By Steve Silver
The Legal Blitz

Major League Baseball filed a seemingly innocuous lawsuit Friday that could actually have an enormous impact on several teams' lineups do to civil discovery rules. On March 22, MLB sued the now-shuttered clinic Biogenesis and its operators, including embattled "Dr." Anthony Bosch, in Miami Dade County Circuit Court accusing them of scheming to provide banned performance-enhancing drugs to players in violation of their contracts.

At first this lawsuit appears laughable. MLB actually has the nerve to sue someone else because its players use performance enhancing substances. The Complaint alleges that “soliciting Major League Players to purchase or obtain PES, and/or by selling, supplying and/or otherwise making available PES to Major League Players” caused MLB to suffer unspecific economic damages including, “the costs of investigation, loss of goodwill, loss of revenue and profits and injury to its reputation, image, strategic advantage and fan relationships.”

I’m pretty sure having Bud Selig turn a blind eye to steroid and PES use for decades is what ruined MLB’s image. Or the four-hour games, lack of instant replay, and the creation of winning monarchies by blowing up the notion of a salary cap. But I digress.

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What makes this lawsuit so huge is that MLB filed it solely in hopes of obtaining the documents Bosch reportedly turned over to various news outlets. Specifically, MLB wants to use civil discovery avenues to access the following:

In January and February of 2013, the Miami New Times, a free Miami-area newspaper, published what it claimed were excerpts from handwritten records maintained by Defendant Bosch while he was affiliated with Biokem and/or BioGenesis, which the Miami New Times stated it had received from a confidential source. Other media outlets, including Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com, have published additional records purportedly maintained by Bosch. Upon information and belief, the excerpts published by the Miami New Times and others -- which reflect Defendants’ sales of PES to Major League Players -- are authentic business records, and come from personal notebooks and records maintained by Bosch while he was affiliated with Biokem and/or BioGenesis.

By filing this lawsuit, if Bosch has not already destroyed the documents then he is now on notice to preserve his business records for discovery or face an adverse inference jury instruction and/or sanctions.

These documents could potentially implode many MLB rosters. Among those implicated by these missing documents are New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, outfielder Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. Most have denied the Biogenesis link, although Rodriguez has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career and Colon, Cabrera and Grandal were each suspended for 50 games last year for testing positive for elevated testosterone levels.

The lawsuit also contends that former star Manny Ramirez, who is now signed to play for a team in Taiwan, obtained a prohibited substance from Bosch in 2009 that ultimately resulted in Ramirez’s 50-game suspension by MLB when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The suit marks the first time MLB has gone on the record saying Ramirez tested positive for the female fertility drug HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin.

It is hard to imagine that MLB really cares about whatever dollars it can recover from this now defunct clinic. The documents linking MLB players to Bosch are vital to MLB’s continued investigations into the PES rumors. Most likely they are gone, but this is a very creative strategy by MLB’s lawyers to use subpoenas, depositions, and discovery rules to their advantage.

THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL v. BIOGENESIS OF AMERICA, LLC

-- Follow Steve Silver on Twitter @thelegalblitz.

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