Friday, June 7, 2013
Teams must prepare for PED fallout
By Jim Bowden
With Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta possibly facing suspension, their GMs must prepare now.
It isn’t hyperbole to suggest that the ripples from baseball’s most recent performance-enhancing drug scandal could have an impact on the World Series.
This week, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, Mike Fish and Pedro Gomez reported on "Outside the Lines" that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend approximately 20 players connected to Biogenesis, the Miami-area clinic that is accused of manufacturing and distributing PEDs.
The scandal could affect pennant races just as a serious injury, a trade or a minor league call-up would. The problem that general managers face right now is they do not know the names of all the players involved, and they don't know how successful MLB will be in its pursuit of suspensions. General managers of contending teams cannot ignore the specter of perhaps one of their key players being on that list.
Quite simply, they’ve got to prepare for the worst. But with the trade deadline just a month and half away, that makes the timing awkward. Take, for example, the San Francisco Giants last season.
The 2012 All-Star Game MVP, Melky Cabrera tested positive for PEDs soon afterward.
In the first half of 2012, Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera hit .353/.391/.519 with 8 homers and 18 doubles, and he even stole 10 bases. He clearly was the Giants’ first-half MVP, represented them in the All-Star Game and took All-Star Game MVP honors. Shortly thereafter, the Giants learned Cabrera had tested positive for PEDs. He denied using them and started the appeal process. In time, he admitted usage and accepted a 50-game suspension.
However, by the time Cabrera admitted to using PEDs and began serving his suspension, the trade deadline had passed. The Giants were unable to acquire extra support. The timing could not have been worse, putting the Giants in a bind. They relied on backup Gregor Blanco to fill in for Cabrera in left field. Blanco did a respectable job, and the Giants won the World Series anyway.
Of course, the Giants were very fortunate with this result. However, what shouldn’t be overlooked is that back in July, the Giants had also acquired right fielder Hunter Pence from the Phillies. Had GM Brian Sabean not made that deal, his team probably did not have had enough offensive production in the outfield during Cabrera’s suspension to reach the playoffs.
Whether Sabean and the Giants knew about the positive test or not is immaterial -- they needed another corner outfielder anyway. But it’s almost as if a GM must operate on the assumption that someone on his team will be named, in order to be prepared regardless, and make a move while he can.
Of the names that have been made public, a pair of them -- Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers -- play for teams that are in pennant races. Both teams’ chances of reaching or advancing in the playoffs could be affected if either player is suspended.
Players Under Scrutiny
Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to Biogenesis, OTL has learned. Among the players who might ultimately face discipline:
* Sources told ESPN that Gonzalez received only legal substances ** minor leaguer, but on 40-man roster
Some might argue that even if baseball suspends the offenders, they’ll be able to appeal and drag out the process. However, this is not about the legal system -- it’s about MLB's drug policy and its process. If there is enough evidence to suspend players, they can do it as quickly as the next couple of weeks.
However, general managers must be concerned if the appeal date is like Cabrera’s -- after Aug. 1. It might be too late to acquire a replacement for a Cruz or a Peralta. My hope is that baseball would act in the best interest of all the clubs and have any appeal heard as soon as possible.
So Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and the Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski have to at least prepare for the worst-case scenario and line up possible trade targets because of Cruz and Peralta, respectively. The players will receive due process, and certainly both organizations will stand by their players.
Nonetheless, Daniels and Dombrowski and any other general manager simply cannot wait until the process is completed. They have to at least kick the tires over the next month to figure out what alternatives could be out there just in case one of their players are suspended.
For the Tigers, replacing Peralta at shortstop will require personnel from outside the organization. They probably would have to make a trade for a top tier available shortstop such as the White Sox’s Alexei Ramirez or a top defensive stopgap replacement like Seattle Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan. To win a World Series without Peralta, the Tigers will have to do their homework and be prepared, rather than be in denial.
The Rangers are in a similar situation as the Giants were last season. They are not getting the production they’d like from left field anyway, and if Cruz were suspended, they would really be lacking power in the corners. So they might want to trade for a corner outfielder regardless, even if Cruz is never suspended, because David Murphy’s feeble production (.223/.269/.388) will not cut it.
Over the next couple of weeks, some significant names might pop up. In order to insulate and fireproof their teams, general managers must proceed as if one or more of their players will be named and explore the trade market. It’s a cynical approach, but it’s one that could save a season and possibly -- for contenders such as Texas and Detroit -- a World Series championship.