Coming Clean, Or Not

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3, ESV).

You probably think I quoted this biblical text as a pretext for throwing stones at the 14 MLB players now suspended as a result of the investigation into the Biogenesis Anti-aging Clinic.  Well, that is only partly true. I intend to use it against myself first. In a variation on another biblical principle – that “only he who is without sin can cast the first stone” – I will throw the first stone at myself and only then fling a few at others.  I hope I will come out better for the comparison, but that’s for you to decide.

I introduced my last post with a somewhat condescending review of the evolution of written commentary, which could be called “devolution,” or the “decline and fall of prose.”  Not that I am ever above condescension, but I have an admission to make concerning my actual motivation for the derision I expressed in  You may have noticed my specific  mention of “Bleacher Report” as the pinnacle (or nadir) of the movement away from prose reporting.  I know some of you view that website often.  Indeed, it is one of the leading sports webpages today and draws millions of viewers (I can’t bring myself to use the word “readers”), as well as more than a few critics.  (Don’t just take my word for it:

Clearly there is room for a healthy debate about the journalistic or literary quality of any writing, not just BR’s content, but I am writing now to admit that the real reason that BR was an object of my criticism is that the editors rejected my application to be a contributing writer.  Despite the enthusiastic encouragement of BR’s columns editor (who actually likes my posts), the reporting editors who must first approve a BR writer found that my style did not meet the “high standard BR expects of its contributors.”  OUCH!  That hurts.  And I thought I could improve BR’s content.

Of course, we all have our personal tastes and I know many acclaimed writers were rejected repeatedly before finally getting published and gaining approbation.  I have the good fortune of being able to publish my own work here, and I appreciate the comments I get from my few followers when you occasionally find something I say note-worthy.  It is not my intent here to seek additional approval.  Rather, I simply wanted to admit, even without the public revelation of my true motivation for criticizing BR, that I am a thin-skinned and egotistical pseudo-writer (“pseudo” being defined by as “almost, approaching or trying to be“).

I believe this confession is a true example of “coming clean” –  personally admitting the stain on my character before it is publicly revealed by others.  This is significantly different from a pseudo-acknowledgment of a blot here or there on one’s character only after an authoritative judge has publicly announced your charges, conviction and punishment.  Compare Ryan Braun’s:  “As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect….”  (Ok. That was the first outwardly-flung stone.)

As an attorney, I see so many ways to attack Braun’s non-confession that it is hard to decide where to begin.  Here are a few possibilities:

“What does perfection have to do with this discussion? And even if being perfect is relevant, when exactly did you acknowledge that you are not?” Or…

“Are you lying now or were you lying previously when you repeatedly denied using PED’s?”   Or…

“Wouldn’t you still be lying if not for MLB’s smart lawyers who brilliantly mined the Biogenesis case for dispositive evidence against you?”

I could actually enjoy that cross-examination if it weren’t for the fact that proving the case is really of no consequence.  Braun has clearly profited from his deception, as have many other players.  It remains to be seen whether the consequences of his “admission” will become as complicated as it has for other “non-perfect” fallen sports heroes like Lance Armstrong, but at the moment Braun appears to have suffered only a $3 million reduction in his over $100 million salary.  That seems like a reasonable business risk to me, and it is hard to argue with Braun’s decision to take a deal when it was offered, no matter how dishonorable he appears in the process.  (I have expressed my views on integrity previously:  Every other suspended MLB player but one made the same business decision – accept the punishment without further process and begin serving the time immediately.   The one exception, of course, is Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez arguably had no choice but to appeal his suspension – and no downside to doing so.  Who would expect him to agree to a suspension that will cost him over $30 million and which could effectively end his career, especially when the arbitrator can only affirm or reduce his suspension, not increase it?  That said, it is telling that his principal defense is that the evidence MLB has against him, if accepted, should only be considered his first strike under the drug program and therefore he should only be suspended for 50 games.  Recall that he has previously admitted using PED’s but claims that this was during his time with the Texas Rangers when substances were not prohibited.  He denies using since-banned drugs at any time while a member of NYY.  So one could argue that Rodriguez has not come clean in any sense that could actually subject him to any consequences.

No one (with the possible exception of Rodriguez himself) really believes that he hasn’t used PED’s while playing for NYY.  But in the reversed system of due process under the MLB drug program and Basic Agreement, Rodriguez already knows his sentence, knows there is no harm in losing the appeal, and knows that he gets to play during the appeal process.  Why, I would like to know, should he not be subject to a greater punishment if the arbitrator finds against him?  Or why should the Commissioner not be able to charge him under both the Joint Drug Program and the Basic Agreement which contains the famous “best interests of baseball” clause that supported the lifetime ban of Pete Rose?  Violation of two statutes carries two different penalties, and can be charged separately.  It is a strategy lawyers use all the time. not to mention the state and federal systems which often permit a second set of charges for the same facts.

Despite now knowing what some MLB players have done in the dark – figuratively at least, but perhaps literally – and despite having these acts “revealed in the light” to MLB and “proclaimed on the housetops” to all of us, the system seems to have failed to deter the illegal conduct in the first place or properly punish it in the last place.  A player may use PED’s expecting to get caught, but still see the benefit of cheating.  And a player may continue to lie about his conduct and yet still retain the spoils even if he is convicted.  Something is still not right with that system, despite Bud Selig’s claim that it is the best drug program in professional sports.

Reportedly the MLBPA will agree to changes in the penalty provisions of the Joint Drug Program this coming off-season.  It is too bad that the MLBPA does not start the process now by refusing to defend Rodriguez.  Unfortunately, the union announced today its intent to vigorously fight the punishment given to Rodriguez, asserting that  “the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement.”   We don’t know how sincere that expression is, given the indications lately that many players are in support of tougher penalties.  Rodriguez, at his own press conference, suggested that he’s in this by himself:   “I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.”

Well, Alex, I would like to think that I would take a different approach to your situation if you would truly come clean.  Well, maybe.  That implicates another dilemma of biblical proportions:  “How many times must I forgive my brother?” (70×7).  Let me get back to you on that.

© JSR 2012