By: Jamie Samuelsen
Jhonny Peralta is in the Tigers lineup on Wednesday night, hitting in his normal sixth spot in the order. When he comes to the plate for the first time, he’ll get a huge ovation from the Comerica Park faithful. It will probably even be a little louder than normal.
Peralta’s name is tied into the ongoing Major League Baseball investigation into the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. The allegations are that Peralta’s name is on a list along with the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Blue Jays’ Melky Cabrera. All told, there are as many as 20 players who reportedly will be suspended by the league in the coming days. Rodriguez and Braun may get 100 games. Peralta may get 50.
The facts of the case will come out in the coming days. Who knows exactly what evidence that baseball has? Personally, I find it hard to believe that any players will be suspended if it’s simply the word of Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch against the word of the players. As far as we know, there are no positive drug tests out there. And those tend to be the lynchpin of any drug suspension. If Bosch claims that he supplied Peralta and others with PEDs, that’s an alarming accusation. But if Peralta denies it and Bosch has no proof, then it boils down to whoever seems more believable. And seeing as Major League Baseball did their best to trash Bosch and Biogenesis when this scandal first broke back in the winter, it seems like the players will have the upper hand.
But while we struggle to plow through facts and allegations and lies, here’s one fact that’s beyond dispute. Fans just don’t care anymore.
Sure, they’re angry. But they’re not angry at the players. They’re angry that they can’t just watch baseball anymore without being reminded about the ongoing drug scandal. We thought it was done after McGwire, Sosa and Bonds. We thought it was done after Roger Clemens ridiculous perjury trial. And we thought it was done when ARod came clean the first time. But we’re not done with it at all. And the recent allegations make you again cast a suspicious eye at anyone who’s putting up uncharacteristically good numbers. The Orioles’ Chris Davis is hitting .355 and slugging .744. His career average is .269 and his career slugging percentage is .499. Is it fair to simply question Davis because of the accused transgressions of others? Of course not. But after blindly accepting the heroics of McGwire and Sosa in 1998, most of us won’t allow ourselves to be duped again.
That brings us back to Peralta. He’s enjoying quite a rebound (.338, 6 HR, 26 RBI, .496 SLG) after a disappointing 2012 (.239, 13 HR, 63 RBI, .384 SLG). Is it possible that his comeback is the product of hard work? Of course it is. But at the same time, there’s often times smoke where there’s fire. Peralta deserves to be innocent until he’s proven guilty. But Tiger fans will do that one better. They won’t even care if he’s guilty. He’s a Tiger. He’s one of us. And if the Tigers are going to make the World Series this year, they’re going to need Peralta to stabilize the bottom of the lineup. Sports fans don’t like cheaters unless they happen to play for their favorite team. Giants fans cheered for Bonds. Cardinal fans welcomed McGwire back as the hitting coach in 2010. And Tiger fans looked the other way when Kenny Rogers clearly had a foreign substance on his hand in the 2006 World Series.
Fans don’t care, and I don’t blame them. They were angry at first and now they’re just done. They want baseball back without the lawsuits and court rooms and blood tests. And the best way to get there is just to look the other way. That’s how Tiger fans will treat Peralta. And that’s fine. Because it’s the same in every other city in America.