As part of the punishments levied by Major League Baseball today, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz has been suspended for the 50 games without pay.
Cruz has decided to accept the penalty instead of appealing the decision.The Rangers are ill prepared to miss such a potent player in their run to the playoffs. Speaking of ill, Cruz released a statement explaining why he used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) and how sorry he is about his decision.
“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. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers’ fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs.”
Is Cruz sorry for using PEDs or is he sorry that he got caught? Call me a pessimist but in this era of athletes and PEDs I would lean on the latter conclusion. While Cruz is happy for the support he has received it does not change the fact that he threw a curveball at his organization as they make a run towards the playoffs. The Rangers are 2.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for first place in the American League West and are now without a key player.
Cruz was fourth in the American league with 27 home runs along with 76 RBI. Cruz had also scored 49 runs and was hitting .269. How will the Rangers replace that production in their lineup during the stretch run? The answer comes from the minor leagues in the names of Engel Beltre and Joey Butler.
Beltre has 13 games and a total of 30 plate appearances at the major league level. Beltre is known for his speed and incredible defense but those will not help the Rangers recoup some of the pop created by the suspension of Cruz. Butler is 27 years old and has never been able to make the final leap to the majors. A glimmer of hope for the Rangers is Butler has a 952 OPS against left-handed pitching so in a platoon role he might be okay.
Regardless the Rangers will be drastically impacted by the loss of Cruz. Neither of the call ups will be able to match his production. Then there is the void created in the lineup by his absence. Players like Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltreboth stand to be impacted by the loss of Nelson Cruz and his power. They will not see as many quality pitches and their numbers along with the Rangers run production will suffer. Can the Rangers overcome the loss of Cruz? Anything is possible but the Athletics are a little safer in the American League West today than they were on Sunday.
Why would Cruz accept the suspension and not appeal? Major league Baseball had a mountain of evidence against all the players involved and it was rumored some players would have faced stiffer suspensions if they appealed. Then there is free agency. I mentioned it before in other articles but it bears repeating. All that is required is to look at the case of Melky Cabrera in 2012. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games the latter part of 2012 and entered free agency. The contract he signed with the Giants before being suspended was for one year and $6 million. His post suspension contract with the Blue Jays is worth 2 years and $16 million.
If Cruz serves his suspension now he will be free and clear when free agency roles around and believe me there are plenty of MLB teams that will still reward Cruz with a very nice contract. With he get the mega contract he was expecting? No but he will still unfortunately reap the rewards on the open market. I feel for the Rangers and their fans as another athlete cheated, was caught and everyone else will deal with the consequences.