The final weekend of the season’s unofficial first half is upon us and perhaps the most intriguing series takes place in the Motor City. But it’s not because a pair of playoff perennials are squaring off when the Detroit Tigers host the Texas Rangers, it’s because these two teams might soon be without a couple of all-stars tied to the Biogenesis Clinic.
Reports have indicated that as many as 20 current Major League players will be facing suspensions at some point after the break and Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers and Nelson Cruz of Texas are among the names on the list. Exactly when those suspensions will be levied and how their teams cope with those losses could well determine whether or not the Tigers and Rangers can make it to October.
While the biggest names being bandied about are those of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, Braun’s Brewers are contenders only for the basement in the NL Central and the Yankees would be just as happy if ARod’s playing days were done, no matter how much they could use a league-average hitter in the middle of the order. The biggest impact that these suspension, should they happen, would make, is in the American League pennant races; specifically in Detroit and Arlington.
For the Tigers, the loss of Peralta would mean the club would probably have to look beyond their system for a middle infielder who can provide some offensive punch. With a shopping list that already includes relief help, Dave Dombrowski may wind up having to make desperation moves in order to fulfill his club’s championship promise.
At least in Texas, the Rangers seem to already have enough pieces to ably fill the void that would be left by a suspension to Cruz. They have Mike Olt sitting in the minor leagues, off to a rough start at Triple-A, but more than capable as a hitter and one that displays good power. Beyond him, a suspension of Cruz just might pave the way back to the big leagues for Manny Ramirez.
The Rangers inked Manny to a minor league contract last week and he’s already been getting some at bats in Triple-A. Here’s a guy who has faced PED suspensions twice and though I don’t think he actually served his 100-game suspension (he retired when faced with the failed test in 2011, sat out the season, then signed a deal with Oakland in 2012 before being released), MLB says he’s paid his debt. Twice over, in fact.
Let’s say these players, guys like Cruz and Peralta who haven’t failed a drug test, guys like Rodriguez who admitted using earlier in his career, but haven’t failed a test since the program was installed, do get suspended with no positive test. What happens when the Rangers, faced with the loss of one of their most productive hitters, turn to the minor leagues and call up Manny to take Cruz’s place in the lineup?
Major League Baseball has a mess on their hands and it it’s getting messier by the day. In order to obtain “evidence,” Bud Selig’s boys have partnered up with Biogenesis chief Tony Bosch, who is alleged to have offered up his silence to the highest-paying players. Bosch is not only looking to cover his own backside by working with MLB on this investigation, he’s doing so by selling his information and with the possible additional motive of getting back at some of the guys who declined to pay him off. To assume if Bosch’s information is trustworthy is downright irresponsible. To attempt to enforce suspension based on that information without corroborating failed tests is almost laughable and a dangerous road to go down for MLB.
And how will they justify removing the likes of Peralta and Cruz from the pennant race, while watching admitted users Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte continue to play, when David Ortiz (reportedly on the 2003 failed test list) is lauded for setting records in Boston, and while two-time loser Manny Ramirez resumes his big league career? Where’s the justice in that?
It’s a sad state of affairs that we even have to talk about this kind of stuff anymore. In that “loosey-goosey era” when everybody except your favorite player was juicing (he probably was, too) the field was more level than it is now, at least for the majority of the players. Back then, the hitter was taking steroids and the pitcher was taking steroids and the shortstop was on HGH and so was the center fielder and whole team was taking greenies and that was the case in every locker room. Now, we assume (hope) it’s a few rogue players looking to boost their testosterone like a bunch of bicyclists in France. The playing field is no longer level for the handful of guys still enhancing their performance through chemicals and drugs. I’m not saying that baseball shouldn’t be trying to put an end to all PED use, I’m just saying that doing this, buying questionable information from shady characters in dark alleys and using that information to suspend players without a failed test, isn’t the way to do it.
Selig and company are using the court of public opinion (who else could be leaking this information to the press?) to convict these players before any evidence can be found, if it exists at all. They are by-passing the Joint Agreement that requires confidentiality to the players until an appeals process is complete, and they are hoping that these strong-arm tactics will shame the players into admitting guilt and get the public off of the league’s back. Baseball is diving head-long into a shallow pool and hoping they don’t hit the bottom here. Because if they do, they will have a very difficult time ever getting a suspension through on any player without a failed test in hand.
Meanwhile, did you hear? Manny hit his first AAA home run the other night. What a great story he is. The once and future face of Major League Baseball. Congratulations, Bud. You deserve it.