Last summer, the specter of the Biogenesis investigation hung over baseball, much like the promise of the Mitchell Report loomed over players and teams six years earlier. Who would be suspended, and for how long? And what impact would that have on pennant races?
A year later: crickets.
That baseball turns a blind eye to violators of its self-proclaimed “toughest drug policy in sports” is in some ways old news. Jason Giambi was a star of the Mitchell Report in 2007, and was named in the Balco scandal as far back as 2003. Four teams have employed him since the Mitchell Report’s release. Jhonny Peralta was an all-star shortstop for the 2013 Detroit Tigers who missed the essential portion of the pennant drive after his 50-game suspension following the Biogenesis investigation. His punishment: A four-year, $53 million contract as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals.
But the shrug-your-shoulders response to drug violators now seems to have trickled into the general public. Baseball’s early all-star balloting tallies are in, and the first wave includes Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, suspended for 65 games last year, as a starter in the National League’s outfield. Nelson Cruz, suspended 50 games, trails only David Ortiz at designated hitter and has been embraced by the fan base of the Baltimore Orioles, for whom he has socked 19 homers and driven in 49 runs, through Thursday the highest totals in the American League.
Cruz, Braun and Peralta (whose .762 on-base-plus-slugging percentage is second among National League shortstops) are tainted players who could wind up at July’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Melky Cabrera is hitting .317 for Toronto, and could become another.
In a way, the season-long suspension of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is all that remains of the Biogenesis investigation, in which Major League Baseball discovered that more than a dozen players had been provided with performance-enhancing drugs by a South Florida anti-aging clinic.
And the forget-and-move on element extends beyond Balco and Biogenesis, too. When the Boston Red Sox decided to gather the members of their 2004 World Series champions for a 10-year anniversary, they had no shortage of stars to single out. Pedro Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball when he wore a Red Sox uniform. Curt Schilling pitched the famous “bloody sock” game against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Ortiz is the only player to appear on all three Boston world champions in the past 11 years. Jason Varitek was the captain and leader, Kevin Millar the madcap soul.
But when it came time to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, the Red Sox chose Manny Ramirez, the MVP of that 2004 World Series. Ramirez received the loudest cheers from the Fenway Park crowd – who chose to put aside the fact that Ramirez had twice failed MLB’s drug tests and was once suspended for 100 games.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Percentage of the time the Braves strikeout, highest in the majors.
No-hitters since 2010, a span of four seasons and two months, the most recent coming from Josh Beckett of the Dodgers. The previous 20 no-hitters occurred over a 13-season span.
Hit batters by Pirates pitchers, most in the majors (the next highest is 26) and as many as the Red Sox, Twins, Brewers and Tigers combined.
“There is not one man in the lineup who’s hitting the ball well.”
– Royals DH Billy Butler. On Thursday, Kansas City moved third base coach Dale Sveum to be the club’s fifth hitting coach in five years. The Royals are last in the AL in homers, runs and slugging percentage.