Back when news of another drug scandal hit baseball in January, back when we learned about Biogenesis and Tony Bosch for the first time — back then, Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was one of the biggest names connected to the clinic.
A-Rod, of course, was the biggest star. But he'd been linked to performance-enhancing drugs before, so seeing his name wasn't exactly a surprise. But Gio? He seemed like a fun guy, a nice guy, not a buff and braun kind of a guy. Was he a PED user? Could he be?
No, Gonzalez responded adamantly. He said at the time he'd never met Bosch and any suggestion otherwise was a lie.
"I've never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will," Gonzalez said. "I've never met or spoken with Tony Bosch or used any substances provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie."
This is the thing, though: We can't trust anybody anymore. There is no innocent-until-proven-guilty. Nowadays, it's hit more home runs than you're supposed to and people will think you're guilty. Get linked to PEDs in any way and people will think you're guilty. This isn't right or wrong. It's just reality in a sport where the PR problem is almost as bad as the PED problem.
Gonzalez' explanation about how he was in the Biogenesis records? Funny story. His dad, who lives nearby, was a patient there. And not for anything related to PEDs, but for what the clinic actually purported to be — a wellness center.
"My son works very, very hard, and he's as clean as apple pie," the elder Gonzalez says. "I went to Tony because I needed to lose weight. A friend recommended him, and he did great work for me. But that's it. He never met my son. Never. And if I knew he was doing these things with steroids, do you think I'd be dumb enough to go there?"
You couldn't help but be skeptical about that. It sounded like a dog-ate-my-homework excuse, only it made a tad more sense. But Gonzalez insisted and little by little, his name started to clear up. He passed a drug test not longer after the Biogenesis news broke. A follow-up report from ESPN said Gonzalez didn't receive any banned substances from Biogenesis.
Soon enough, Gonzalez was pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and the narrative in his 2013 season turned toward the under-performing Nats, not anything related to drugs.
When MLB issued the first of three Biogenesis-related press releases on Monday at 3 p.m. ET, right there at the bottom, past all the suspended players, in the very last line, that's where you could find Gio Gonzalez' redemption.
Major League Baseball’s investigation found no violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez or Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.
If it were you and you were falsely accused of being a cheater like Gonzalez had been, how would you have responded on Monday?Would you have taken at least a moment to rub it in the face of the media that dragged you into this mess? To send out one snotty "I told you so!" tweet.
Gonzalez didn't. Not publicly, anyway.
“I am very pleased that Major League Baseball has cleared my name,” Gonzalez said in a statement released by his team. “With this process now complete, I have no lingering sense of animosity, as I quickly realized that the objective of this investigation was to clean up our game. This is an ideal that I share with both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. I would also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of my teammates, the Lerner Family, Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson, our coaching staff and Nationals fans everywhere.”
Still, you have to figure that for Gonzalez redemption must taste mighty sweet.
Probably like apple pie.