To appeal, or not to appeal?
That is the question that Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is reportedly asking himself as MLB prepares to announce player suspensions resulting from its investigation into the Biogenesis clinic.
On Tuesday, the word was that every player except for Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was prepared to accept and serve a 50-game suspension (or a suspension for the rest of the season) for their connection with the South Florida clinic linked with distribution of performance enhancing drugs to athletes. But at some point yesterday, reports emerged that Cruz was having second thoughts, and was considering joining Rodriguez fighting his suspension.
What happened during that 24-hour-span that is causing Cruz to waiver? According to some reports, the Rangers happened.
And now Cruz is torn between two competing choices; one that’s in the best interests of his current organization and another that is in his own best interest. It pits loyalty against self-interest.
Texas, a team embattled in competition for a playoff spot and already pressed for offensive production, is apparently pressuring Cruz to appeal so that he can remain in the team’s lineup through the end of the season and playoffs, if they make it.
Cruz is undoubtedly the Rangers’ best bat. He is hitting .271/.334/.501 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs in 103 games. If he accepts his suspension, it will leave a gaping hole in Texas’ lineup in the midst of the season’s stretch run. The Rangers are currently four games behind first-place Oakland in the AL West and a half game behind Cleveland in the race for the final of two wild card berths.
Cruz is also going to be a free agent at the end of this season, which makes the timing of this whole Biogenesis thing unfortunate.
The speculation is that the Rangers have informed Cruz that if he does not appeal his looming suspension – and thus becomes ineligible for the team’s 2013 playoff push – they will refuse to even make him an offer for an extension when the season is over. They will simply let him walk, as they feel not appealing would be selfish and a slight to his teammates and to the organization. Talk about taking that whole “There is no I in team” philosophy way too far.
If the reports are true, what the Rangers are doing is not just unfair to Cruz, it’s a despicable sports business practice. Cruz has been loyal and a key offensive component that has helped pull a franchise mired in futility out of the depths and to the doorstep of two might-have-been championships. And for his efforts, he is rewarded with an ultimatum that puts him in an extremely awkward position.
The Rangers might not make the playoffs, even with Cruz in the middle of their lineup. And even if he does play out this season, there is no guarantee the club will re-sign him when his current contract is up. And if he appeals and loses, he will likely be forced to serve his 50+ games at some point next season. That missed time will dramatically reduce his value on the free agent market.
The risks aren’t just financial. An appeal would cause him greater reputational harm as well. Accepting a suspension would likely make this issue go away quietly. Who among us is even still talking about Ryan Braun? And it’s been a week since he accepted his PED suspension.
Dragging out the process with appeals would keep Cruz’s name, and his association with Biogenesis and performance enhancing drugs, in the headlines. It would give the sports media a topic to talk about and a target at which to cast stones.
And to make matters worse, it appears that all of the other punishable players are planning on accepting their suspensions without a fight. If that’s true, Cruz would only have one man as company during the appeals process. That man is arguably the most reviled figure in all of sports right now – A-Rod. Whether it’s fair or not, a man is often judged by the company he keeps. Even if the association is not by choice.
Cruz is staring down a no-win situation.
If he accepts and serves his suspension, he burns his bridges with the only organization he’s really ever known. If he doesn’t, he jeopardizes his own future in Major League Baseball.
It’s a risk he should not take in light of Texas’ selfishness. Why remain loyal to a team that is showing such disloyalty to you in your greatest time of need?
The ultimatum alone should be enough to convince Cruz he’s better off accepting not just a suspension, but his walking papers, as well. If the Rangers do not want him, another club certainly will.
When it comes to this Biogenesis situation, Cruz simply needs to do for Cruz.