It is difficult to think of a brand that has bled out more credibility over the last six months than 60 Minutes. On Sunday night, they took a break from falsely feeding the Benghazi fever-swamps or doing infomercials for the NSA to puff-up the institutional power of Major League Baseball.
Just 24 hours after an MLB arbitrator suspended New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for 162 games, the longest performance enhancing drug suspension in league history, there was 60 Minutes with a slickly produced package ready to air right after the NFL playoffs. Hosted by Scott Pelley, it was thirty minutes of reportage that repeatedly treated Rodriguez like an over-muscled piñata. (We will leave aside the irony of 60 Minutes waxing sanctimoniously about PEDs in baseball and using an NFL game as their own ratings "performance enhancer.")
Scott Pelley interviewed Rodriguez's alleged PED pusher Anthony Bosch who dropped piles of unsubstantiated nuggets from the silly ("Alex is afraid of needles") to the deadly serious (Bosch claims associates of Rodriguez threatened his life and he feared he “would not live to see the end of the year.”) They also spoke to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig who said of Rodriguez, "His actions were beyond comprehension and I am someone who has now been in the game for 50 years." Were Rodriguez’s actions less comprehensible than Selig’s own PED hypocrisy throughout the 1990s? “Scott," as Selig chummily called the 60 Minutes interviewer, did not ask. Instead, Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing, which was supposed to be a confidential process, was opened up for a primetime audience.
Understandably the Major League Baseball Players Association was apoplectic at this spectacle, and released a statement that said in part, "It is unfortunate that Major League Baseball apparently lacks faith in the integrity and finality of the arbitrator's decision and our Joint Drug Agreement, such that it could not resist the temptation to publicly pile-on against Alex Rodriguez. It is equally troubling that…Tony Bosch, MLB's principal witness, is appearing on the program with MLB's blessing…. As a result, the Players Association is considering all legal options available to remedy any breaches committed by MLB."
Major League Baseball, for its part, denied having any role in Bosch's decision to speak with 60 Minutes, saying, "…. he is not controlled by us and is entitled to speak however he chooses about his interactions with Mr. Rodriguez."
Considering that MLB is paying for Bosch’s legal fees, his private security, and also allegedly paid him for his testimony, this is risible. In fact Bosch's spokeswoman, yes he has a spokeswoman, said, "[Anthony Bosch] is glad to have the arbitration behind him and believes he can play a valuable role in the future by educating athletes about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs." (This statement is the polar opposite of Bosch’s own comments on 60 Minutes, which justified PED use. He said, "When you ask guys to play 100-plus games, jump on a plane, get off a plane, road trips—their bodies break down.")
Nowhere did 60 Minutes analyze or even mention the fact that Rodriguez’s suspension will mean that the powerful New York Yankees organization, much to their glee, is saving $27.5 million. Nowhere did they ask about why, if according to the Joint Drug Agreement, Rodriguez should have received 50 games for a first offense, he ended up with 162. Nowhere did they comment on Rodriguez’s own statement on Saturday, when he said in part, “This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.” Neither Selig nor MLB COO Rob Manfred, also interviewed at length, was asked about these charges.
You may have noticed that I am consciously not commenting on whether Alex Rodriguez has been a habitual user of PEDs or if Tony Bosch was in fact just a "nutritionist." I have no clue beyond what 60 Minutes has chosen to tell me. I'm also not commenting on the credibility and character of Alex Rodriguez, which, as people who live in the slums ten minutes from my house can attest, is more than lacking. I am commenting on the way 60 Minutes chooses to report a story in a fashion that the MLB Network could not have done more effectively, with the Philly Phanatic subbing in for Scott Pelley. Despite the nostalgia for the days of Mike Wallace making people sweat bullets, this is a program that has always been more comfortable on the side of the protected and the powerful. Whether its objective is to try and stoke further war in the Middle East or rehabilitate the NSA or shine up the bruised legacy of Bud Selig, 60 Minutes has now become a part of every story it covers. They say that they are just the messenger. But the messenger has now become part of the message.