By: Jamie Samuelsen
We’ve been kept in the dark on this for weeks. But it does sound like there will be some clarity on the Major League Baseball drug suspensions in the next 24 hours. In fact, by the time you read this – Alex Rodriguez might be banned from baseball for life and Jhonny Peralta could be benched for at least 50 games.
We don’t know what Peralta did. We’re not even sure what Peralta is accused of doing. But after months of worrying and speculating and hypothesizing, we’ve reached decision day. And after all the suspensions are handed out and the dust has settled, I think one thing is rather clear.
The Tigers are the beneficiaries of this suspension.
How is losing an All-Star shortstop a good thing?
Well in the short term, it’s not. Peralta has hit .307 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs. And with Victor Martinez rounding into shape, Omar Infante soon to return and even Alex Avila showing signs of life, it’s a tough blow to the Tigers offense to lose the #6 hitter.
But remember, this season is now, always has been and always will be about the postseason. Despite the hot play of the Cleveland Indians, this division is still the Tigers to take, with or without Peralta. This is a playoff team, plain and simple. And Peralta’s absence shouldn’t change anything.
So what does this mean for the postseason?
Well, if Jose Iglesias comes in and takes over the shortstop position, the Tigers are automatically better defensively. And if Peralta can return at the end of the regular season, Jim Leyland actually has options in the infield that don’t involve Ramon Santiago. Perhaps Peralta comes back and reclaims his starting position. Perhaps he comes back and is a very good hitter coming off the bench. How many teams enter the postseason with an All-Star as a potential pinch-hitter for late innings?
Some people don’t think Peralta will be welcomed back, either by the fans or by the other Tiger players. I’m not buying that. This is not like Melky Cabrera last year with the Giants who not only cheated the game, but cheated the investigation by trying to cover his tracks with a fake website. Cabrera was eligible to return to the Giants during the postseason but the team rejected him. I can’t see the Tigers doing the same. Leyland went out of his way to praise Peralta yesterday and most of his teammates have echoed those same sentiments.
Baseball is a bottom line business and the Tigers are searching for their first title in nearly 30 years. If Peralta doesn’t appeal and he serves his suspension, he should be allowed to come back. And if he’s a better option than either Iglesias or Santiago, then he should be on the postseason roster.
This isn’t about morals. This isn’t about sending a message. This isn’t about right or wrong. This is about winning a title. The shadow of the Peralta suspension forced GM Dave Dombrowski to make the deal for Iglesias. The shadow of the Peralta suspension actually should make the Tigers even better for the postseason with both Peralta and Iglesias available.
As bad as the drug scandal is for baseball, this shapes up to be a good thing for the Tigers.