Looking at the potentially suspended Biogenesis players

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Let’s run down the list of players connected to Tony Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic as MLB is reportedly preparing to issue 50- or 100-game suspensions. Listed below are players whose names are found in the Biogenesis documents. Other major leaguers may well be involved, as some of Bosch’s clients were listed in code. Since Bosch is set to cooperate with MLB in its investigation, this list could grow significantly longer soon. According to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, MLB is preparing to suspend players who purchased illegal substances from Bosch for 50 or 100 games, even if it means ruining the season in the process.

The Players

Alex Rodriguez (3B Yankees): Sidelined since Opening Day following offseason hip surgery, Rodriguez, who admitted to using steroids a decade ago but was never suspended, has been aiming to return to the Yankees lineup in July. Players suspended for steroid use while on the disabled list are able to serve those suspensions while injured, so if Rodriguez were to receive a 50-game ban in the near future, he could still return in August. A 100-game ban, on the other hand, would essentially end his season.

Ryan Braun (OF Brewers): Braun was originally set to be suspended for a positive PED test in Dec. 2011, only to have it wiped out on appeal. Of course, that was all supposed to go on behind closed doors, but it leaked to the media not long after Braun won NL MVP honors in 2011. This year, Braun is hitting .294 with nine homers for a disappointing Brewers team. He’s currently third in the outfield in the NL All-Star balloting, putting him in position for a spot in the starting lineup in the Midseason Classic.

Melky Cabrera (OF Blue Jays), Bartolo Colon (RHP Athletics) and Yasmani Grandal (C Padres): All three players here tested positive for steroids before MLB had any knowledge of Bosch’s operation and have already served 50-game suspensions. If MLB is going to try banning A-Rod and Braun for 100 games (50 games for cheating and 50 games for lying about it), then it could deliver additional 50-game suspensions to this trio. Still, that seems like quite a reach. These guys have already done their time.

Nelson Cruz (OF Rangers): The 32-year-old Cruz has a ton to lose here, since he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. His team would greatly suffer without him as well, and his absence could lead to Jurickson Profar being tried in the outfield. Cruz is batting .267 with 13 homers and 39 RBI this year, making him a candidate for AL All-Star honors.

Jhonny Peralta (SS Tigers): The Tigers might be the contender most adversely affected should these penalties come to pass; Peralta has been the AL’s top offensive shortstop this year, hitting .332 with six homers and 26 RBI, and the Tigers just don’t have any decent options to fill his shoes. Utilityman Ramon Santiago is long past his prime, and Danny Worth is injured in Triple-A. Like Cruz, Peralta is also a free agent this winter.

Everth Cabrera (SS Padres): Cabrera led the NL in stolen bases with 44 last year, but he was still a rather anonymous figure outside of San Diego. This year, he’s been getting more attention, thanks in part to some added power. He has four homers in 57 games after hitting two in 115 games in 2012, and his OPS has climbed by more than 100 points. He’s still a force on the basepaths, too, leading the majors with 23 steals.

Francisco Cervelli (C Yankees): One can imagine Cervelli, who played in 178 games as the Yankees’ primary backup catcher from 2009-11, was looking for something a little extra last year after being banished to the minors and thus turned to Bosch for help. Following Russell Martin’s departure, he won the starting job this spring and was off to an excellent start (.269/.377/.500, three homers in 52 at-bats) before going down with a fractured right hand. Barring a suspension, he’s due to rejoin the Yankees lineup in late June.

Jesus Montero (C-DH Mariners): A former Yankees prospect, Montero was dealt to the Mariners prior to 2012 and had a decent rookie season last year, hitting .260 with 15 homers. This year, he was a huge bust as a starting catcher, hitting .208 with three homers in 101 at-bats, and he was sent back to Triple-A late last month. Just 23, he’s still a promising hitter, but his future is at first base or DH. He’s currently on the minor league DL after tearing knee cartilage.

Fernando Martinez (OF Astros): Martinez was once one of the game’s very best prospects while in the Mets chain, but he’s never been able to stay healthy and he’s now a long shot to enjoy a lengthy major league career. After hitting .182 in 11 games for the Astros earlier this year, he was dropped from the roster and cleared waivers. He’s now back in Triple-A.

Fautino De Los Santos (RHP free agent): De Los Santos was a strong prospect in the White Sox system before undergoing Tommy John surgery and converting to relief. He looked like a fine bullpen arm as a rookie in 2011, striking out 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings for the A’s, but he showed up in 2012 which diminished stuff and has bounced around since. The Padres released him last month.

Jordan Norberto (LHP free agent): Norberto had a 2.77 ERA in 52 innings of relief work for the A’s last year, but he struggled this spring and got hurt. Oakland released him last month.

Cesar Puello (OF Mets): Puello, 22, has been a breakout performer in the Mets system this year, hitting .302/.382/.521 with eight homers and 15 steals for Double-A Binghamton. That slugging percentage is nearly 100 points higher than his previous career high.

Unlikely to be suspended

Gio Gonzalez (LHP Nationals): Gonzalez is believed to have been a Biogenesis buyer, but only of legal substances. Two sources told ESPN that Gonzalez is probably off the hook as far as any punishments go.

Robinson Cano (2B Yankees): Cano’s known connection with Biogenesis is very tenuous: the spokeswoman for his charitable foundation was named in Bosch’s documents. That was enough to get Cano on MLB’s watchlist, but if anything more significant has turned up, the league has kept it quiet.

Sports teams do not “heal” cities or nations

Associated Press
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story today in which he talks to Cleon Jones, Ken Harrelson, Art Shamsky and others from the 1969 Mets about their Amazin’ World Series title run. The story is tied to the upcoming commemorations of the 50th anniversary of that phenomenally unexpected and improbable season.

And that’s fine as far as it goes, but as so often is the case with nostalgic remembrances, it goes too far:

They will gather together in New York later in June, rehashing stories from 50 years ago, reminiscing about the year they turned the baseball world upside down, becoming perhaps the most beloved team in history.

The 1969 Mets.

The team that helped revitalize a city in ruins and heal a nation in turmoil, showing the world you can turn the inconceivable to the improbable to the possible to the incredible, in a way only sports can possibly do.

Now would be a good time to remember that the city the Mets allegedly revitalized found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in the early-to-mid-70s and experienced urban decay and spiking crime rates for the next 20+ years. It would also be a good time to remember that the nation the Mets allegedly healed witnessed the Kent State shootings a few months later, among other bits of strife for the next, oh, 50 years and counting.

Yes, I am being flip and superficial here, but I do so simply to illustrate how flip and superficial “[Sports Team] healed [City/Nation]” narratives invariably are.

We see these sorts of things whenever a team from a down-on-its-luck place has a title run. Detroit. Cleveland. New Orleans. The idea is generally a broad-brush paint job in which the source of strife — poverty, crime, economic strife, natural disaster, terrorism, etc. —  is detailed with the local sports team’s subsequent title run cast as a spiritual balm. The words “heal” and “uplift” are pretty common in these stories. Back in 2002 I wrote about a classic of the genre, a documentary about the 1968 Detroit Tigers, who allegedly healed Detroit following he 1967 riots. Anyone familiar with Detroit from 1968-on may understand that the claims of healing asserted therein were . . . somewhat overstated.

Whatever the details, most of these narratives have the same sorts of flaws. At best they overstate the significance of sports in society, presuming that happiness among ticket-buying sports fans — who are usually better off than your average city resident who may be the one in need of healing — means broad-based happiness among the populace. More commonly they simply ignore the actual city or society beyond anything but its most superficial markers. The pattern:

  • Montage of the strife in whatever its form (bonus if it’s from the 1960s and you can re-use some existing “turbulent 60s” b-roll;
  • A chronicling of the sports team’s run; and
  • A declaration that everything was better after that.

It’s not even a matter of correlation and causation being confused. There’s very rarely ever any evidence presented that the sports made the underlying problems any better. All one usually gets from these things is a sense that, at least to the sports commentator/documentarian telling the story and to the people who closely followed the sports team, things were good. Unless, of course, I missed the part about how LeBron James solved Cleveland’s declining population problems and how the 2010 New Orleans Saints solved the ongoing mental, economic and medical trauma of those displaced by Katrina.

Which is not to say that sports mean nothing in this context. Sports success can certainly make a lot of people happy, even people hit hard by adversity, temporarily speaking. People only tangentially-connected to the strife in question may, also, decide that a sporting event “healed” a city. For example, if something bad happened in your city but didn’t affect you directly, you may believe that the trophy-hoisting put a nice bookend on the trauma that was more directly felt by others. And, of course, individuals directly connected with the sporting events in question, like Cleon Jones in the Mets piece, can experience a more lasting change in their lives as a result of this sort of success that they might see as general uplift.

That’s not the same thing as healing, though. Because while you or I can close that chapter on it all when the game is over, survivors of traumatic events and victims of systematic oppression or chronic strife cannot and do not do so that easily. There were people still hurting in Detroit after 1968, in New York (and the nation) after 1969, in New Orleans after the Saints won the Super Bowl, and in Cleveland after the Cavs won their title. The very best that can be said of sports triumph amid civic adversity is that it’s a pleasant, albeit temporary distraction. But not everyone had the luxury of enjoying that temporary distraction and a distraction is not the same thing as a cure.

Why do sports writers and commentators do this? I suppose it’s a function of people believing that the world in which they operate is, well, the world. The entertainment writer sees everything as a Hollywood story, the political writer sees everything as a Washington story and the sports writer sees everything as a sports story. It’s an understandable loss of perspective and we all fall prey to it sometimes.

It’d be better, though, if we spent more time appreciating that our perspective on the world is not the only one. I won’t speak for the entertainment or political people, and I won’t speak for the way in which any other person may prioritize the world as they observe it. But in my world — sports — I think it’d be better if we did not ascribe outsized significance to the beat we cover. Doing so asks far more of sports than sports is capable of delivering and erases the ongoing pain and suffering of people for whom sports is no sort of cure.