The carnage came, finally.
Major League Baseball, determined to clean up the messy Biogenesis scandal that's dragged on for six months now, suspended 13 players on Monday, handing down a total of 811 games worth of suspensions.
Most notably the game's highest paid player, Alex Rodriguez, was banned for 211 games, the longest non-lifetime suspension in MLB history. He'll appeal his suspension and is the only player who will do so. Two members of pennant-chasing teams, Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers, were each suspended 50 games. And three players who weren't publicly linked to Biogenesis before Monday were suspended too — Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona (all for 50 games).
It's the largest mass suspension ever handed down by Major League Baseball and the latest (but certainly not the final) chapter of what is now baseball's most wide-ranging performance-enhancing drugs scandal — surpassing the BALCO debacle of the early 2000s.
Here's the entire list of suspensions:
• Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) — 211 games
• Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers) — 50 games
• Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers) — 50 games
• Everth Cabrera (San Diego Padres) — 50 games
• Francisco Cervelli (New York Yankees) — 50 games
• Jesus Montero (Seattle Mariners minor leaguer) — 50 games
• Cesar Puello (Seattle Mariners minor leaguer) — 50 games
• Fernando Martinez (Seattle Mariners minor leaguer) — 50 games
• Jordan Norberto (free agent) — 50 games
• Fautino De Los Santos (free agent) — 50 games
• Jordany Valdespin (Mets minor leaguer) — 50 games
• Antonio Bastardo (Philadelphia Phillies) — 50 games
• Sergio Escalona (Houston Astros minor leaguer) — 50 games
Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics, Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays and Yasmani Grandal of the San Diego Padres were not suspended. Each of them already served 50-game suspensions connected to the Biogenesis case after failed drug tests last year. This round of suspensions come two weeks after MLB suspended Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun for 65 games, ending his 2013 season and making him the first big domino to fall in this scandal.
Rodriguez, 38, is expected to rejoin the Yankees on Monday night in Chicago, and is free to play until his appeal is heard. It will be his first game of the season with the Yankees after recuperating from a postseason hip surgery. The rest of the suspensions were agreed upon by the players involved and won't be appealed. That includes Cruz, who as recently as Sunday, said he hadn't decided whether he would appeal.
In announcing the news, commissioner Bud Selig said:
“Major League Baseball has worked diligently with the Players Association for more than a decade to make our Joint Drug Program the best in all of professional sports. I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts – not only with regard to random testing, groundbreaking blood testing for human Growth Hormone and one of the most significant longitudinal profiling programs in the world, but also our investigative capabilities, which proved vital to the Biogenesis case. Upon learning that players were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, we vigorously pursued evidence that linked those individuals to violations of our Program. We conducted a thorough, aggressive investigation guided by facts so that we could justly enforce our rules.
This entire ordeal began back in January when the Miami New Times ran a story exposing Biogenesis — an anti-aging clinic in the Miami-area run by Tony Bosch — as a PED peddler that attracted a number of pro baseball players. The New Times' story came after Biogenesis employee Porter Fischer, upset that Bosch hadn't paid him and thinking the goings-on at the clinic were wrong, turned over records to the newspaper.
The New Times story, and the long list of players it alleged as PED users, rattled baseball and reignited the game's decades-long battle to keep itself clean. In the ensuing weeks, more documents leaked to Yahoo! Sports and ESPN. A sordid few months followed as MLB sought to discipline players involved. It tried (unsuccessfully) to get the New Times to share its documents and eventually sued Bosch. A-Rod's camp — and other players — allegedly bought Biogenesis documents trying to limit MLB's investigation.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, Bosch agreed to cooperate with MLB's investigation. When that news leaked, we found out MLB was looking at suspending as many as 20 players connected to Biogenesis.
It's been nearly two months since that first report of 20 possible suspensions. The baseball community watched as the All-Star game came and went. Speculation rose about who would be suspended, for how long and when the news would come down.
During the All-Star break, Michael Weiner, the executive director of the player's association, told reporters that suspensions would likely come in 2014 unless a player had struck a deal the league.
Here's what Weiner told the NY Daily News:
“We’re not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the (drug) program out there. Most of the players aren’t interested in that. We’d like to have a clean program.”
Four days later, Braun was suspended by MLB for the rest of the 2013 season, a sentence that amounted to 65 games. It's believed that Braun — who had previously won a 50-game suspension appeal in 2012 — made a deal with MLB. When his suspension was announced, Braun issued a statement admitting that he made a mistake and apologizing. He did not, however, directly admit to PED use.
With both the Biogenesis suspensions and the trade deadline looming, the Tigers made a move last week to fill the gap coming if Peralta were to be suspended, acquiring shortstop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. The Rangers were said to be players in the final days of non-waiver trades, but didn't manage to acquire a big bat to replace Cruz (the team leader, with 27 homers, 76 RBIs this season).
Colon getting only "time served" is great news for the first-place A's, who would have had a big hole to fill in their rotation if Colon (14-3 this season with a 2.50 ERA) would have been suspended.