For a while, Biogenesis didn’t exist. Then for a while, Biogenesis did exist, but we didn’t know anything about it. Then we started to know a lot about it, and in particular a lot about its distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, but it didn’t seem like baseball would be able to hand out much in the way of discipline. Then it seemed like baseball would be able to deliver suspensions, but not until 2014, after appeals were dealt with. Now baseball has handed out suspensions and all but one will go un-fought. This Monday is the big day: on this Monday, players tied to Biogenesis have been given official discipline.
Naturally, people are going to have questions. What does a 50-game suspension mean? What are the rest of the consequences out of all this? It’s too soon to really have an FAQ, because this early no Qs have been FA’d, so consider this FAQ more anticipatory. Let’s focus on the suspended Nelson Cruz, and the suspended Jhonny Peralta.
So Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta have both been suspended?
Yes, for 50 games apiece.
Haven’t more players been suspended too?
Then why focus on Cruz and Peralta, just?
The remaining players are either non-factors, employed by non-contenders, or Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is his own case and he deserves his own coverage. The other players deserve coverage, too, but Cruz and Peralta are of particular interest because they’ve been starters on teams with thoughts of going to the playoffs. At this point of the year, what’s most important is the developing playoff picture. Cruz and Peralta have factored in, and so their absences also will factor in.
They’ve accepted their suspensions, yeah?
Yeah, they’re effective immediately. The Rangers have exactly 50 regular-season games left. The Tigers have 53. So, Peralta will be eligible to return for the season’s last series, while Cruz would be eligible to return for any postseason action.
Were the Rangers and Tigers caught off guard by all this?
Considering the Tigers just traded for Jose Iglesias, yeah, no, they had a sense. They figured a suspension was coming, so they went and got themselves a steady shortstop to fill the void. There’s talk the Rangers were “blindsided” by news of Cruz’s suspension and acceptance, but that’s also nonsense.
“I think by function of all the innuendo, we’ve certainly had to come up with some sort of Plans B, C and D in the event that something shakes out. We have had discussions about those.”
The Rangers aren’t idiots. They weren’t kept in the loop by Major League Baseball — nor should they have expected to be — but they’ve known for a while what could happen, and they’ve looked around for potential replacements. Reportedly some teammates tried to convince Cruz to appeal, but an appeal wouldn’t be a smart gamble and the Rangers would’ve known that.
Doesn’t it seem selfish that Cruz and Peralta are serving right away, instead of trying to fight?
This is blossoming into a major media talking point. Both Cruz and Peralta are set to become free agents, and by serving their suspensions now, they’ll be able to start clean in 2014. Had they appealed, they could’ve helped their teams now, until at least the date of the hearing, but then a suspension could possibly hang over them into next season. To make a decision in large part because of the free-agent market — that could be interpreted as being pretty self-serving.
The truth, as always, occupies the gray area. At least, the truth as we can try to see it. We don’t know why Cruz and Peralta, individually, arrived at their decisions. Certainly, free agency was a factor. But this way, by serving now, both players would be eligible to help their teams in the playoffs. That is, if they were welcomed back. And appeals would probably be fruitless, given the amount of MLB’s evidence, so an appeal would jeopardize said postseason eligibility for maybe no real gain. And if you want to go all the way back to the start, it’s pretty self-serving to use performance-enhancing drugs in the first place, but what is a baseball team but a whole group of players trying to maximize their individual contributions? Doesn’t trying to make yourself better benefit both you and your team? We’re drifting from the point, but nothing about this or all things is ever black and white, and ultimately, neither Cruz nor Peralta really had much of a choice.
What’ll this do to their markets?
Can’t say. Melky Cabrera had to settle for two years and $16 million, and he’s been bad. So that’s reason for skepticism. But Bartolo Colon signed a small contract, and he’s been outstanding. So that’s reason for optimism, for believing there could be value here. Cruz and Peralta will face diminished markets, but they’ll still get regular jobs.
What’s the effect of the Cruz suspension on the playoff race?
Right now, at least according to Cool Standings, the Rangers have about a one-in-three shot at winning the division. It’s about one-in-six for making the one-game playoff. So, clearly, the Rangers are right in the thick of things, and it’s unhelpful for them to lose an everyday player with a big-time power bat. But you could make a pretty convincing argument that it’s not all that unhelpful. Cruz has been worth 3.8 WAR since the start of 2011. The rest of the way, he’s projected to be worth about six or seven runs above replacement. He’s a big presence in the lineup, but he’s a smaller presence overall, and right now the guy who might benefit the most is Craig Gentry. Gentry’s been worth 5.7 WAR since the start of 2011, and he’s mostly been a backup. What he lacks in power — which is basically everything — he makes up for elsewhere, leaning on his speed and athleticism.
If the Rangers simply rolled an outfield of Gentry, Leonys Martin, and David Murphy, they might not miss a beat. Engel Beltre could show up, and Jurickson Profar would probably get some reps. It’s expected that the Rangers will also look around to potentially swing a waiver deal, and while the names can all change, this is the take-home point: the Rangers aren’t going to be without a superstar. Even if you think Cruz’s bat is of particular value to a frustrating lineup, there exist capable replacements, who might be only a little bit worse. This feels like a bigger deal than it is. Don’t allow that to bias you. The Rangers’ playoff odds have changed very little.
What’s the effect of the Peralta suspension on the playoff race?
Right now, at least according to Cool Standings, the Tigers have about a five-in-six shot at winning the division. Then they’re about one-in-nine for making the one-game playoff. So the Tigers are in a really good spot, with the American League’s best run differential. It isn’t good for them to lose their everyday shortstop for a month and a half, even if they did see this coming and pick up another infielder last week.
What’s going to happen is simple. Iglesias will step right in for Peralta. The difference between them, offensively, is probably about 20-30 runs over a full season. In the field, Iglesias is a wizard, and Peralta is something of a mystery. UZR likes him, DRS thinks he’s okay, and fans think he’s bad. Fans and journalists alike refer to Peralta’s defense critically as if it’s readily apparent. What’s evidently clear is that Iglesias is better in the field, probably by quite a bit, offsetting a lot of the offensive difference. And then, of course, we don’t have a full season left to play — we have a third of a season, so as with the Rangers, the Tigers’ playoff odds have probably changed very little, too. Individual players make small differences when you’re dealing with non-superstars. That’s a point too few people appreciate, even now.
So Cruz and Peralta will sit without pay, but their teams shouldn’t really suffer much?
That’s what the numbers say, not that the numbers help all that much when you’ve got a small sample of the season left. The numbers tell us about odds; the season has only one run-through, so anything could conceivably happen. Maybe right field in Texas turns into a catastrophe. Maybe Iglesias stops hitting completely for Detroit. Or, maybe Iglesias catches fire again. Who knows! The punishments are more severe for the players than they are for the teams, which is probably how it ought to be, since it’s the players who screwed up. They didn’t do so at their teams’ insistence.
And would we see Cruz and Peralta in the postseason, should both teams qualify?
Absolutely can’t answer that. Last year’s Giants, famously, forgot that Melky Cabrera existed when October rolled around, and it’s not like they ever looked back. The entire clubhouse was united in trying to move on from Cabrera’s suspension and disrespect. I don’t know how the Rangers and Tigers feel, personally, about these players, and about their acceptances of their suspensions. All I can say is, if the teams make it out of the regular season, then they’re going to have options. They’re probably not yet thinking that far ahead.
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