Canevari's Corner

Biogenesis of America - a Florida based anti-aging clinic - has come under fire of late and is being accused of distributing performing enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players - Alex Rodriguez being the most high profile among the list.

On Aug. 5, 12 players agreed to 50 game suspensions without the right to appeal for the role they played in the Biogenesis case. Their suspensions followed on the heals of the suspension of the Milwaukee Brewers' star left fielder and third baseman Ryan Braun who received 65 games - the remainder of the 2013 season - for his involvement in Biogenesis scandal.

Rodriguez was hit by Major League Baseball with a 211 game suspension, which would have taken him through the end of the 2014. Last Wednesday though Rodriguez appealed the suspension. As a result, he can continue to play the remainder of this year and it is not expected that a decision on his appeal will be made until November or December. If the 211 game suspension holds, he would likely be suspended for all of the 2014 season and for about the first two months of the 2015 season as well.

In the ongoing saga of Rodriguez's suspension and the Biogenesis scandal, something seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle - Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's failure to take action sooner.

The push to eliminate steriod in Major League Baseball really began on March 30, 2006 when Selig appointed a former Senate-majority leader and federal prosecutor George Mitchell to investigate the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the league. Prior to that though, in the early part of his tenure as commissioner, which began on July 9, 1998, Selig did not feel the need to investigate whether or not players were using steroids. After all, why would he? He became the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in the midst of the Mark McGwire (St. Louis Cardinals), Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) - and although not too many people remember it - Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Mariners) home run chase.

Selig took over just nine days after Sosa had belted 20 home runs in a month - a record which still stands to this day - to give him a total of 33; tied with Griffey and four behind McGwire. Sosa and McGwire eventually distanced themselves from Griffey and continued to blast home runs throughout the season - both of them breaking the 37 year old record of 61 held by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees. McGwire eventually set the new record of 70 home runs in the last series of the season when he hit five home runs off five different pitchers in three games. Sosa finished with 66 home runs that year.

Three years later, Barry Bonds (San Franscisco Giants) - who was named in the Mitchell Report - broke McGwire's record finishing the season with 73 home runs. In 2006, the same year Selig appointed Mitchell to conduct an investigation into PED use, Bonds surpassed Babe Ruth as second on the all time list for home runs. On Aug. 7 of the following year, Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record of 755, which he set on July 20, 1976.

In 1998 when the home run chase between McGwire and Sosa was happening it was captivating the nation. People were watching baseball - both on television and at the parks - at time when the sport was on life support following the strike in 1994-1995. The interest continued and grew again three years later when Bonds began making his run at McGwire's single season record. By the time Bonds was making his bid to become the all time home run leader the situation had stabalized and fans had become reengaged in the sport. Then the Mitchell Report came out naming 89 players - Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, and Jason Giambi among them.

The argument could be made that the Mitchell Report also generated some interest in baseball. Mitchell was appointed to investigate the use of PEDs in baseball after the "Game of Shadows" by San Franscisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada chronicalled the extensive use of several types of steroids by Bonds, Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

The question remains though, where was Selig's concern over steroid use in the league when McGwire and Sosa were launching home runs left, right and center? It's hard to believe that the uptick in their power numbers didn't cause him to raise an eyebrow. McGwire acknowledged that he had been taking Androstenedione around the time the home run chase was taking place. While it was not a banned substance at that time, the fact that he was using the "supplement" maybe should have raised questions about what else, if anything, he might be taking. That's to say nothing of the fact that in the earlier part of of their careers the body type of both Sosa and McGwire was somewhat lean and by 1998 they had bulked up somewhat abnormally - something that also should have raised some suspicion.

The same could be said of Bonds. He started off with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and in the early part of his career as a leadoff hitter. In his first year with the Giants in 1993 he hit 46 home runs and during his time with the Giants his physique changed - perhaps too much some would argue. But the high numbers of home runs from the likes of Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa kept coming and Selig did nothing to put an end to them. They were entertaining and good for baseball after all.

Now, however, with his time as comissioner likely nearing an end, Selig wants to perhaps leave his mark on baseball as being the commissioner that "cleaned up" the sport so he is looking to make examples of guys like Rodriguez and Braun. They deserve to be punished to be sure. If a player cheats, then they should be punished accordingly. However, based on the information the public has so far, the penalty handed down to Rodriguez - for whatever reason - seems to be greater than what is allowable under MLB's disciple policy for PED users.

It's commendable that Selig wants to clean up the sport - even if it is because he wants that to be his legacy - but he had the opportunity to do it sooner in his career and chose not to. There are players like Bonds and Clemens who will likely not get into the Hall of Fame because they used - or allegedly used - PEDs. If their legacy in baseball history is tarnished because of their involvement with PEDs, the same should go for Selig.


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