NEW YORK — Michael Weiner has acquired a wealth of knowledge gained over 51 years in classrooms, courtrooms, ballparks and concert venues. The quality that makes him so unusual, and such a treasure, is that he also knows what he does not know.
These days, that includes the length and quality of his remaining life, and the outcome of Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation. The two have come together this summer.
Weiner works tirelessly on behalf of the Major League Baseball Players Association when he's not being treated for brain cancer, which took an ugly turn last month and left him partially paralyzed. Sitting in a wheelchair Tuesday afternoon, Weiner addressed a ballroom filled with baseball writers, honoring a commitment he had made six months earlier.
He began with a report on his health, which spared few details and included his doctor putting him on a drug used to treat melanoma that is not yet approved for treatment of the brain.
There are contingency plans being made if he needs to be replaced as the head of the union, with lieutenant David Prouty the likely choice to take over.
The even-natured approach Weiner has shown since replacing the combative Donald Fehr has been good for baseball. It was in evidence even Tuesday when Weiner discussed the suspensions that soon will be forthcoming from the Biogenesis case, with Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez among the targets.
Weiner has spoken out against the urge to "prejudge'' players linked to the Miami clinic that distributed performance enhancing drugs and to reports players could be given 100-game suspensions for a first offense. But there are many players who want the Biogenesis cheaters punished strongly — the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw spoke out on that Monday — and Weiner represents their interests as well as those of players who face punishment.
Weiner was asked if he's in a tough spot.
"I'd say we have a challenge," Weiner said. "There are some players whose initial reaction is 'Just throw the book at them, I don't care about these guys.' We have to explain to all players what rights those players have. We have an obligation to enforce those rights, and we will. At the same time, we have a drug agreement to enforce, and we will.''
About 60 percent of the season has been played and only two weeks remain before the deadline for non-waiver trades. The Biogenesis case hangs over the sport and could play a role in determining which teams win championships. The Tigers wouldn't be the same if they lost shortstop Jhonny Peralta or the Rangers if they didn't have Nelson Cruz.
Weiner did much better than Commissioner Bud Selig in detailing the status of the case. He paints it this way:
The expectation is MLB will close its case "within the next month'' and come to the union to discuss 10-plus suspensions.
The union and MLB will be able to set suspensions in a range from "five to 500 games,'' Weiner said, because the non-analytical violations don't qualify for the set schedule that calls for 50- and 100-game suspensions for first and second violations.
If the sides agree on who deserves to be suspended and the length of suspensions, in the equivalent of plea bargains, the cases could run their course quickly enough for suspensions to be handed down before September. But if MLB wants more severe sanctions than the union can sign off on, or if individual players don't agree with the union's handling of their cases, the process could drag into the fall.
Selig said he isn't concerned about the timing.
"When we've completed the investigation, we're going to move forward,'' Selig said. "That's my only concern.''
Weiner and his staff will get the best deals they can for the players tied to Biogenesis. But he has been as sincere as Selig in working to educate players on the risks that go with taking PEDs and the desire to have an even playing field for all players.
Addressing the same body last year, Weiner did not paint the Brewers' Braun as having been the victim of a false positive when he used an appeal to avoid a suspension after testing positive during the 2011 playoffs. He said that Braun's case was based around a technicality, not the findings.
The union, like Selig, can't be happy that Braun did business with Anthony Bosch's clinic while that appeal was being resolved. But there is not an ounce of "woe is me'' in how Weiner faces his professional responsibilities and his personal difficulties.
"As corny as it sounds, I get up in the morning and I feel I'm going to live each day as it comes,'' Weiner said. "What I work for in each day is beauty, meaning and joy. If I can find beauty, meaning and joy, that's a good day. It's not that much different, believe it or not, from what I did beforehand.
"For those of you who haven't been in a grievance arbitration with (White Sox Chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf, there's not always a lot of beauty, meaning and joy. (No), I shouldn't say that about Jerry. He was very helpful in the last round (of labor talks). But I think he would get a kick out of me saying that.''
Still swinging, but with a velvet hammer. That's Weiner's style of crisis management and it brings its own beauty and meaning, if not yet much joy.