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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Montero story thrusts him and Mariners into murky new world of innuendo

monterosmile.jpg

(Seattle Times staff photo)

I’ll say this first and foremost, right upfront: Jesus Montero deserves every benefit of the doubt. Certainly, nothing has been proven, or even alleged. More like, implied.

All we have right now is his name in records from a highly suspicious clinic.

Let me revise that: All we have is a newspaper report that his name is in records from a highly suspicious clinic.

If that’s a smoking gun, right now it’s just a water pistol. And yet, let’s be real: Today’s New York Daily News report will be damaging to Montero, and by extension, the Mariners. This is hardly the way you want to go into spring training in a week — with a key player, one being counted on as a major cog in the offense and transitioning to a full-time role at the critical catching position, being linked in any way to a growing baseball scandal.

I’ve been uneasy all along with this story, which began last week with the Miami New Timespublishing the names of several players who appeared on records they managed to obtain from an employee of Biogenesis, the anti-aging clinic in Boca Raton, Fla., run by a pseudo-doctor namedAnthony Bosch, who is actually not a doctor at all. The records purport to be from the handwritten notebooks of Bosch and detail various transactions involving performance-enhancing drugs such as human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone and anabolic steroids.

It seems like damning stuff, particularly in conjunction with MLB’s own investigation into Bosch and his now-shuttered lab, described as the East Coast version of BALCO. Particularly striking are citations in the notebook which seem to indicate that players like Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal had obtained PEDs from Bosch.

It’s closer to a smoking gun than what we’ve so far heard involving Montero, but it is still just names and words in a notebook. MLB is going to have to have much more than that to suspend these players, and we should require more than that to convict them in the court of public opinion. That’s not to be naive, or to sweep this under the rug. It’s a lot of smoke, and it could well lead us exactly where it appears to be headed. But I’m content to let the investigation continue, and see if any other news reports emerge, before concluding definitively that these guys are guilty.

And that restraint is warranted even more so in the case of Montero, and the three names linked yesterday to Biogenesis by Yahoo: Former NL MVP Ryan Braun, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia. Unlike the original players named by the New Times, those three are not listed next to any specific PEDs in the clinic records, according to Yahoo.

And that would appear to be the case with Montero, as well, judging by this story today on the New Times website. Posing the question of why their story didn’t mention Braun and Cervelli if they appeared in Bosch’s records, they answer, “Simple: an abundance of caution. As Yahoo notes, the records do not clearly associate either Braun, Cervelli or a third player who this morning denied all ties with Bosch (Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia) with use of supplements. Yahoo apparently obtained copies of just these page of Bosch’s notebooks independently of New Times.”

If New Times was expressing caution in not mentioning Braun and Cervelli, I’ve got to assume the same was the case with Montero, who also was not named by New Times in its original story. And right now, caution is a good thing.

It’s very interesting, as New Times notes, that Braun and Cervelli both have acknowledged involvement with Bosch, though denying it had anything to do with PED useage. That would seem to give credence to the notion that those names on records didn’t just appear out of the blue. Montero, like Alex Rodriguez, has denied any link to Biogenesis. I’m not sure what to make of the fact thatJesus Montero of the Mariners has a younger brother also named Jesus Montero, with a different middle name. The brother is also a catcher, and plays in the minor leagues with the Cardinals organization.

It’s troubling that Montero is represented by the ACES firm of Sam and Seth Levinson, which has had several of its clients linked to PEDs and Biogenesis. But ACES represent dozens of ballplayers. Just having them as your agent doesn’t make you guilty, either. (Nor does living, or training, in the Miami area, as dozens of players also do). Here is a statement today from Seth Levinson of ACES.

By having his name found on a piece of paper, the Mariners’ Jesus Montero has been thrust, against his will. into a nasty but nebulous world. Whether or not it amounts to anything more serious still remains to be seen.

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