Photo: Jim McIsaac (Getty)

This story, co-bylined by current Trump-scandal reporter and former tribune of the MLB commissioner’s office Michael Schmidt for the New York Times, surely isn’t the worst thing you will read this week, but for any baseball fan who lived through MLB’s steroid hysteria, it will be jarring.

The gist of it is that the commissioner’s office is upset at the players’ union for not coming down hard on two agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, who are alleged to have helped cover up one of their client’s PED use. They caught the league’s attention after being repeatedly dimed out by a former employee of theirs, Juan Carlos Nunez, who previously went to prison after being caught up in the Biogenesis bust.

If this is all sounding like the kind of story you would have only found interesting in 2004, that’s because it is; we’re at least a decade beyond the point at which the words “baseball” and “steroids” appearing together should be eliciting anything other than an uninterested sigh from reporters and fans, and yet here is Schmidt, best known to some for uncritically passing on information that made players look bad and management look good, out here peddling salacious-seeming details as if he’s racing for the scoop against the ghosts of reporters from the BALCO beat.

Weirdly, the fact that a major-league player is probably doing steroids and is probably being helped along by his agents isn’t even the scandal this story is hung on. The real problem here, as it’s angled, is that the no-good players’ union is refusing to play ball with the league. The two forces are in conflict because although Nunez has made the league aware of his allegations against the Levinsons, Rob Manfred’s hands are tied: He wants to do that right thing, but can’t, the Times tells us, or people tell us via the Times. Only the union has the power to discipline player agents, and it doesn’t seem too keen on doing so in this case:

But since then, the union has failed to interview either the former employee, Juan Carlos Nunez, or others he said could corroborate his claims. Nor has it followed through on a promise to provide the commissioner’s office with any details about its previous investigations into the agents.

The dispute has been a source of deep frustration for Major League Baseball, which sees the union as unwilling to work with the commissioner’s office on many fronts. And it has exposed a gap in baseball’s drug testing program, which is generally considered among the strictest in sports: M.L.B. has no power to regulate the agents who work in the game or to punish any who may facilitate performance-enhancing drug use by their clients. Only the players and their union can do that.

The union and its head, the former player Tony Clark, declined several requests for comment. Clark said Thursday that the union as a rule does not comment on investigations.

Advertisement

Unless you’re a bootlicker, this shouldn’t scandalize you at all. The union’s primary purpose is to protect the prosperity of its players, and it has no reason to go on a crusade against two agents just because the commissioner’s office insists on throwing a hissy fit over an issue that nobody on earth still gives a shit about. Let’s see if Schmidt is a bootlicker:

Obstruction of what, exactly? Major League Baseball is not a government institution with subpoena power, and the players’ union—which, again, exists for the sole purpose of shortening the reach of the league’s power—is under no obligation in this situation to do anything other than tell Manfred to go screw; further, reporters who get this sort of story leaked to them are under no obligation to run glorified press releases on behalf of the league. This guy is, again, one of the Times’s top reporters on the Trump-scandal beat. We are fucked in ways it is beyond this blog post to express.