By: Dan Leach
Many just by seeing the title of this blog will vehemently disagree with me. 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. As the Tigers get ready for a very important series with the Kansas City Royals embattled All Star Jhonny Peralta has rejoined the team this week to work out as he possibly gets ready to rejoin the team for a potential postseason run.
There is little argument that 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 integrity of 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 was interesting to see Jhonny shag balls in left field before the game in Chicago Wednesday night and might have given fans false hope that Peralta, who has never played left field at any point in his career, could be platooned there in the postseason. That just is not likely to happen. If Peralta comes back for the postseason it would be as a backup to Jose Iglesias and a pinch hitter, and that makes even less sense to me to take a roster spot away from someone like Tuiasosopo, who has been with the club all year and made good contributions.
Many will say that it is always better to have a player that is eligible, even if he did something to hurt the team. Well case in point of the opposite side is last years San Francisco Giants team. They had a player in Melky Cabrera that was the All Star Game MVP, was having an MVP type season, then got suspended due to PED use. The Giants could have welcomed him back with open arms like many Tigers fans would like for the club to do with Jhonny Peralta. The Giants drew a line in the sand, did the right thing, and guess what…they won the World Series.
It seems as if everything has finally come to a head with the Biogenesis scandal. The Players Union seems ready to 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, but that fact that he continues to play while appealing his suspension is downright appalling.
That is why while Peralta paid his price and served his time, sometimes you have to give up a special thing for a lesson to be learned. How can you explain to someone who is playing baseball the right way that if you cheat, let your team down, force a trade, you can just come ridin’ on back on a proverbial white horse, just in time to play the final three games in Miami, ironically miles away from the where all the Biogenesis issues began, then play in the postseason like nothing had happened.
I understand many Tigers fans “win at all costs” mentality as this city, this franchise, the Ilitch family, these amazing fans deserve a World Series title for the first time in 29 years, but it must be done the right way. There is something to be said about having integrity in a game, which has so sorely lacked it in the so-called Steroids Era. It might be two decades or more too late, but at least the game might finally be able to restore 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.
While sport 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 has become a mainstay at short since Peralta’s suspension and seems to 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 abandoned 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 with.
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 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.