Not 36 hours after an arbitrator largely sided with MLB and pegged Alex Rodriguez's suspension at all of 2014, Bud Selig took a bizarre, televised victory lap. A double-length 60 Minutes segment that publicly (and for the very first time) laid out the evidence against A-Rod, featuring sit-down interviews with the commissioner, MLB COO and arbitration panel member Rob Manfred, and the man of the hour, accused PED dealer and chief witness Anthony Bosch.
60 Minutes, which in recent months has come under fire for pieces amounting to PR for Amazon, the NSA, and Benghazi conspiracy theorists, carried MLB's water here. The piece was titled "The Case Of Alex Rodriguez." It was not. It was the case against him.
What did we learn?
- Bosch said he first met Rodriguez in 2010, when Rodriguez approached him specifically asking for the substances Manny Ramirez used in 2008 and 2009. His goal? To reach 800 home runs.
- Bosch claimed Rodriguez was scared of needles so he had Bosch inject him, including once in a bathroom stall at a Miami club.
- Bosch said Rodriguez paid him $12,000 a month to maintain a drug plan, one that included testosterone lozenges that could be taken before games and be undetectable in urine taken after the final out.
- Bosch claimed that once the shit hit the fan, Rodriguez's camp alternately threatened his life and offered him bribes to stay silent.
Just about the only "hard" evidence were pages of text message records between Bosch and Rodriguez—those alone probably were enough to convict Rodriguez. But this piece had the distinct implication that Bosch's word was gospel, when he's every bit the scumbag Rodriguez is. Complicated stories must be compressed and elided for TV, yet 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley failed to ask some of the most basic questions.
If Rodriguez's PED regimen was undetectable, why have four of Bosch's clients tested positive? Why was Bosch not pressed on his own false claims of being a licensed doctor, and of peddling PEDs to teenagers? Why was MLB's guarantee to protect Bosch from criminal prosecution never brought up? Why was Rob Manfred allowed to get away with using the fact that Rodriguez declined to take the stand as an indictment of his guilt? Why was Manfred not pushed on the identity of evidence-broker "Bobby," who we now know to be a convicted criminal directly involved with the theft of Biogenesis documents?
The substance of this piece pales before the fact that it exists at all. Judging from the B-roll of Bosch tooling around Biscayne on his boat, at least some of the segment was filmed before the arbitration panel's decision came down on Saturday. Think of that—here were judge, prosecutor, and star witness, all sharing details and evidence from what was supposed to be a closed hearing, while that hearing was still going on.
This rubbed the MLBPA the wrong way. Though the union was conspicuously unsupportive of Rodriguez throughout the process, it released a statement last night blasting MLB for cooperating with 60 Minutes. It reads, in part:
"It is unfortunate that Major League Baseball apparently lacks faith in the integrity and finality of the arbitrator's decision and our Joint Drug Agreement, such that it could not resist the temptation to publicly pile on against Alex Rodriguez. It is equally troubling that the MLB-appointed panel arbitrator will himself be appearing in the '60 Minutes' segment, and that Tony Bosch, MLB's principal witness, is appearing on the program with MLB's blessing.
"MLB's post-decision rush to the media is inconsistent with our collectively bargained arbitration process, in general, as well as the confidentiality and credibility of the Joint Drug Agreement, in particular. After learning of tonight's '60 Minutes' segment, players have expressed anger over, among other things, MLB's inability to let the result of yesterday's decision speak for itself. As a result, the Players Association is considering all legal options available to remedy any breaches committed by MLB."
Last night might be the moment MLB shot itself in the foot. It's been able to zealously target A-Rod with the tacit approval of the union, since Rodriguez is beloved by none and the MLBPA needs to appear on the right side of the PED controversy. But dancing on his corpse was a step too far, and future bargaining sessions—not to mention the annual review of PED procedures and punishments—are now bound to be far uglier than they needed to be.
Scott Pelley dutifully parroted the company line, even though he's not part of the company. He pressed Bosch on "the integrity of the game," and in his closing read, noted that "part of [Selig's] legacy is the establishment of the toughest anti-doping rules in all of American pro sports."
This—all of this, the Biogenesis investigation and especially the 60 Minutes appearances—is about Selig and his legacy. He's retiring after this season, and wants to be known as the commissioner who shepherded baseball through its darkest days. But if Bosch is to be believed—and MLB says he is—players can pop testosterone gummies and never test positive. How much of that is going on right now? Selig will forever be the commissioner who looked the other way during the lucrative steroid era, and responded with show trials and gloating. Alex Rodriguez will be a big part of Bud Selig's legacy, but not in the way he had hoped.