For months now, any discussion about baseball, even the All-Star Game or Home Run Derby, has tended to circle back to the looming suspensions related to Biogenesis, and that dark cloud hovered over Citi Field Monday.
With the sport's elite players gathered in Flushing, it was inevitable, and as fate would have it, one of baseball's most notorious celebrities, Alex Rodriguez, was suiting up the same day for a rehab game 2 1/2 hours away in Reading, Pa. Not that this group felt like addressing the absence of A-Rod, a 14-time All-Star.
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"That's a hot tamale," said Torii Hunter, perhaps the most media-friendly of any active player. "I'm going to stay away from that one. Anything with A-Rod is a hot tamale."
The specter of Biogenesis, however, is not swept aside so easily. MLB is believed to be nearing the end of its investigation into the alleged PED-distribution clinic after meeting with players linked to Biogenesis, including Rodriguez on Friday in Tampa, Fla. Suspensions likely are up next, but commissioner Bud Selig would not provide any specifics Monday about the timing other than to say, "This sport is cleaner than it's ever been."
He added: "People say, 'Well, you were slow to react.' We were not slow to react. In fact, I heard that this morning, and it aggravated me all over again."
Selig wasn't the only one. During a news conference to introduce the starting lineups for Tuesday night's All-Star Game, another question about Biogenesis was asked of the managers, the NL's Bruce Bochy and the AL's Jim Leyland. Were the looming suspensions ruining this two-day "celebration" of baseball?
"I'll just say this,'' Bochy said. "The players, coaches, managers -- we are all 100 percent behind MLB cleaning up this game and just try to eliminate any kind of drugs that these players get involved with.
"Hopefully, when this investigation is over, we can move on, and it's a shame we are having to deal with this now. To be honest, I'm not thinking about that. This is where my focus is now."
Leyland added: "I think we all support MLB's efforts to get this behind us once and for all and I think you leave it for people who are a lot smarter than me to make sure it gets done."
Although MLB investigators are trying to be thorough, the drawn-out process is making it difficult to "move on," as Bochy said. That was agent Scott Boras' main complaint about the ongoing slog: The longer it takes, the more it drags down the sport.
Boras argued for "boundaries" when MLB pushes for evidence beyond a positive PED test.
"It's affecting the masses that are innocent, it's affecting the integrity of the game, and we have to look at that," Boras said. "Do we allow the witch hunts, do we allow the early speculation? That creates a circumstantial window that there is no limit, there is no boundary, and then we have this.
"Originally, I think analytics [testing] were the design. Now we have something different. Now it's spread out. Now it's investigatory, now it creates this, and then we have our All-Star Game and we have these questions. I've got 11 All-Stars here and I'm talking about this."
No matter who was involved with the Biogenesis conversation Monday -- players, managers, agents -- they were looking forward to the day when it will be over.
"You just want the conclusion," the Rockies' Michael Cuddyer said. "Whatever happens is going to happen. You want that conclusion to come."
With Marc Carig