It began with a simple email last November. The subject was "Follow up to Ramirez story in 2009," and the sender, who didn't give his name, said only that he had "some major new developments to share" regarding a three-year-old New Times piece about star slugger Manny Ramirez.
Fast-forward nine months to this past Monday, when Major League Baseball announced 13 suspensions, including a mammoth 211-game ban for three-time MVP and hometown superstar Alex Rodriguez. It's baseball's biggest round of suspensions ever and the culmination of the sport's biggest scandal since the Black Sox.
And it all started with a Miami New Times investigation.
"As a social institution with enormous social responsibilities, baseball must do everything it can to maintain integrity, fairness, and a level playing field," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters after handing down the punishment.
The scandal began with that email, which was sent by a 48-year-old Pinecrest man named Porter Fischer who had recently invested $4,000 in a Coral Gables "anti-aging" clinic called Biogenesis.
Fischer had been a longtime client of the clinic, which was run by a faux doctor named Tony Bosch, who had a degree from a medical school in Belize but no license to practice in the United States. Instead, he sold steroids, testosterone, and HGH to bodybuilders such as Fischer and hundreds of others around Miami.
What Fischer didn't fully comprehend, though, was Bosch's other line of work: selling similar drugs to professional athletes, including A-Rod and a host of other baseball stars. A few weeks before emailing New Times, Fischer had a falling-out with Bosch when the owner refused to repay Fischer's investment. Fischer, in turn, took boxes of records from the clinic.
When he realized what they showed — that Bosch was selling thousands of dollars' worth of drugs to baseball stars — he contacted New Times, which had published a short piece about Bosch and his father in 2009 after they'd been tied to Ramirez's failed test.
For three months, New Times investigated Bosch's records and researched the clinic owner's checkered past. The result was "The Steroid Source," a January 31, 2013 investigative piece that reported on Bosch's ties to A-Rod, slugger Nelson Cruz, and others.
MLB reacted quickly, sending a team of investigators to South Florida. The league also filed a lawsuit against Bosch and others tied to the clinic, arguing they'd damaged the game. Legal scholars scoffed at the argument, but faced with mounting legal bills, Bosch agreed in June to cooperate with MLB in exchange for dropping the suit and providing personal security.
With Bosch's help, MLB moved quickly. In late July, former MVP Ryan Braun accepted a suspension for the rest of the season and apologized to fans. Then, on Monday, MLB announced other punishments. A dozen players were hit with 50-game bans, including Cruz, Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo, and Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera.
A-Rod, meanwhile, was hit with an A-bomb. His suspension will last until the 2015 season and cost him tens of millions from his record New York Yankees contract.
Many questions remain about Biogenesis. A-Rod is appealing his suspension and will take the field for the Yankees in the meantime. Bosch, the man who sold the drugs, has yet to face any criminal charges in the case, although the feds have reportedly launched a probe into whether he sold steroids to high school athletes.
But one thing is certain: Thanks to Fischer's whistleblowing and New Times' report about the records he took from Bosch's clinic, America's pastime will never be the same.