Thursday, August 8, 2013

3 comments Scoop Jackson Hates Plea Bargains

Just a heads up that there are 3 more spots open in the BotB Fantasy Football League. The league ID is 265989 and the password is "eckstein" if anyone else cares to join. 

God, I'm tired of talking about steroids and I'm tired of talking about A-Rod. I'm tired of talking about steroids, Biogenesis and A-Rod. Regardless, Scoop Jackson has decided to comment on the MLB investigation into Biogenesis and he doesn't understand why MLB is cutting deals with these cheaters. Well, MLB really only cut a deal with Ryan Braun, but Scoop must think this is the beginning of a trend. I'm not sure Scoop understands the appeals process and other aspects of the CBA. Players get a chance to appeal their suspension (except for A-Rod of course because Bud Selig wanted to choose to completely fucking ignore the CBA and decide he is going with the Roger Goodell "Detective, Prosecutor, Judge, Jury, Appellate Court" version of handing out punishment to A-Rod) and so MLB will try to cut a deal with the player to get the player to admit to PED use and then hand out a lesser sentence. Really, baseball has only done this once with Ryan Braun. This isn't a court of law, but this is the baseball version of a plea bargain and Scoop isn't having any of it. 

As we waited this week to see whether Major League Baseball would suspend more players, Alex Rodriguez reportedly was being offered a "deal" to save himself from being banned from baseball forever.

MLB had "voluminous evidence" against A-Rod, according to various accounts of the rumored negotiations.

And of course in the history of sports and life no organization has ever reduced a person's punishment in exchange for admitting the deed they are accused of doing. If Bud Selig is going to violate the CBA and the drug agreement with the union (okay, maybe I am overstating it a bit, but Selig originally wanted to use his commissioner's powers in this situation like Roger Goodell and David Stern use their powers when they want to show off the power they have) then MLB may as well just ensure A-Rod can't cut a deal to save himself either I guess. Let's just treat A-Rod completely different from the other Biogenesis guys and try to drive him from the United States if possible. Deport A-Rod!

But, before that happens, it appears from the outside as if MLB wants to look out for Rodriguez. It looks as though it wants to make sure the player who has continuously lied to its investigators -- probably more than Anthony Weiner has lied to his wife --

Relevant pop-culture-ish reference! This relevant political reference means this column feels relevant.

is punished in a way that is in his best interest, not the game's.

And here's the crazy: It did the same for Ryan Braun.

It's not really crazy. MLB avoids having to take the case to an arbitrator and gets the player to admit to using PED's. Getting the player to admit to PED use is a big deal. It pretty much seals the deal and prevents an appeal where a player could be off the hook on a technicality. Now baseball can ensure if Braun violates the drug policy for a second (third?) time, they have him admitting he used PED's which go a long way towards giving him a 245.333 game suspension or whatever new random suspension method baseball has concocted at that point.

Since when did "striking deals" after someone is found guilty become the method of operation?

A-Rod had not been found guilty when there were talks of striking a deal with him. There is a difference in being found guilty and having enough evidence to present a strong case for guilt. Rodriguez hasn't been found guilty yet, so MLB would have been giving him a chance to admit what he did before presenting their strong case of guilt. It's a pretty standard way of dealing with a person who has allegedly committed a wrong. Give them a chance to confess and lighten their sentence or work out a deal to lighten the sentence. MLB didn't give A-Rod a deal and A-Rod would apparently have not accepted a deal. At this point, it is too late for A-Rod to cut a deal because his suspension has been handed down. Had A-Rod wanted to avoid the press conferences, the constant media coverage of anything he says, and had MLB wanted to avoid going through an appeals process with A-Rod, they have could have offered him a deal to admit guilt.

When did the protection and preservation of guilty players' careers become agreed-upon, acceptable and standard procedure?

It's not really the preservation of the players' careers, but more giving the player an opportunity to continue his career if he is honest. The courts, MLB, and various other entities/organizations have been offering a lifeline like this for as long as I can remember. I'm sure if Pete Rose had been more forthcoming with MLB he could have avoided the lifetime banishment from baseball. By striking a deal, the player will agree to be found guilty and MLB doesn't have to worry about the time and effort to present their case to an arbitrator. Even in slam-dunk cases, there is always a chance the player will get off on a technicality, especially if the appeal takes place in Florida. So MLB gives the player incentive to essentially plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence and they don't do this for every player they have evidence used PED's.

In all of the backlash that seems to be coming out by the hour after Braun's and Rodriguez's Lance Armstrong-like moralistic falls from superstardom, one detail seems to be continually ignored: baseball's art of plea bargaining.

I'm reading a lot of this Lance Armstrong comparison crap when it comes to some of the more well-known Biogenesis-affiliated baseball players. It's not the same. Lance Armstrong lied for over a decade, ruined the name of several journalists and fellow cyclists who tried to out him and was remarkably brazen in his innocence. A-Rod and Braun have been brazen, but they haven't gotten to the level of ruining another person's reputation (I stand corrected. As rightly pointed out in the comments, Ryan Braun did try to hurt the reputation of the urine sample collector two years ago when he tested positive. I have forgotten about this. The only person whose reputation A-Rod has hurt is his own, because nobody likes him anymore) or suing a person for daring to accuse them of using PED's. I don't think A-Rod or Braun rise to the level of Lance Armstrong.

Even though players are protected (to a degree) by the collective bargaining agreement, a stronger system and mentality needs to be set in place that enforces Article XII (B) the same way the FBI or DEA enforces the law on criminals when its agents show up on their doorsteps wearing windbreakers.

Are these criminals tried on the spot and never given an opportunity to provide a defense or plea bargain at trial? The answer 99% of the time is "no." So this isn't a comparable situation. The FBI and DEA enforce the law on criminals, but there is a completely different "trial by jury" legal system that determines the punishment and guilt of these criminals. I won't disagree that possibly MLB needs to be harder on those accused of using PED's, but there has to be an evidence gathering process, a presentation of the evidence, and somewhere in that point MLB could decide to offer the player a deal in exchange for an admission of guilt.

How can the players take that law seriously if they know that, even after the law is broken and "voluminous evidence" is found against them, they still have the leverage to work out a deal?

I'm pretty sure the players have a chance to provide evidence or appeal to a third-party arbitrator. Even if the CBA says players can be disciplined, there is an appeal mechanism set up for the players to use. So rather than waste time going through this appeals process MLB will often give the player a chance to confess and then lighten the sentence. It's a very common practice, even outside of sports.

The line the game has put in place for its players not to cross is too soft. Players such as Braun and Rodriguez know that.

Partially correct, but mostly the incentive to cheat is too high for these players. They can make a lot of money using PED's. Even if MLB wants to make one violation of the drug policy a lifetime banishment then I am betting there would still be room for a plea bargain in certain cases. That's just part of life.

Who allows someone to strike a deal to make a foreseeable punishment more convenient for the crime committer after the people in power have notified him that basically "we got you"?

The United States legal system and various other organizations that will allow a person to confess to a crime and lessen the sentence received. Corporations will sometimes allow an employee to admit to wrongdoing and will choose not to seek prosecution in exchange for the employee not choosing to pursue any type of litigation or continue to fight the charges against him/her. There is a difference in the collecting evidence stage and the penalty stage. MLB has a lot of evidence on A-Rod, but they would rather A-Rod admit to his crime so they can avoid an appeal or a third-party arbitrator looking at the evidence. As they say, you never know what a jury will do. The same thing goes for an arbitrator. I don't know if MLB ever offered A-Rod a deal or if Bud Selig would have allowed a deal with A-Rod to be worked out. It seems like Selig really wanted to stick it to A-Rod.

Only baseball.

Read this paragraph: After MLB's original meeting with [Ryan] Braun on June 29, at which he refused to answer questions about Biogenesis, he requested a second meeting, a source familiar with the discussions told T.J. Quinn of ESPN's "Outside The Lines." Braun, after realizing the significance of the evidence against him from questions in the first meeting, decided to meet again to strike a deal that would limit his suspension to this season, according to the source.
Code words 1: "Strike a deal." Code words 2: "After realizing the significance of the evidence against him."

I realize MLB's form of punishment isn't the American legal system, but many times when defendants realize the strength of the case against him he will choose to see if he can cut a deal. If the prosecutor chooses to go this route then a deal will be cut to save the taxpayers the time and cost of a trial.

Baseball needs entitlement reform. It needs to start treating the law breakers of the game like real criminals if it truly wants the sanctity, morality, honor, trust and belief of the sport ever to return.

Real criminals are sometimes given a chance to accept a plea deal or bargain for a lesser sentence. It's not a sign of MLB's weakness they will accept a plea deal, but a sign of how badly they want to get past the Steroid Era and scandals like Biogenesis. They want all of these scandals to go away. 

It exposes MLB for how weak it really is, and it does nothing to make the players or their union respect the authority of the league.

Braun confessing to using PED's and accepting a lesser penalty without MLB having to publicly present their evidence is evidence he respected the authority of the league and the strength of the evidence against him. Perhaps the penalties for PED use are weak, but I don't believe lessening a sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt makes MLB look weak. Braun's been busted for violating the drug policy and admitted he did it. I think that's a big win.

It gives the players too large of an out, even in the face of due process.

By cutting deals, commissioner Bud Selig allows players to remain above the game -- which was the problem in the first place and is the problem now. It also keeps alive reasonable doubt and feeds speculation about whether baseball actually is going to take a true stand against what it keeps telling us is its biggest problem.

I can see this point of view. I can see why the first positive drug test for a PED would result in a lifetime ban, but then I can also see how a player should get a chance to mess up once and still remain eligible to play Major League Baseball after they serve a suspension. 

Prosecutors have always cut deals in the legal system, but, for the most part, those deals are done/made before the client/defendant is found guilty or if the client admits to guilt. 

Right, and the very few agreed-to plea deals in MLB are done before the player is found guilty and before he admits to any wrongdoing. That's part of the deal. The player admits to being guilty and he gets a lesser sentence. So MLB's form of a plea bargain is very similar to how the legal system cuts deals. Many in the public may have made up their mind on a player's guilt based on the evidence, but this doesn't mean the player has actually been found guilty of PED use. I think Scoop is getting this point confused. We know Ryan Braun used PED's (again), but the information had not been presented to the public nor had the information gone through the appeals process the union and MLB had set up. I don't love shorter suspensions for players, but it is part of the system. MLB wants the Biogenesis scandal to go away and wants to keep giving young stars like Ryan Braun a second chance (really a third chance, but how Braun's first positive test and appeal went down is one reason MLB will offer shorter suspensions for an admission of guilt to him).

Baseball's rules and CBA and players' union don't make it easy for the league to go after players. Sometimes concessions must be made, which is understood.

Except Scoop doesn't understand the very reason behind these concessions because he thinks making concessions isn't something MLB should ever do...unless they have to of course...but they shouldn't...unless these concessions have to be made...which should never happen...until it's necessary. 

It defers too much to the player's needs and demands, which the player should have lost the right to push for once he violated the rules.

Here's the issue. The player has lost the right to push for his needs and demands to be deferred to once he has been proven to violate the rules. As long as there is an appeals process the player hasn't officially violated the rules until he doesn't appeal his suspension or his appeal is denied. In fact, since it seems Scoop doesn't understand how the process he is writing this column about works I will write it down for him. I'll even over-simplify it for him.

1. Player X is investigated by MLB for having used PED's or violating the MLB drug policy in some way. Player X has not been shown to have committed anything wrong during this investigation portion.

2. Based on the evidence from the investigation, MLB determines whether Player X actually used PED's and determine the suspension or other penalty the player should face based on prior violations of the drug policy or whether they want to make an example of the player or not (I'm kidding about the last part...or am I?). At this point Player X would know he is being investigated and would have the option of telling MLB "I want to work out a deal in exchange for admitting guilt." MLB hasn't routinely worked out deals for players, but it's always an option. This is the part Scoop doesn't like.

3. MLB presents Player X and Player X's representatives with the evidence and state there will be a suspension of a certain number games for violating MLB's drug policy. Player X can decide at this point to accept the suspension or appeal the suspension. This is the part MLB occasionally would like to skip and why a select number of players are allowed to plea bargain. If Player X appeals then he is accused of violating the rules, but it's up to an arbitrator to decide if Player X did violate the rules or to shorten Player X's sentence. Player X is accused of violating the rules, but not necessarily guilty of it at this point. Obviously Player X did violate the rules if he admits to violating the league's drug policy rather than appeal the suspension.

4. If Player X appeals the suspension and wins then he is found to not have violated the rules and if the arbitrator upholds MLB's suspension based on the evidence then Player X is obviously guilty of violating the league's drug policy and will be suspended accordingly. If the arbitrator shortens Player X's suspension then Player X is still guilty, but just has a lesser sentence.

So plea bargaining, which doesn't happen all that often, takes place in Step 2 and is done in order to skip Parts 3 and 4 where the player could have his suspension overturned or reduced. I don't think plea bargaining is the key to ridding MLB of PED's, but in the case of a player like Ryan Braun, MLB felt it was the best policy to get him to admit to using PED's and ensuring he got suspended.

It's understandable that A-Rod or any other player facing sanction might question the impartiality of a commissioner who is a former owner and investigators paid by the owners. But Selig is only feeding the public version of those doubts by not fully punishing Braun, given the evidence we've been led to believe the commissioner has in hand.

The potential for additional players to still be able to request deals is what my grandmother would call asinine.

Your grandmother would also know that no other players struck a plea bargain deal and no other player may have been offered a plea bargain deal. All of the other MLB players found guilty of using PED's through Biogenesis accepted their suspension, so this plea bargain given to Braun isn't offered to every player. 

This is about after-the-facts. About how players shouldn't get to make deals after lying in the face of baseball and after enough evidence has been found against them to prove guilt.

There is enough evidence in the opinion of MLB and Bud Selig, but, and I can't emphasize this enough, anything can happen at an appeal. We saw this almost two years ago when Ryan Braun got his first suspension for using PED's overturned by an arbitrator due to the chain of custody being broken during the testing process. It's not like Braun had been found guilty by an arbitrator and then MLB just randomly offered to shorten Braun's suspension. The entire appeal process was skipped and Braun was suspended. Not everyone may agree there was enough evidence to prove Braun's guilt and that's the point of cutting a deal with Braun. 

And how they should be held unequivocally responsible for "disrespecting the game" with the choices they keep getting caught making.

I agree with this, but once a player confesses to using PED's then that player is being held responsible for the decision he made. Maybe he isn't being held responsible to the full extent of what MLB could do, but MLB is getting the player to admit guilt, which is very important. Think about it, if Ryan Braun had accepted a plea deal instead of taking it to an arbitrator the first time he violated MLB's drug policy then this next instance (if there was one) could have resulted in a stronger sentence than a 65 game suspension. It's a good deal for both sides. Braun gets a lesser sentence and MLB has him admitting he was guilty, removing all doubt.

Much like curing cancer or solving world hunger, I don't think MLB can rid themselves completely of PED's forever and always. It's just not realistic. There is way too much incentive for a player to bend the rules of MLB's drug policy. Much of this whole Biogenesis case has been about Bud Selig saving his legacy and going hard on PED users as a reaction to baseball's Steroid Era leaving a black stain on the baseball record books. If Selig wants to do his best to rid MLB of PED's then maybe penalties should start at a one year suspension for the first violation and a lifetime suspension for the second violation. I do know offering a plea bargain to select players in exchange for a confession isn't an often-used tactic. These baseball players don't believe they will get caught using PED's or else they wouldn't use them, so I doubt they would rely on cutting a deal with MLB to shorten their suspension if they did get caught.

I think Scoop is underestimating how important a confession of PED use is to MLB and how anything can happen during the appeals process.


Anonymous said...

Braun is certainly not at Lance Armstrong levels, but he definitely did, or at least try to, ruin another man's reputation. He really went after the dude who had/transported his urine sample. Braun went pretty far out of his way to personally attack him.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, excellent point. I did forget about that completely. I said corrected, Braun did try to take someone down to cover his ass.

Bengoodfella said...

I meant "stand" corrected.