By Jeff Nations
Even when he tries to do something right, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig manages to get it all wrong.
That's a gift of some sort, I'm sure, in an alternate universe much like the one Selig and his crew at MLB seem to operate in much of the time. Selig and company manage, somehow, to move at virtual anti-light speed whenever a major issue tends to pop up.
I'm referring, of course, to the ongoing mess that is the Biogenesis investigation. By all accounts, MLB has amassed a "mountain" of evidence linking a number of players to performance-enhancing drugs supplied by the Florida company. Last week, former National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun -- who pulled one of those reprehensible Rafael Palmeiro-style indignant denials two years ago when he beat the PED rap on a chain-of-custody technicality -- finally started paying the price for continued use. Among those linked to Biogenesis, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder agreed to a 65-game ban that wipes out the rest of his season.
More sanctions are to follow, we've been assured -- but when? Is the mountain still growing, and if so how much longer are clubs supposed to be in the dark.
It's already too late for some teams, with the MLB trading deadline just hours away at 4 p.m. today. With the expanded playoffs allowing two Wild Card teams now, more clubs than ever remain in the hunt for one of those postseason spots. That alone is reason to look for a boost via trade, but the uncertainty surrounding MLB's drawn-out Biogenesis investigation has generated makes this year's deadline dealing even more dicey for many of the contenders.
Consider the Texas Rangers -- slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz's name has been linked prominently to Biogenesis. Is he looking at a 50-game ban? If so, when? Cruz will have the opportunity to appeal that decision if he wishes, which would drag out the suspension process. Since he's a free agent next year, a lengthy suspension would likely cost him millions on his next contract. So Cruz would be one, like Braun, who might accept the penalty now -- sorry about your luck, Rangers -- rather than fight it and risk a chunk of next season's contract.
The Detroit Tigers have the opposite issue with shortstop Jhonny Peralta, another prominent player linked to Biogenesis. All indications are Peralta would indeed go the appeals route and stay on the field. But what if he changes his mind? Suddenly the Tigers would be without a major part of their lineup.
The Oakland A's have their own potential headache with All-Star starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who actually served a 50-game ban for PED use last year. The A's reportedly are confident that Colon has done his time and won't be subject to further sanctions, but again -- until the official word comes down from MLB, that's simply educated guesswork.
Then there's Alex Rodriguez, perhaps the face of suspected PED use in baseball now that Barry Bonds is no longer suiting up. Rodriguez, an admitted past user, could be facing anywhere from a 50-game to a lifetime ban under the "best interests of baseball" doctrine for his use, depending on what and how Selig chooses to do. It seems obvious that the New York Yankees, A-Rod's current employer, are hoping for the extreme penalty in order to shed the terrible contract they gave the third baseman. After Rodriguez delivered an MVP season in 2007, the free-spending Yanks served up a 10-year, $275 million contract with millions more linked to marketing and milestone bonuses. Rodriguez, who's been sidelined with an ailing hip all season, is making $28 million this season. He's due $25 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015 and $20 in 2016 and 2017. Already 38 and showing every indication of declining health and production, Rodriguez is an albatross the Yanks would love to shed.
There are others, presumably, who haven't yet been reportedly linked to Biogenesis. To some degree or another, their prospective penalties will impact this year's playoff race. By dawdling, Selig is ensuring that those penalties will come at the worst possible time for contending teams. Doing the right thing is admirable, but doing something in a reasonable amount of time would be preferable to baseball's fans, players and management.
Selig has never been one to rush, that much is certain. Four years ago, he appointed a blue-ribbon panel to help find a solution to the A's chronic ballpark problem. Four years later, the A's are still playing in a run-down, decrepit, sewage-overflowing cavern and still waiting for some word from Selig and his committee. There's real time, and there's Bud's time, and rarely are the two anywhere close in proximity. Once more, that's proven to be against "the best interests" of the sport he's supposed to lead.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>