Despite it being front and center in Major League Baseball headlines just 12 months ago, I can only remember the identities of three of the Biogenesis 13. Still-suspended Alex Rodriguez is a no-brainer, but don’t worry – this is not another A-Rod-themed article!
Can you come up with two other names, not counting Ryan Braun, who had already been slapped down?
As I write this, the other two headliners are leading off “MLB Tonight,” but for entirely good reasons.
Baltimore outfielder Nelson Cruz launched a home run deep to left field, helping his first-place club to a convincing road win over the White Sox. It was his 32nd blast of the season, then tops in the American League.
250 miles away in St. Louis, shortstop Jhonny Peralta’s line drive to left field brought home Matt Holliday for a Cardinals walkoff win over the Cincinnati Reds in extra innings. It was his second RBI of the night and 55th in 2014, just five off the team lead. Though Peralta’s home run total is just half of Cruz’s, his 16 long balls still lead the light-hitting Cardinals by four. With six weeks to play, he already owns the team’s all-time single season record for homers by a shortstop.
In addition to their 50-game suspensions served to close the 2013 regular season, Cruz and Peralta had another shared experience. They were both free agents this past off-season, though their paths taken were very different.
It started with Cruz turning down a one-year qualifying offer of $14.1 million for 2014 from his prior club. Peralta was let go with no compensatory strings attached.
Not wanted back in Detroit amid whispers his effectiveness at shortstop was nearing its end, Peralta was still the premier free agent at a very important skill position. Looking to break their pattern of seven starting shortstops in the seven prior seasons, the Cardinals quickly made a $53 million commitment to sign the 32-year-old. The four-year deal was announced just before Thanksgiving.
Amid considerable criticism for signing a player coming off suspension to such a lucrative contract, John Mozeliak begged to differ. The Cardinals general manager said his team was acting within the rules to improve and asserted it was not their role to serve as “morality police.”
While there were rumblings from some quarters to increase suspension penalties by legislating some kind of contract restriction in years and/or dollars to recently-suspended players, nothing visible has yet come from it.
As quickly as Peralta found a home last winter, Cruz’s experience was just the opposite.
As Cruz left the Texas Rangers, it was thought he might score as much as four years and $65 million on the open market. Though rumors suggested interest from the Seattle Mariners, among other clubs, the outfielder turned out to be about as popular as the Maytag repairman.
By mid-season, it was a very different story. In fact, the 34-year-old was the starting designated hitter for the American League in the All-Star Game.
Who would have guessed that result when Cruz was still jobless as players were reporting to spring training?
Having to accept a one-year, $8 million contract with $750,000 in incentives was a major defeat for Cruz, but for the Orioles, it may be the single best bang-for-the-buck signing in the entire game this year.
Based on his results in 2014, it will likely turn out to be a one step backward, two steps forward maneuver for Cruz.
If Cruz makes it back onto the open market this winter, Biogenesis will be further in our collective rearview mirror.
It stands to reason that his performance in 2014 should enable him to follow Peralta with a longer-term deal - but without the same criticism, given he now has one strong post-suspension season under his belt.
Last off-season, could anyone have assumed that Peralta and Cruz would have a combined 49 home runs by mid-August this year?
Makes you wonder why they ever bothered to fool around with Anthony Bosch, doesn’t it?
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.