The Elephant in the Room

With last night's bitter loss robbery in the books, I'm turning my attention to what is, essentially, the elephant in the room.

Monday afternoon's news that Ryan Braun would be suspended for the remaining 65 games of the season was surprising to most everyone. We had been told that suspensions would likely not be announced or served until after this season was over. The idea was that, since suspensions aren't technically announced until any appeals process is finished, that the scope of the investigation alone would require the appeals process to continue into the offseason.

Once again, someone proved that you can't count on what you think you know, as Braun accepted a suspension without appeal. With that, the first domino has fallen, and for Rangers fans, Nelson Cruz is the topic of concern.

In a sense, it makes sense that, if Major League Baseball had enough evidence on Braun, that he accepted this ban as opposed to even a 50-game ban next season. He stands to lose less money missing 65 games this season than even 50 next season, and word is that MLB would have gone after a 100-game suspension instead. So I understand it. However, I don't believe Nelson Cruz will be in the same situation as Braun, nor do I think many other players will follow Braun's lead. Some players may come out and throw blow my theory out of the water, but until then, this is what I stand by.

Nelson Cruz doesn't have a contract beyond this season with the Texas Rangers. Were he to accept a ban today to sit out the remaining 62 games of the season for the Rangers, he would lose around $4 million, which is actually higher than the approximate $3.25 million Braun will be losing over 65 games. Beyond that, because of this situation alone, there's no guarantee that Cruz will receive any big offers on the free agent market this offseason. Based on that alone, it's almost smarter for Cruz to fight until the bitter end to get any guaranteed money that he can.

While the argument of the fairness of alleged PED users continuing to play rages on, that's a an argument for a different article, and fully depends on whether or not you find it to be a serious issue in the sport (which for the record, I really don't). This isn't about that. It's about the Rangers hopefully not losing one of their only power bats from a lineup that already struggles to score runs at times.

Furthermore, I have hard time believing that Major League Baseball would be able to get anything more than a 50-game suspension for Cruz to stick. In Braun's case, he had a prior positive test that he ended up beating on a technicality. For Cruz, there's never been, to our knowledge, a positive test, and this is the first time his name has come up as far as PEDs are concerned. What I do question, however, is what kind of precedent the Braun suspension might have set.

The suspension guidelines for violating the MLB drug policy were put into place for a reason, and with this one ban, baseball has essentially dismissed them entirely, and surprisingly, the MLBPA seems to be fine with it. Perhaps it speaks to the sheer amount of evidence there was against Braun, but I do wonder if it possibly signals the start of a time in which baseball can hand out suspensions as long or as short as it likes. If that's the case, I'm not sure I like the precedent.

As science advances and allows for greater advantages, the line that has been drawn for PEDs is only going to get more blurry. It's not going away anytime soon. Rather, it will only become tougher to determine what is acceptable and what isn't. With various medical advances, you or I can take advantage of it to heal faster or allow our aging bodies to perhaps not feel the painful effects of aging as badly. Yet, for athletes, the line has been drawn that it isn't OK to use these advances. Maybe in ten years, we're a bit more accepting of the idea, but for now, not so much.

Yet, I'm left to wonder if the precedent in the Braun suspension has perhaps set in motion an irrevokable ban of all medical advances that can actually safely be used by baseball players to get through a greuling schedule year after year. And what if Nelson Cruz gets suspended this year?

Yeah, that's not something I'm prepared to seriously think about. Not only do I think it won't happen, but I really don't want it to, because right now, despite the fact that it's painful to watch him at times in right field, this team needs him more than ever, and at least through this season, I want him to be a member of the Texas Rangers.