Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz said during an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today that his choice not to appeal a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs was “out of my hands” and “wasn’t my decision”:
My first thought was to appeal, and right up to the last day I told [the Rangers] my decision was to appeal. That was my plan. It’s hard to explain it, but at the end it wasn’t my decision. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. It came out of my hands. … It was so hard, because I knew something worse could happen to me. If I wasn’t a free agent, it would have been different. It’s a totally different situation.
According to Nightengale if Cruz had appealed–likely delaying the penalty until 2014 and allowing him to finish the season in the Rangers’ lineup–MLB was threatening to increase the suspension from 50 games to 100 games. And obviously hitting the open market with a 100-game ban looming would crush his free agent value. Instead he immediately began serving the 50-game suspension and is eligible to return for the playoffs, except the Rangers have fallen apart down the stretch by going 5-15 in their last 20 games to fall out of the Wild Card lead.
General manager Jon Daniels told Nightengale that “we’d be in better shape if he wasn’t suspended” and “it’s a choice Nelson made.” Which of course doesn’t quite vibe with Cruz’s statement that “at the end it wasn’t my decision” and “it came out of my hands.”
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.