicit for too long in the PED era and didn’t react strongly until the 2005 Congressional hearings embarrassed the sport. Get this much straight: The only reason MLB was involved in Biogenesis was because it piggybacked onto a story in the weekly wrapper, the Miami New Times, which was handed leaks about baseball PEDers at the clinic only because Bosch was stiffing disgruntled partner on a $4,000 loan.
Mr. Magoo finally got one right by stumbling into it. Once, that would have earned him public scorn and ridicule.
Now, pathetically, we yawn. USA Today reported the names of three finalists to replace Selig in January: Manfred, MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. I don’t like any of them, because they’re all Bud-old-boys in a sport that sorely needs a youthful, progressive, high-tech, 21st-century injection. Werner would be the best of the worst, given his Hollywood background and the likelihood he doesn’t go to bed at 830 p.m.
Manfred, Bud’s right-hand man, is expected to get the job. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.