BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The first shoe in the Biogenesis case fell yesterday when Ryan Braun agreed to a suspension for his use of performance enhancing drugs. He began serving the suspension immediately, and will miss the balance of the season – 65 games for which Braun will not be paid. There is no question that Braun is one of two big fish that MLB is after in this probe. Braun escaped last year when an arbitrator overturned his 50-game suspension as a first time user. He had proclaimed his innocence throughout the process, but ultimately never challenged the accuracy of the test results. He attacked the process of collection instead and the suspension was overturned on a technicality.
He looked more guilty when the suspension was overturned than before the results of the appeal were known. There is no question that MLB was irate at the decision and has since axed the arbitrator from future cases. MLB wanted to get Braun, and when his name came up in the Biogenesis probe, there was speculation that MLB would seek a suspension of 100 games or more.
Monday’s settlement was a deal for both sides. MLB got the guilty verdict they were seeking and did so without the expense and time of going through another arbitration hearing. They obtained a suspension for more than the 50 game first time user figure, and they established the credibility of Anthony Boesch, the owner of the now defunct Biogenesis Clinic, as a witness.
As for Braun, he gets away with less than the 100 games MLB had been seeking. He is injured, so a portion of the suspension will be games that he would likely be unable to play anyway. The Brewers aren’t going anywhere this year. They are 41-57, 19 games out of first place. Only the White Sox and Marlins have fewer wins. Braun is signed to a long term contract which has more than $170 million remaining to be paid. The contract back loaded salaries, so by serving the suspension this year, he saves a pile of money as he will be making a considerably larger salary next year.
It is interesting that around the All-Star game, the MLBPA announced that the Biogenesis suspensions would not happen until after the season and take effect in 2014. That report is obviously not accurate, so Ranger fans thinking Nelson Cruz would be with the team for the rest of the season need to feel uneasy. The next shoe to drop will likely be Alex Rodriguez, but rumors now have the full load of suspensions coming in the next week to 10 days. With the Rangers already offensively challenged, a Cruz suspension would be a huge loss as he leads the team with 23 home runs and 70 RBI’s.
Cruz will also have a decision to make if he is suspended as rumored. He is eligible to be a free agent after this season. If he takes the suspension this season, he like Braun will save money as he is expected to make a larger salary next year. His value as a free agent this winter will be much higher as he can play from day one in 2014 with whichever team signs him. If he fights the suspension to play through the pennant race with Texas, he could materially lessen his value as a free agent.
It is definitely a predicament for the Rangers. It appears that they will be neck and neck with Oakland for the West Division championship and the loser will still have a good chance of being one of the two Wild Card teams. Without Cruz, the Rangers’ chances of catching Oakland or being a Wild Card team are dramatically reduced. If Cruz chooses to accept the suspension and get it over with, the decision will be received by fans with hostility. On the other hand, with the amount of money involved, you can’t really blame Cruz if he does serve the suspension this season.
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