Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 22: Robinson Cano suspended for PEDs

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

We’re used to a handful of players being suspended for PEDs each year. What once was scandalous is now just part of the big league season. Once in a while, however, a big star fails a drug test and in 2018 one of the bigger stars in some time did so: Robinson Cano.

Cano was suspended on May 15 after it was revealed that he tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic. In a statement released through the MLBPA, Cano said, “This substance was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment.” He said he didn’t realize it was banned. Which, true or not, is no defense under the strict liability regimen of the Joint Drug Agreement. The onus is on players to know what is being put into their bodies and the league and the union both maintain lists and readily brief players and their representatives on what is approved and what is not. Accident or not, Robinson was out 80 games.

The thing about it, though: Cano likely would’ve missed considerable time in the middle of the season anyway. Just a couple of days before his suspension he was hit with a pitch on his hand, breaking a metacarpal. He had surgery on it the day after his suspension was announced. The recovery time would’ve been paid if he hadn’t gotten suspended, of course.

Either way, it was a big blow to the Mariners, who were expected to challenge for the postseason in 2018. They lost a guy who was hitting .287/.385/.441 with four home runs and 23 RBI in 169 plate appearances prior to the suspension and injury. Dee Gordon, who had been converted to the outfield upon coming to Seattle, moved back to his customary second base. It was a downgrade on offense at the keystone for the M’s.

It was also a blow to Cano’s legacy and, perhaps, to the future of the Seattle Mariners.

While not necessarily a shoe-in, consensus had built over the years that his durability and production was forming the basis of a strong Hall of Fame case for Cano. Given how players who have tested positive for PEDs in the post-drug testing era have fared on the ballot thus far, Cano’s candidacy may have been killed before his career even ended. As it was, when he came back from his suspension the Mariners didn’t even put him back at second base, slotting him in as a DH and giving him a little time at first and third.

Cano still hit well after coming back — he posted a line of .317/.363/.497 in 40 games in the second half — but the Mariners’ season petered out eight games behind the Athletics for the second Wild Card slot. Soon after the season ended, the M’s began a wholesale teardown of their roster and a long and painful rebuild is in their future. Do the Mariners play better and, perhaps, make the playoffs if Cano had not been suspended? Do they embark on that rebuild if that happens? Hard to say, especially given that we do no know how much time he would’ve missed due to the broken finger, but Cano’s suspension and the Mariners disappointing 2018 will always go hand-in-hand.

That rebuild, though, does give Cano a chance for redemption. In early December the Mets agreed to take Cano off of Seattle’s hands in a trade. He’ll be back at second base and back in New York, where he first gained fame. While one can never wager big on things to go right for the Mets, they have been pretty aggressive so far this offseason and appear to be taking aim at the NL East title in 2019 and beyond. Cano, who is now 36, likely has a couple of years of productivity left and could prove to be a big part of that if everything breaks just right. If he helps bring some glory to the New York Mets it could be enough to put his legacy back in order.

In the meantime, though, the eight-time All-Star who has done so much in his 14-year career once again has a lot to prove.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.