You can't follow the Miami Biogenesis saga and its connection to many successful baseball players without at some point asking a simple question: Couldn't some of the richest players in the game do better than this? Isn't there a more foolproof -- or even slightly more discreet -- way of going about cheating?
Let's say up front that I'm not advocating cheating, whether it's acquiring performance-enhancing drugs illegally or dispensing them without the proper qualifications. It's a back-alley game, and you've got to have a certain amount of arrogance -- and insecurity -- to join in the first place.
But since we know it happens and Biogenesis looks like our latest proof, it's worth having a discussion of the lack of intelligence these guys showed in placing their trust in Biogenesis head fraud Anthony Bosch.
Every one of the players on the list allegedly entered into a business agreement -- to get the drugs in the first place or to receive "consulting" services for their lawyers -- with a guy whose history of shady dealings could have been accessed through a Google search.
Bosch portrayed himself as a doctor despite not being licensed to practice. According to the Miami New Times, his string of failed businesses -- followed by lawsuits -- dates back to at least 1992. There is a record of this, easily accessible to someone with the wherewithal to find the courthouse. There was a trail of legal judgments and recidivist deadbeat dad-ism. There's a lot of money behind that list of ballplayers -- Alex Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon, Ryan Braun, among others -- and none of them could have checked the guy's background before going into business with him?
How hard would it have been for a rep for a player such as A-Rod (who, it should be added, denies any connection to Bosch) to do a background check and say, "Stay away from this guy"? Baseball players don't have a reputation for being the savviest operators, but this seems ridiculous. These guys hire people to start their cars, but somehow they don't think to spend some of that money to get impartial information on someone who has the power to crater their career before their names end up handwritten on a log of a strip-mall anti-aging clinic?
They hide behind the skirts of their lawyers after the fact, no problem. Every one of the spring training statements issued by the Biogenii over the past week has cited the advice of legal counsel as the reason they can't say anything. (Although, of course, they'd just love to tell you the whole story if the lawyers would just get off their cases and let them.) Granted, it might be a little dicey to tell your attorney, "Hey, check this guy out because I'm thinking of using him to get my performance-enhancing drugs," but there's probably a way around that. Maybe, "I'm thinking of doing some business with this guy Tony Bosch -- can you check into his background for me to see if he's trustworthy?"
The interview process might be a little awkward:
-- "So, Tony, are you prone to writing the real names of athletes illegally obtaining PEDs on a legal pad and leaving it laying around for disgruntled employees to hand over to media outlets?"
-- "In your written documentation, do you alternate between code names and real names, which both of us know would make the use of the code names meaningless?"
The intent here isn't to provide athletes with a better and more secretive way of cheating, because it doesn't take a high level of cipherin' to figure out the benefits of a little pre-PED vetting. What these guys allegedly did was a little like buying a Bentley and running it through the car wash -- free with fill-up -- at the corner gas station.
(And since we're knee-deep in speculation on nefarious dealings, doesn't the PED world seem like a natural place for the mob to set up shop? Think about it: guys with money who need black-market goods and utmost confidentiality. Who better to handle the business than organized crime? Plus, the mob gets the added bonus of insider knowledge for the gambling side of things. If someone decides to remake "The Sopranos," this has to be a storyline.)
Hollywood seems to get it. The actors who need their HGH or whatever else manage to find reputable doctors who are willing to do unreputable things for a price. (Their physicians or "physicians" don't end up in the headlines until someone like Michael Jackson dies.) Cyclists get it. Lance Armstrong and his guys paid top dollar -- including performance bonuses -- for the best and most advanced cheats European medicine had to offer. They might have been exposed in the end, but it was mostly an inside job, with tests being failed and subpoenas being issued.
Contrast that with Braun. Let's suspend disbelief for a moment and assume that his attorneys did use Bosch for the purpose of expert consultation when Braun was fighting his suspension after the 2011 season. Even understanding Bosch's apparent connection to the University of Miami baseball program, where Braun played, it's nearly inconceivable that Braun would have risked being connected to him after a positive test. This is your consultant? Everyone else seems to have IOC/PED guru Don Catlin on speed dial, but you're going to pay this guy to help you get out of the fix you were in?
Athletes get warned about their associations all the time -- by agents, league officials, family members: Be skeptical; ask questions; there's always someone out there trying to get something from you. In the end, though, some of them spend more time worrying about whether a guy asking for their autograph is going to sell it on eBay than ensuring the confidentiality of their PED purchases. And we wonder why so many of them end up broke soon after retirement.