Voting Shows PED Fatigue
Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, who will be a member of the American League team for tonight’s All-Star Game, had his name punched on more than 2 million of the fan ballots used to select the starting lineups.
In fact, he received exactly 2,258,797 votes, which wasn’t quite enough to earn him an automatic outfield spot, but he was added to the roster nevertheless in deference to his 22 home runs and 69 runs batted in this season.
More than 2 million people — or one very dedicated Nelson Cruz fan more than 2 million times — decided he was a guy they wanted to see represent his team and the game on one of the biggest nights of the season.
The votes rolled in for Cruz even though, starting in January, he has been linked to the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami that was apparently a performance-enhancing drug supermarket for a number of major-league players.
Does that mean that baseball fans either ignored or distrusted the reports, or that Texas Rangers fans were going to vote for Texas Rangers come hell or high testosterone levels, or that people just don’t care about that stuff any longer, if they ever really did?
Is there PED fatigue among sports fans? If so, maybe there’s a pill for that.
Four players on tonight’s all-star rosters — Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera — have been implicated in the Biogenesis case, which baseball has pursued on its own after the federal government didn’t seem all that interested. According to multiple reports, MLB commissioner Bud Selig is preparing to hand out sizable suspensions to 20-25 players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, the former MVP who hit 41 home runs for Selig’s hometown Milwaukee Brewers last season.
The players union will undoubtedly grieve the suspensions, and that arbitration process won’t be finished until well after the end of the season. If the suspensions hold up, they won’t take effect until 2014 at the earliest. And they might not even hold up. The evidence is “non-analytical,” which means no one tested positive, and it comes from a drug peddler who might not be the most credible of witnesses.
Baseball is hot for this one, though. Selig doesn’t like to be lied to, and he’s pretty sure there’s been a lot of that. The hope from his side is that in uncovering this nest in Miami and dealing with it harshly, other players will be scared straight. Maybe, but there’s a bunch of money to be made playing baseball well, and elite athletes are always convinced they can do things better and smarter than the next guy.
Meanwhile, it feels as if the fans merely want the topic to go away already. Just like the old scrapple story — if you happen to like scrapple, then maybe you don’t want to know too much about how it gets on your breakfast plate. Baseball fans like baseball, and while they might want to believe their own teams are clean, they don’t actually want them to be any cleaner than the opposition.
Phillies fans, for instance, don’t appear to think any less of catcher Carlos Ruiz because he received a 25-game suspension for a second positive test for Adderall, the attention-deficit disorder drug that acts as a stimulant and focusing agent. From one perspective, what Ruiz did wrong was to not go through baseball’s procedures to receive a therapeutic use exemption for the drug.
Baseball authorized 116 exemptions for Adderall in 2012, meaning that nearly 10 percent of the players on the game’s 40-man rosters have been diagnosed with ADD, which is more than double the percentage found among the standard adult population. In 2006, the season before the current drug-testing program went into effect, there were 28 exemptions. The following season, the number shot up over 100 and has stayed there. Baseball has tightened its review policies for the exemptions recently.
Does anyone remotely believe that all 116 of those exempted players last season had a legitimate reason to take Adderall? Probably not, but if there’s no outcry about Colon being in an All-Star uniform, then no one is going to worry about a few dozen players who were able to game the system and get an energy buzz.
Colon was suspended 50 games in 2012, after he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. His suspension, along with that of Melky Cabrera, is what led investigators to Biogenesis and the file cabinets full of players’ names.
(Note to cheaters: Don’t let them write down your name. Cyclists using the services of the Operacion Puerto blood-doping clinic in Spain routinely put the names of their pets on their stored blood bags. Investigators were looking for Fluffy and Poco for months.)
Now Colon is not only back — at 40 years of age — but he’s back in the All-Star Game. Second chances are a wonderful thing, and pretty soon, the union will be trying to get him a third. If no one else cares any more, why should Bartolo?