MLB Suspends Tigers’ Minor Leaguer Cesar Carillo for 100 Games

MLB has suspended Tigers’ minor leaguer Cesar Carillo for 100 games in connection with the Biogenesis scandal.  Carillo received two fifty game suspensions, one for appearing in the Biogenesis documents reported on by the Miami New Times and another one for lying to MLB about knowing Biogenesis clinic owner Tony Bosch.

Carillo’s punishment appears to be a clear case of because-we-can.  Since Carillo is a minor leaguer not on a major league 40-man roster, he is not protected by the “just cause” provision of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).  In other words, MLB can suspend Carillo without having to prove that it is more likely than not that Carillo actually used performance enhancing drugs, as it would have to do for any major league player covered by the CBA.  MLB almost certainly cannot do so, in large part because the Miami New Times has reportedly refused to provide MLB with the documents it purports show professional baseball players received performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) from Biogenesis.

There is something profoundly unsavory about Commissioner Selig going after the one guy who cannot defend himself from the allegations against him.  Carillo, who turns 29 in late April, is a marginal player who is unlikely ever to appear in the majors again, even without a 100 game suspension.

Although Carillo was once a first round draft pick (18th overall by the Padres in 2005), he pitched only briefly and poorly in the majors in 2009 (three starts, 13.06 ERA), and hasn’t pitched in the Show since.  In 2012, Carillo had a 6.23 ERA in a season split between A+Lakeland and AA Erie in the Tigers’ organization.  That doesn’t sound like a pitcher who is likely to pitch professionally anywhere but an independent-A league in 2013.

Presumably, Commissioner Selig wants to scare minor leaguers who are thinking about using PEDs that MLB will come down hard on them if there is even a whiff that they are juicing.  Even so, no one deserves to lose his livelihood or at least an opportunity at future major league success without it being shown that they are more likely than not to have cheated.

What’s galling to me about Carillo’s suspension is that it points out that MLB isn’t likely to do a damn thing about the major leaguers who are accused of receiving PEDs from Biogenesis.  The major leaguers are protected by the CBA, and MLB doesn’t presently have a shred of evidence that would stand up before an unbiased fact-finder.  At this point, there is no admissible evidence that the documents the Miami New Times reported on are genuine, let alone that any of the players named actually received PEDs from Biogenesis (mere receipt of banned PEDs, as opposed to proof of actual use, would likely be sufficient for an arbitrator to uphold a suspension).

It would be one thing if MLB had obtained enough evidence to successfully suspend a major league player or players named in the purported Biogenesis documents for use/receipt of PEDs and then suspended Carillo without a similar showing.  In that case, it could reasonably be concluded that the Biogenesis documents are authentic and accurate.

In the present circumstances, Carillo’s suspension only highlights the fact that MLB can’t prove any of the named major leaguers cheated and shows that MLB won’t hesitate to punish players without proof of wrong-doing if they can get away with it.

Somehow, I’m reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film Paths of Glory.  We can’t prosecute any of the politicians or generals for sending thousands of men needlessly to their deaths, so let’s line up and execute a few privates to show that we mean business.

I also don’t think that arbitrary punishments are even necessary.  MLB has a great deal of well-wishers in Congress and state legislatures, who would look into the matter and apply pressure on prosecutors to take action after a few well-placed telephone calls from MLB.  Steroids are illegal without a prescription, and apparent use by major leaguers arguably entices young men and boys to use illegally in order to live out their major league dreams.  You can’t tell me that MLB couldn’t get action eventually by lighting a fire under the right legislators.

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