Fans will wait until they find out whether Gonzalez passed his surprise out-of-season drug test (both blood and urine samples) taken two weeks ago after Gonzalez’s name appeared in a Miami New Times story about a South Florida clinic that had links to players suspended for PED use. MLB used the “probable cause” clause in the basic agreement to get Gonzalez to test.
And fans, especially those of the Nats, will wait to see what MLB’s investigation of Biogenesis and its chief, Anthony Bosch, produces. Will any 50-game suspensions result from the probe? Will Gonzalez, who has forcefully denied ever taking PEDs or even knowing Bosch, come out unscathed?
If he does, the final proof of his innocence, at least to the most skeptical, will be in his pitching. If the 27-year-old has the same dominant southpaw stuff when he’s under a microscope as he has throughout his career, then he’ll have more than a refurbished reputation. He’ll be a star who was “stunned and shocked” to see his name in the mud primarily because his dad bought legal anti-aging drugs from Bosch.
When Gonzalez did his first throwing Thursday, he pitched alongside Stephen Strasburg, the toughest possible comparison.
“Gio looked better than anybody,” Johnson said. “I may have to sit on him to hold him back.”
Despite all these provisos, the public may be behind the curve in evaluating Gonzalez. It might be the Nats themselves who suspect they have the inside track on the correct story. On Jan. 31, when the story broke, they were shocked and concerned. Now, they suspect the worst may have passed.
The reason they seem so unfazed by the flap, the reason Gonzalez is as cheerful and available in the clubhouse as always, is because the team is convinced that he’s clean. According to a franchise source, a knowledgeable MLB insider indicated several days ago that the Nats “shouldn’t worry about it.” By the time players came to camp, the atmosphere was calm.
We’ll see about that. But we should note one significant data point: Eleven days after the New Times story and nine days after Gonzalez’s drug test, MLB announced that Gonzalez would be a starter for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic this month,
Would baseball, and WBC Manager Joe Torre, put Gonzalez on such a prominent international stage — after his name was linked to PEDs and after he’d been tested — if they thought there was a significant chance he would be disciplined while the showcase event was watched around the world?