Braun presents special problems for MLB

Mark Hirsch

Tony Bosch plans to tell all to Major League Baseball, but his previous statements could compromise MLB's case against Braun

With Tony Bosch and former Biogenesis employee Porter Fischer singing like canaries to Major League Baseball, it's only natural to question what information they might provide. This body of "evidence," along with interviews of the players themselves, will be what MLB will use when it decides whether to levy suspensions under the amorphous "just cause" provision of the Joint Drug Agreement. Apparently MLB had not gotten around to interviewing Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez yet, preferring to build their case before confronting the players with their findings. The case MLB presents the players will primarily consist of two forms of evidence: documentary and testimonial.

We have already seen some of the documentary evidence against the players, thanks to Fischer's disclosures to the Miami New Times. As to Braun, this evidence is, at best, inconclusive. Right now, the only hard evidence linking Braun to Bosch and Biogenesis are three handwritten notes with ambiguous references: his name on a list, or next to a monetary figure, or used as an adjective. No dates. No mention of a specific drug or a doping regime. In other words, nothing that could support a suspension. Unless Bosch, Fischer, or other players allegedly involved can produce something more than undated, handwritten notes-something conclusively linking Braun to a prohibited substance-the paper trail is pretty weak.

It's certainly possible, perhaps even probable, that there are more Biogenesis documents out there with Braun's name on them. The problem is that MLB is apparently handing informants wads of cash in unmarked envelopes to get at them. A few hundred grand isn't chump change, and provides a pretty powerful incentive for Bosch and Fischer-both of whom are believed to be broke-to give MLB what it wants, if not necessarily the truth. It can't be hard to fake the kind of ad-hoc handwritten records Bosch apparently kept, and this is where MLB's treatment of Braun as "Public Enemy No. 1" becomes especially problematic. MLB's decision to give Bosch, its primary witness, money, litigation relief, personal security, and a good word with federal investigators makes the whole thing seem a little bit ... well, gangster-ish. This isn't charity, after all; MLB believes Bosch has something to give them, and they're providing a powerful incentive for him to do precisely that.

All of this is why MLB's case really hinges on Bosch's testimony. Not only will Bosch have to authenticate his documents, but he'll have to convince a (hopefully neutral) arbitrator that he's telling the truth.

For Braun, this emphasis on Bosch's credibility may be a godsend. In late April, Bosch issued one of his only public statements to date about Biogenesis. Bosch essentially confirmed Braun's account: that his name appeared in the documents because Braun's attorneys, who previously knew Bosch, consulted him when attempting to overturn Braun's 2011 suspension. "I just answered a few questions from his legal team, not from Braun or any other ballplayer," Bosch told ESPN. Bosch otherwise denied any involvement in the doping scandal, as he had consistently done before turning MLB mole.

At the time, many people disregarded Bosch's statement entirely, and not without good reason. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Bosch continued to disclaim any knowledge of illegal doping. The "anti-aging" clinic Bosch ran in Florida was a "quasi-medical establishment which offered its most wealthy clients assistance in weight loss, physical fitness, and in some cases psychological services." It wasn't licensed or regulated by the State of Florida, and Bosch wasn't a physician, although, like many PED peddlers, he seemed to like to give his clients the impression that he was. Bosch apparently obtained prescriptions illegally from a real doctor, who, last I heard, was going to be interviewed by MLB. And to further ding Bosch's credibility, he tried (but failed) to extort money from Alex Rodriguez before turning to MLB.

But even if you didn't believe Bosch's corroboration mattered then, it pretty clearly matters now. With Bosch's credibility the key issue, if he now changes his story, it will cast considerable doubt on every assertion he makes about Braun. No other ballplayer is going to present this kind of problem for MLB.

*For a more in-depth look at what has been reported about Ryan Braun and Biogenesis, check out this timeline compiled by @Enrico_Palazzo_.

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