CREDIT: Associated Press
Major League Baseball this afternoon announced suspensions for the players, including Alex Rodriguez, who were tied to the Biogenesis performance enhancing drug scandal, according to multiple reports. The list includes three players that were not previously tied to the scandal, bringing the total to 13 that were announced today and 14, including Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, that will ultimately serve suspensions of some sort.
Rodriguez’s suspension will be for 211 regular season games, through the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014, MLB announced this afternoon. The suspension will take effect Thursday, but even though commissioner Bud Selig invoked both the collective bargaining agreement and the Joint Drug Agreement, Rodriguez will be able to file an immediate appeal. Rodriguez’s case will go in front of an independent arbitrator, who could determine that the suspension is too harsh under the Drug Agreement. Rodriguez will be able to play during the appeals process and is expected to return to the Yankees’ lineup tonight in Chicago.
Three high-profile players (other than Braun) have already accepted suspensions, according to reports: Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, and San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera. All three will accept 50-game suspensions as first-time offenders under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement and will not appeal the suspensions. Three other players — Philadelphia Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo, New York Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin, and Houston Astros pitcher Sergio Escalona were not previously named but will also accept 50-game suspensions without appeal.
Other players that have also accepted 50-game suspensions, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, are Francisco Cervelli (Yankees), Jesus Montero (Mariners), Cesar Puello (Mets), Fernando Martinez (Yankees), and Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Noberto, both of whom are currently unsigned. Two other players — Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia — were cleared of wrongdoing, while three others — Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal — will not face additional suspensions because they have already served them for related offenses.
Cruz and Peralta’s suspensions will have the most immediate impact on their current teams, which are both in playoff contention. Detroit and Texas each have 50 games remaining, so neither will be eligible until the playoffs if each team makes it that far. But while they, Braun, and Rodriguez have become the face of the Biogenesis scandal, its heart and soul may be the names many fans haven’t heard of. Find a list of the players who have been suspended for drug use, and it’ll show that the majority are not superstars but ordinary and sometimes marginal major and minor leaguers trying to hang in the game and driven, at least in part, by the financial differences that separate the players who are barely hanging on and the guys who are everyday players.
That could point to one problem baseball faces in reducing drug use in the future. Those economic incentives are impossible to remove, and there will always be guys willing to take the chance. Some will inevitably be caught, but many others may be getting away with it — especially if Rodriguez’s past is any indication. A-Rod, after all, has apparently used drugs since at least 2009 and yet hasn’t failed a test, so there may be no way to know how many players are ultimately using drugs and getting away with it, even as players talk tough about a cleaner game. In fact, were it not for the Miami New Times story that broke the Biogenesis scandal, baseball may not have found out about these players at all.
This post was updated at 3:10 p.m. to include official details of Alex Rodriguez’s suspension.