David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Pinned up against a cement wall, cornered by dozens of reporters, Francisco Cervelli offered few specifics Wednesday about his ill-fated visit to Biogenesis, a now shuttered anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
What Cervelli did provide, however, was some insight as to why players keep ending up in such a predicament. After all, this latest investigation by Major League Baseball is not about Cervelli, a career backup catcher, or even Alex Rodriguez, a fallen star.
It's about an ongoing battle to erase a PED culture that evidently believes it's a good idea to seek medical advice from someone -- not even a doctor, mind you -- who dispenses drugs from a storefront in a strip mall.
Consider this: The Yankees, as an organization, are treated by the best specialists in the world through their association with New York-Presbyterian Hospital as well as the Hospital for Special Surgery. And yet, Cervelli said that visiting Anthony Bosch at Biogenesis was nothing more nefarious than an innocent attempt by him to seek a "second opinion" for his fractured foot.
I know what you're thinking. Doesn't it seem a bit outside the box to consult an anti-aging clinic for a broken bone? A cast and a few extra glasses of milk do the trick in about six weeks.
Cervelli didn't cop to much Wednesday, but he did admit that. "You know, sometimes when we get injuries, we get a little desperate to just come back quick," Cervelli said.
Desperate. As in reckless enough to make questionable choices, maybe even ones known to be illegal or that could get a player suspended. Though there is obviously nothing wrong with getting a second opinion, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday that baseball's collective bargaining agreement stipulates the doctors must be selected from an approved list.
Cashman also made a point to emphasize that he had no knowledge beforehand of Cervelli's visit to Biogenesis. But when asked if a player could be disciplined for seeking medical advice outside of the team, Cashman replied, "I'm not going to comment on that."
For what it's worth, Cervelli was asked point-blank if he has ever used performance-enhancing drugs. "No" was his reply. But in pushing his defense, Cervelli reached for an excuse that even he realizes no longer carries much weight these days.
"Look at me," he said. "I know it doesn't matter, but if you check the numbers and everything . . . I don't use that stuff."
Cervelli has the benefit of plausible deniability on his side. Unlike A-Rod, whose name appears next to prescribed PED dosages on the alleged Biogenesis documents, Cervelli's name is not linked to any such incriminating information. That allowed him to say he had only met with Bosch for "not that long" and later left the clinic with "nothing in my hands."
While Wednesday's explanation for his activities was sketchy, Cervelli has never tested positive for PEDs nor has he been caught with any.
But his motivation for visiting Biogenesis deserves scrutiny. If a player already has access to the best health care on the planet, why would he venture into these darker corners? It seems obvious, doesn't it? To get something -- treatment or otherwise -- the team won't supply. And can MLB ever really prevent that from happening?
"At times you can't control what players are going to do because everyone is looking to become better," Joe Girardi said.
Cervelli went looking in the wrong spot. In the big picture, Cervelli is a small fish compared to Rodriguez and the Brewers' Ryan Braun, and he refused to implicate anyone else, saying that neither an agent nor a player directed him to the anti-aging clinic.
How did he get there then? Draw your own conclusions. But with so many unanswered questions about Biogenesis, Cervelli reminded us again what keeps those places in business.