With Major League Baseball still working to complete its investigation of Biogenesis, and a traffic jam of appeals likely to follow any resulting penalties, there is the strong possibility that any suspensions won't be served until next season.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Players Association, said Tuesday that discussions with the commissioner's office are likely to take place within a month and appeals won't start until September.
Even then, the arbitrator has up to 25 days to make a decision, and with the logjam of cases to handle, that is likely to further delay any suspensions. When asked if this probably would not affect players this season, Weiner cited the appeals process as the reason.
"If we can't reach a deal, I would say yes," Weiner said. "If we can reach a deal, and that deal includes actions against players, no."
Weiner said MLB has not finished talking to players, but commissioner Bud Selig refused to give any timeline Tuesday for the investigation or handing out suspensions. Selig did suggest for the first time Monday on "Late Show With David Letterman" that Alex Rodriguez was among those who are facing a suspension.
After Selig declined to give any names, Letterman asked him if he knew Rodriguez is "one that might be suspended."
Selig replied, "I do. I do. I do. The answer is I do."
Speaking at a BBWAA luncheon on Tuesday, Selig again praised MLB for having the "toughest drug program in American sports." But he added how it was crucial for it to be aggressively enforced. Selig also said the timing of any punitive actions would not be influenced by what effect it could have on a contending team or pennant races.
"I have to see the results of this investigation, then we're going to move forward," Selig said. "Those are the only concerns. We have to do what we have to do."
Weiner said the union has been "working closely" on a daily basis with the commissioner's office, which has been "sometimes forthcoming" in sharing evidence and not so much on other occasions. Weiner acknowledged that trying to handle the appeals process for a dozen or more suspended players would be "difficult."
"We'll just have to schedule them and get them done as quickly as we reasonably can," Weiner said. "If we have that number, it's going to take a while."
Further complicating matters could be MLB's push for precedent-setting suspensions. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the punishment for a positive test is set: 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. But in the case of Biogenesis, the alleged PED-distribution clinic, it's more open-ended, and MLB can seek longer suspensions. If there are no positive tests, the CBA gives the commissioner leeway on determining penalties.
"In theory, they could be suspended for five games or 500 games," Weiner said. "We could then choose to challenge or not, but the commissioner's office is not bound by the 50-100-life scale we have in the Basic Agreement."
Although MLB's mission is clear-cut when it comes to the drug program, it's a little stickier for the union as Weiner must walk a fine line between cooperating as much as possible and defending the players. Selig said MLB has "left no stone unturned" in the Biogenesis investigation, and now Weiner's union has the task of dealing with the aftermath.
"It's a challenge," Weiner said. "Some players' initial reaction is to just throw the book at them. But we have to explain to all the players we have the obligation to enforce their rights and we will.
"At the same time, we have a drug agreement to enforce, and we will. I view it as challenge to explain to players what we have in front of us. What players have a defense, what players don't have a defense, and to go forward."