Wednesday, August 7, 2013


What did Antonio Bastardo know, and when did he know it?  When did Bastardo, a very valuable relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, know that he was on Major League Baseball’s suspension list, for buying (and presumably using) outlawed Performance Enhancing Drugs from the now-defunct Biogenesis “Clinic” during the 2012 season?

Of the 15 players marked for punishment in baseball’s Biogenesis scandal, only Bastardo’s banishment has almost certainly eliminated his team from 2013 post-season contention.

Like Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewer’s All-Star left fielder who led the parade of self-described penitents in accepting, 2 weeks ago, his rest-of-the-regular-season suspension, All-Star shortstop Everth Cabrera’s team, the San Diego Padres have no prospects for the post-season.  All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz’s Texas Rangers, and All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta’s Detroit Tigers are so good, even their painful absences leave them, respectively, a strong contender and a virtual lock to make the post-season playoffs. 

Leaving aside the Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose appeal against his 215 game suspension (like all the PED suspensions, without pay, which is A-Rod’s unique case is well over $20 million a year) gives him one last chance to “be a star” for the rest of the season, and perhaps, -- and it would be near-miraculous,-- to drag his injury-riddled team into the playoffs, the other 9 suspendees hardly matter, to their teams, to most fans, to almost anybody outside their immediate families.

The answer to when Bastardo knew should determine his future with the Phillies. If he knew before July 31, MLB’s trading deadline, and kept it from his team until Sunday night, which is when his General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. says he first found out, that in Bastardo’s unbelievably inadequate words, "something might be going on," he should never again enter their clubhouse.

The Phillies were, at best, a long shot for the post-season even with Bastardo giving them pretty consistent excellence as their 8th inning set-up man.  But Amaro apparently thought they still had a chance, and thus, held off trading several of his veteran players for younger prospects from teams who were loading up for serious runs at the playoffs. Many fans, many baseball “experts,” consider Amaro’s non-moves to have been a major mistake.  Had he known he would be without Bastardo for his team’s last 50 games, he might well have done differently, and that might have made a difference for the Phillies next 10 years.

Amaro may now allow some of those veteran players (3B Michael Young, C Carlos Ruiz, All-Star pitcher Cliff Lee) to change teams in waiver deals, but his options are fewer, and his return will likely be smaller. 

Because Antonio Bastardo gave him no warning.   

The other 2 clubs in the playoff running, the Rangers and the Tigers, both had plenty of advance notice that their guys were in trouble, enough time to make plans for life without Cruz and Peralta, and in Detroit’s case, to trade for a replacement shortstop.

So it’s a consequential question -- what kind of a warning did Bastardo get?  His name had never been in the papers, had never been leaked by MLB sources to any of a thousand possible reporters.  So, maybe he thought he’d squeaked through.  Sources tell me, other players have.

So, when did MLB put Bastardo on notice?  By Sunday, when he said, "something might be going on," he knew he had already cut a deal with MLB, to give up playing and getting paid for the rest of this season, in exchange for silence about the substance of his misdeeds, and a clean bill to start over in spring training of 2014. Was that deal done overnight?  Or was it hammered out between Bastardo’s agent (and lawyer?) and MLB over some period of time?

If the latter is the case, more shame on Bastardo.  If MLB waited till the last minute, it’s a big question “Why?”  And, why did MLB not let the Phillies in on the secret?  The team’s ignorance, of Bastardo’s coming punishment, of the dramatic reduction of their forlorn playoff pretensions, has hurt them, their fans, and most likely, affected the competitive balance, present and future, of the National League East. 

Bastardo’s role in nurturing that ignorance is close to unforgivable.  The Phillies are talking about his return to the team in 2014, but I don’t see how they can mean it. But if MLB was also responsible, their share of the blame is huge, and close to unfathomable.

In keeping with its mass judgment and cosmetic, “move along,” strategy, Major League Baseball’s (and the players’ union’s) conspiracy of silence denies fans the facts they need to make particular judgments about individual players.  The folks who buy the tickets and bring their valuable eyeballs to the TV screen deserve to know not only who did what, but also, in this case, who knew when. 

Baseball’s lack of candor is making a bad case smell much worse.

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