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Carrillo suspension may signal confrontation ahead

Cesar Carrillo Cesar Carrillo has been suspended 100 games by MLB despite not actually failing a drug test. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)

By Cliff Corcoran

Major League Baseball fired a warning shot at the players named on the Biogenesis documents obtained by the Miami New Times by suspending minor league pitcher Cesar Carrillo on Friday for 100 games for his involvement with the since-shuttered Miami anti-aging clinic, which the New Times exposed as having supplied performance-enhancing drugs to a variety of athletes, including several major leaguers. Carrillo’s suspension was not the result a positive drug test. Rather, per ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, Carrillo was suspended for 50 games “for being on Biogenesis documents” and another 50 “for lying to MLB about knowing [Anthony] Bosch,” the former head of Biogenesis.

As commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig has the power to suspend players without a positive test, but the litigious power of the players union has thus far kept him in check. Carrillo, however, is not on any team’s 40-man roster, and is thus not a member of the union. That allowed baseball to strong-arm him into talking, and, when he refused, come down hard with the 100-game suspension. That suspension comes just two weeks after Selig spoke publicly about desiring stiffer penalties for positive tests and in conjunction with Quinn’s report that baseball is determined to punish the other players on Biogenesis’s scrolls, including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

The suspension of Carrillo, who was Braun’s road roommate at the University of Miami a decade ago, was clearly intended to send a message to the other players connected to Biogenesis, as well as the rest of the league, but I wonder if it’s an empty threat. I’m not a lawyer and have no inside information on this case, but it seems clear from its inaction that MLB doesn’t have enough evidence to suspend players who are protected by the union, which as far as I’ve seen means everyone but Carrillo (even Mets outfield prospect Cesar Puello is a member of New York’s 40-man roster, and thus the union). MLB reportedly tried to get the FBI and DEA to investigate Biogenesis in the hope that such an investigation would produce sufficient evidence, but neither has shown any interest thus far. We learned last week that the Florida Department of Health is investigating Bosch for practicing medicine and/or pharmacology without a license, but that investigation seems to be so narrowly focused on Bosch that it is unlikely to produce any new information that would work in MLB’s favor.

As things stand now, Carrillo seems to have been unfairly singled out because of his weak position. I worry that Selig and Major League Baseball, perhaps in response to seeing Braun’s positive test overturned by an arbitrator a year ago (an arbitrator who, by the way, has since been fired), are abandoning due process when it comes to performance-enhancing drug cases. I don’t approve of PED use in professional sports, but one need not be Jose Canseco to detect the degree to which the attempts to identify users in baseball over the past decade has come to resemble a witch hunt. My fear is that Carrillo’s suspension is a sign that the trials and executions have begun.

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