Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers’ All-Star outfielder, knows they are out there.
Everywhere he turns, everywhere he looks, they are there.
They are talking to his friends. They are talking to his peers. They are talking to his associates. They are scouring through paperwork. They keep digging.
They are the Major League Baseball investigators.
And Braun, five times an All-Star, the 2011 National League MVP and the only man known to successfully appeal an MLB-administered drug test, is their highest-profile target.
There are at least 90 baseball players, including Braun, whose names appear in the infamous Biogenesis Clinic records, according to one baseball official with direct knowledge of the investigation. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter because of privacy issues.
The Major League Baseball Players Association has contacted all of the players or the agents of players whose names surfaced in the records, but no major league player has been interrogated by MLB officials.
That will be coming, probably within the next two weeks, the official told USA TODAY Sports, although no firm deadline is set.
These players will have no choice but to talk to MLB officials. If they don’t cooperate, MLB can suspend them, according to the bylaws of the collective bargaining agreement.
In some cases, according to two officials who spoke to USA TODAY Sports but were unauthorized to speak publicly, some players will be granted immunity even if they admit guilt to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. They would have to fully disclose their arrangement with Tony Bosch, former director of the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic, including any possible involvement by their agents or knowledge of other players who received performance-enhancing drugs from him.
That might be MLB’s only vehicle to get their evidence. It doesn’t have the Biogenesis records. The Miami New Times, which published the original report detailing the Biogenesis link to professional athletes, declined to turn over its records.
Who does possess Bosch’s original paperwork? MLB officials only know it’s not anyone in their office.
The cold-hearted fact everyone knows is that, without concrete evidence, no major league player or agent — 10 clients of the New York-based ACES agency already are linked to Biogenesis — can possibly be disciplined.
Baseball would love to have the federal government involved, but so far it has shown no interest. And without the feds, there is no subpoena power. No grand juries. And no reason for anyone to testify.
Yet in case you think MLB officials will just throw their hands up in exasperation, the league reminded everyone of its power last weekend, suspending Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher Cesar Carrillo for 100 games. Carrillo never tested positive, but his name surfaced in Biogenesis documents.
MLB called him in and told him that if he told the truth, punishment might be minimized. Carrillo talked, MLB didn’t believe him, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the testimony, and whacked him. He received 50 games for appearing in the Biogenesis records and 50 games for being uncooperative.
The players union could only watch, knowing that since Carrillo was not on a 40-man roster it was powerless to help him.
There might be plenty of minor leaguers to go down before this is over, maybe a few major league players, too, but there are really two players who captivate MLB’s interest.
New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Braun. And Braun happens to be MLB’s Public Enemy No.1.
His successful appeal of a positive testosterone test led to major revisions in baseball’s sample collection process last year.
Baseball officials, from the top executives in New York to their field investigators, refuse to let it go.
They want Braun — badly. They have been relentless in their pursuit, trying to make life as miserable as possible for him.
This could be interesting.