Major League Baseball brass has taken another step in its quest to test the waters of hypocrisy. 1998? Sure, pump up those PEDs as long as you're putting butts in the seats and clearing the fences at a historic pace. Now, with self-righteous Hall of Fame voters and the moral police watching... burn the long-ball sorcerers! Witches! (In fact, test Domonic Brown, while you're at it....)
More pertinently for this space, Bud Selig's follies have ignited a renewed state of panic in the fantasy baseball world. Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others reportedly sit in the MLB's crosshairs for their supposed involvement with Biogenesis -- you know, the rejuvenation pharmacy that made headlines this winter.
In order to secure the go-ahead to pursue 100-game suspensions against members of The List, MLB has netted the investigatory cooperation of the clinic's ringleader and supposed dealer, Tony Bosch. He'll dish on players who appeared on records, most of them purportedly receiving illegal performance-boosting substances.
I'm not going to expand on my evolving opinion regarding PEDs (it sounds a lot like this one) or pretend that my legal inferences constitute more than a novice's guesswork. Though you should defer to qualified legal analysts, I'm rationally trying to connect the related dots to my official job, where I make (sort of) bank (bro) by guiding fantasy baseball players along a level-headed path in any game situation, including this increasingly convoluted case.
Though initial Outside the Lines inferences say the league aims to start handing out suspensions within weeks after gathering depositions and the like, it's logical to think the timeline will drag on due to increasingly thorough investigation, including potential appeals, which may delay the fantasy ramifications until late in the summer.
Presenting Bosch with credibility, given his personal circumstances and the likely hurdles for proof (so far incomplete), won't be as easy as imagined. Even Jack McCoy wants to object.
This coming out in June and not April works in the impending defendants' favor for their continued service to their fake-baseball owners. Back in February when I was assigned the top pick in LABR mixed, I took Miguel Cabrera over Braun due to the very concerns that have resurfaced, with an equally murky timetable.
Unfortunately for redrafters, in the outside shot that any suspensions are handed out in the near future, you're not going to find such alternatives unless you make a swap. (Steve Gardner helpfully gives a handy rundown of fantasy contingency plans for owners of the implicated players over at USA Today Sports' fantasy baseball home.)
Proposers will try to grab Braun at a discount. Doing a similar deal for Melky Cabrera and other names identified isn't as consequential and could be a justified move to sustain your depth. But Braun is a core member of your team, and unless you're getting an established, risk-free talent, you're probably better off relying on hold-ups in the legal process allowing you to extract more production from your players.
Sour Melky again
MLB simply won't be able to breeze through a judgment reflecting a second-offense punishment for a player who has shaky proof for one infraction, so even with a guilty judgment, the resulting absence might be shorter. The appeal for a beaning or similar conduct violation can last at least a week. Imagine how long such an exercise would last coming from the strongest players' union in sports for something as potentially slanderous and libelous as this.
All in all, for 2013, it's unlikely that anything will be decided before you know your fantasy destiny anyway. Most teams are approaching a solidified viewpoint of whether they're competing this year. Squads in the bottom region of the league are just hoping for a spark, and any of them that own Braun are probably just hoping he can beat the rap at least long enough to extend their club's chance at finishing in the money.
If a single-year team is in contention, it's probably because its roster is deep, so that owner will have at least some existing insurance should Braun or anyone else have to miss any form of games. His performance, barring aggravation of a thumb injury, would help pad stats in the interim.
In keeper leagues, you have more to consider. Potentially being without Braun for part of 2013 and 2014 may prompt some pause, and it leaves more room for you getting rid of the players if you're looking to compete in the coming seasons. If any dynasty-league manager falls flat, selling Braun for future considerations (rebuilding, whatever) would be a normal approach regardless of his league status.
Still, blindly fearing undefined doom often leads to rash decisions. Cover your keister by working around your supposed PED user to prepare for any absence. Don't sell the cursed commodity short.
UPDATE (6/5 8:10 p.m. ET): For more on why this process will stagger, click here.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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