After weeks of speculation, Major League Baseball has handed down suspensions to the players linked to its investigation of the Biogenesis of America clinic. And as expected, Alex Rodriguez had the harshest penalty levied against him.
The New York Yankees third baseman was suspended through the entire 2014 season for multiple violations of baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, while 12 others received 50-game bans for their connection to the now-closed South Florida anti-aging clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing substances.
Rodriguez's penalty was officially termed to be for 211 games and will become effective on Thursday. The three-time American League MVP has appealed the ruling, however, enabling him to make his season debut when New York opened a three-game set against the White Sox in Chicago Monday night.
The 38-year-old Yankees star singled in his initial at-bat and finished 1- for-4 in New York's 8-1 loss to the White Sox.
By appealing, Rodriguez is eligible to play until his case is heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, though a final decision could conceivably not come until after the World Series.
"We agree with his decision to fight his suspension," said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner. "We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."
Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera and pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo, Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Houston Astros pitcher Sergio Escalona, New York Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello and free-agent pitcher Jordan Norberto each accepted their 50-game suspensions and will begin serving them immediately.
Three other players involved in the Biogenesis case -- Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal -- were not penalized due to each having already served 50-game sentences for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
MLB also exonerated Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia from any wrongdoing. Both players were named in Biogenesis records but were found to have purchased legal substances from the clinic.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, accepted a 65-game suspension last month after MLB reportedly presented evidence that he used PEDs provided by Biogenesis.
Rodriguez, who previously admitted to using steroids during a two-year period from 2001-03 while with the Texas Rangers, had yet to play in the majors this year as he recovered from offseason hip surgery and more recently, a quad injury.
"I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play major league baseball again," said Rodriguez during a press conference before Monday's game. "I feel like [I did when] I was 18 years old back in Fenway Park in 1994 when I went in to face the Red Sox for the very first time," in reference to his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners.
Earlier in the week, the star slugger took a shot at both MLB and his employers while on a minor league rehab stint, suggesting that the Yankees were conspiring with the league to force him out of the game so the team can avoid paying the remainder of his salary.
"I don't know what the motivation is for any of this, but I'm going to respect the process," said Rodriguez on Monday. "I feel good we have the opportunity to do that in the right platform. And we're going to state our case."
The Yankees made a statement in response to those allegations following the announcement of the suspensions.
"We are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter. The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."
Losing Cruz is a significant blow to the Rangers, who enter the season's final two months two games behind Oakland for first place in the AL West. The All- Star right fielder was pacing the club in homers (27) and RBI (76).
"From November, 2011 to January, 2012, I was seriously ill with a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, which went undiagnosed for over a month," said Cruz in a statement. "By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse."
Both Cruz and Peralta, whose Tigers currently lead the AL Central, are eligible to participate in the postseason once their suspension ends. Rodriguez, however, would remain ineligible for the playoffs if his appeal is denied.
"In spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret," said Peralta in a statement. "I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake, including my teammates, the Tigers' organization, the great fans in Detroit, Major League Baseball, and my family. I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension. I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down. I promise to do everything possible to try and earn back the respect that I have lost."
Detroit braced for Peralta's potential absence by acquiring infielder Jose Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox last week.