When the votes for the 2013 Hall of Fame class were tabulated a few weeks ago, for the first time in years no one received the requisite number of votes. Many felt that the Houston Astros' Craig Biggio had sufficient credentials, and, perhaps as important, was seen to be as chaste as Caeser's wife with relation to the performance-enhancing drugs that are the scourge, not just of Major League Baseball, but of sport in general. Still, a first-ballot entrance even to the estimable Mr. Biggio was not granted.
MLB and the Players' Association have moved aggressively to confront and eliminate the plague of drug-induced statistics that have permanently altered and marred the landscape of the game. Now we will have in-season testing and testing for Human Growth Hormone. Last season we saw a potential Most Valuable Player-award worthy year by the San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera short-circuited when he tested positive during mid-season. Despite being declared ineligible to win the National League batting championship ultimately won by his teammate and actual MVP Buster Posey, Cabrera was rewarded with a two-year contract by the Toronto Blue Jays that, while perhaps a tad under-market for such performance, hardly constituted stern punishment for such scurrilous behavior.
Just as the self-congratulatory chorus was rising to a crescendo that the "drug problem" had been addressed, this week a new scandal erupted as the Miami New Times broke a story about Biogenesis, a strip-mall based "clinic" now closed run by a shadowy figure named Anthony Bosch that trafficked in HGH, synthetic testosterone, and other performance enhancing and banned substances.
To no one's surprise, Biogenesis profiles as an East Coast version of the notorious Victor Conte's BALCO. And a who's who of All-Star and MVP-caliber big leaguers have been linked to the "clinic" according to documents received by the New Times. The New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz, the Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez and yes, Melky Cabrera himself were listed in these records as having received drugs and in some cases even injections administered by Mr. Bosch, who, it must be pointed out, may be the son of a doctor but is not himself a doctor. We're less than two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting, a month past the Hall of Fame vote, and here we are again, with another drug scandal.
There have been denials all around, of course. Without question, the biggest name, and most controversial figure involved is former MVP and superstar Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to using PEDs during his years in Texas in 2001-2003, and has hovered under a cloud ever since. Sidelined by another hip problem and surgery that will likely prevent him from playing at all in 2013, A-Rod is owed $114 million over the next five years plus $5 million bounties for home-run milestones; he is only 13 away from the first (660), but it's unclear whether he will have the chance, or the ability, to attain that objective this season.
The Yankees are usually noted as being able to dole out big, unproductive contracts and absorb the losses no matter what; but there is a new regime in the Bronx, and that attitude is a thing of the past. The Yankees will try to escape the burden of A-Rod's contract, and likely will never allow him to wear the pinstripes again. Stay tuned.