Monday’s announcement of the suspensions of twelve Major League players due to their involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic situation unfortunately will not put the issue to rest, thanks to Alex Rodriguez. While he was delivered a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball (which carries through the 2014 season), he decided to appeal his punishment, whereas the other suspended players accepted their penalties. Rodriguez’ case will likely drag out the issue until after the 2013 season, and perhaps longer. However, at this stage of the process, there have been some clear winners and losers from this scandal. Let’s take a look at a few.
Major League Baseball – While A-Rod’s appeal keeps a cloud over the game for a while longer, in the long-term, MLB is the biggest winner. It was a good day for the business of baseball. They sent a strong message to the players that PED cheaters will be punished, even those who do not fail drug tests, which was the case for most of the twelve implicated players. In effect, MLB is saying to the players, “don’t think you take something illegal and not get caught.” It appears there is consensus among the league, the union, and the players that baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will get revised to implement more severe penalties for future transgressions. That’s a strong testament that the game is headed in the right direction to fixing the PED issues. MLB is also standing tall in professional sports in general, by being proactive in dealing with PED usage. Many suspect players in other sports have a similar problem, so maybe this will trigger those sports to take similar actions.
Major League Players – Prior to the Biogenesis case, there weren’t many big league players speaking out publicly against PED usage. They were mostly silent due to potential conflicts they would have created with their players’ union, as well as concern for creating disruption within their own teams. However, that has changed within the past few weeks, as some prominent players (e. g., Dustin Pedroia, Matt Kemp, and Evan Longoria) have come forward to express their disdain for PED usage and desire to clean up the game. Strong words, like “cheater” and “selfishness,” have been used to characterize the offending players. This openness and bluntness is good for the game, as peer pressure from clean players can be one of the biggest factors in chasing PEDs out of the game.
Bud Selig – This one is arguable because Commissioner Selig is one of several culprits, along with the players’ union and team owners and staff, accused of allowing the PED issue to escalate to the point it has. Many believe Selig and his office turned a blind eye to suspected steroid usage in the late 1990s, and his actions to remedy the situation have been too little, too late. That may be true, but I give him credit now for pushing the Biogenesis case to closure. Reportedly, MLB spent a lot of money and got its ducks in a row to get at the bottom of the information leak about the dealings of the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami. Some baseball analysts are claiming Selig is taking this belated strong action because he wants to preserve his legacy as a successful baseball commissioner. Regardless, without his current leadership on the PED issues, this could have easily been another suspicious story that was swept under the carpet, with no fundamental change occurring. I believe Selig’s role in resolving the problems will ultimately be considered in a favorable light.
Gio Gonzalez and Danny Valencia – These two current Major League players were linked with the initial probes of the Biogenesis Clinic, but their names were subsequently cleared by Major League Baseball on Monday.
Alex Rodriguez – As I wrote in my blog on July 29, A-Rod has ruined his career. His selfish desire to be considered the best in baseball overcame him. Yes, he has managed to get back on the field with the Yankees this season, but he has managed to lose all his credibility in the game. His decision to go through the appeal process related to his suspension on Monday will only further tarnish his image. He can forget election to the select membership of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers – These two teams are in the midst of division title chases, but now have an additional hurdle to overcome with the critical losses of All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz for the Rangers and All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta for the Tigers. Their teams and their teammates are victims of the suspended players’ poor decisions to be associated with Tony Bosch of the Miami clinic. Will they be able to recover with replacement players? If one or both should not reach the playoffs, that will be a disappointing situation for the team and the players.
New York Yankees – The Yankees’ brand has been tarnished with Rodriguez’s involvement in Biogenesis and the related drama that played out in the media leading up to Monday’s announcement of the suspensions. That could be said of any other team with a player being suspended due to PED usage, but more so for the storied franchise, which has its own image of greatness to preserve. Furthermore, the Yankees will have to deal with the continued distractions of the Rodriguez appeal. In another sense, they are “losers” in that they will apparently not be able to easily rid themselves of A-Rod’s remaining salary due under contract. Reportedly, that was one of their goals in the negotiations around A-Rod’s suspension.
Mariano Rivera – He is negatively impacted because the final seven weeks of the season, which should be a celebration of his career with his announced retirement, will be marred by the presence of Alex Rodriguez on the team. Attention that should be going to Mo will unfortunately be diverted toward A-Rod.
Players Who Didn’t Reach the Majors – The Biogenesis suspensions remind us of the baseball players who struggled to reach the big leagues, but didn’t because some other player used PEDs to gain the advantage during a close competition for a roster spot. Of course, these can’t be fully proven, but you have to believe it occurred more than a few times over the years PEDs have been associated with the game. It’s a shame for the players who wanted to play the game right.
Hall of Fame Candidates – Those candidates suspected of using PEDs, but not proven, will now have a steeper hill to climb to attain baseball immortality. Examples include Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. The Biogenesis outcome advances the position of many current Hall of Fame voters who believe that even a suspicion of PED usage, in addition to players who have admitted to PED usage, warrant omission on their ballots. Similarly, the increasingly prevalent use of the term “cheater” to describe PED users from the Biogenesis scandal further will solidify these voters’ opinions of players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.
Only time will tell if some of these winner-loser designations will pan out as I have suggested. Despite the desire of many baseball fans who want the PED issue to be put behind them for good, unfortunately I think we will be hearing and reading about this for a while longer. Instead, many of us would rather focus on “What’s Right With Baseball,” not all this negative stuff.