By Dan Leach
Many will vehemently disagree with me as soon as they see the title of this blog. That’s understandable, but I just ask that you take your emotion out of it for just a minute so you can see the clearer and much broader point I have to make.
There is little argument that Jhonny Peralta makes the Tigers better when he is in the lineup. The bigger question is — At what price? The PED issue in baseball is one that has rocked the game to its core and must be cleaned up NOW; not a year from now, four years from now, or as MLB has operated in the past, when it felt like it was ready… which was never.
It seems as if everything has finally come to a head with the Biogensis scandal. The Players Union seems ready get serious about cleaning up the game and, by all accounts, so does MLB. They didn’t pull any punches with PED poster boy of the era Alex Rodriguez in coming down with a 211 game suspension, the biggest in history if your name isn’t Pete Rose or members of the Black Sox Scandal. It might be two decades or more too late, but at least the game might finally be able to restore at least a good part of its honesty and integrity and stop cheating the fans and players alike. While Peralta was definitely not the first to be embroiled in a PED scandal, baseball fans can hope he will be part of the last.
It may seem unfair to penalize a player that never had a positive test against him and simply had a mountain of evidence that showed he was involved in the procurement of substances that are illegal under today’s MLB rules. That is why something just does not feel right when the thought of Peralta coming back on a white horse just in time for the last series of the regular season, ironically in Miami where this whole mess began for him and many others.
While sports and life itself is all about second chances, and I could not believe in them anymore myself, sometimes for the greater good, tough decisions must be made. It would be great for Peralta to come back to a Tigers team that could always use his bat and defense right as they are about to make their playoff run, but that would not do anything to deter future use. Use PED’s, get suspended for 50 games, force your team into making a trade and unloaded one of their best prospects, abandon the team during the most important part of the season, then come back like nothing has happened at the last second? That just isn’t right to me.
What about his teammates like Max Scherzer, who have been adamant about how cheating must be taken out of the game? What about Jose Iglesias, who by all accounts seems to be a stalwart at shortstop and by then could truly be in a groove with his new team? What about all the Tigers that might not say it out loud to the media, but feel Peralta is abandoning the team by not appealing his suspensions cause of his looming free agency in 2014? Second chance deserved? Absolutely, but that should be next season with whatever team Peralta finds himself.
If PED’s are ever going to be taken out of baseball, players must have consequences in both their wallets and in their ability to even play. People ask me would I feel differently if it was Miguel Cabrera or Scherzer and I say to you, it should not matter the players name and how good they are. What should matter is simply whether they broke the rules or not. In this case, whether it is fair under the new CBA or not, the players agreed to this new policy of not needing a positive test and Jhonny Peralta is a current player that helped ratify that.
How do you explain to a youngster that it is OK to cheat and yes, you will pay a price, but not a really big one and you can come back and go from being suspended for the most important part of the season and then jump right onto a playoff run. That simply will not prevent it from happening again and again, which has been the problem over the majority of the past three decades in MLB.
I do have hope that one day soon baseball, a game that many of us grew up falling in love with, can once again be pure. It is going to take some tough decisions and actions to make that happen and one of those is disciplining players that cheated and hurt their team immensely by doing so. In this case the discipline as far as the Tigers are concerned must be to keep Jhonny Peralta away from a team that he does love, that he absolutely can help, but that he truly hurt with his suspension.