Francona, Indians react to Biogenesis suspensions
Cleveland manager speaks with Commissioner Selig about situation in MLB
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona sat inside the coaches' room in the clubhouse on Monday afternoon, watching television coverage of the suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball. Francona felt the need to make a phone call.
Francona dialed the number of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who is a friend of the manager and his father, Tito, dating back to their days with the Brewers. Cleveland's manager left a message, hung up and -- a few minutes later -- Selig took a moment out of this hectic day to return Francona's call.
"He was like, 'This doesn't need to be a dark day for baseball,'" Francona said. "He said this needs to be the beginning of the good stuff. He said it a little better, but I agree with him. I think Major League Baseball did something that was really difficult, and sometimes the right thing is difficult."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty: a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"Major League Baseball has worked diligently with the Players Association for more than a decade to make our Joint Drug Program the best in all of professional sports," Selig said in a statement. "I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts -- not only with regard to random testing, groundbreaking blood testing for Human Growth Hormone and one of the most significant longitudinal profiling programs in the world, but also our investigative capabilities, which proved vital to the Biogenesis case.
"Upon learning that players were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, we vigorously pursued evidence that linked those individuals to violations of our Program. We conducted a thorough, aggressive investigation guided by facts so that we could justly enforce our rules."
Inside Cleveland's clubhouse, the players were pleased with the outcome of the investigation. They were also happy that -- with the exception of Rodriguez -- the suspended players immediately accepted their punishment.
"They're trying to clean the game," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "I'm happy most of the guys are accepting the suspensions, because I think it gets the ball rolling in the right direction. I think it starts putting it behind us. People are starting to take responsibility for it. I think it's just a stepping stone in the right direction."
That was the general reaction from the Indians, especially among the younger players.
"This Biogenesis thing is obviously not good for the game," Indians reliever Cody Allen said. "There were the Mitchell Report years that tainted the game for a while. This is a step in the right direction. A lot of players have voiced their opinion of wanting to clean up the game. It's really a joint effort."
On Monday, the Indians opened a four-game series with the Tigers, who entered the evening with a three-game lead on the Tribe for first place in the American League Central. Losing Peralta, who spent parts of the 2003-10 seasons with Cleveland, is a big blow to Detroit. This season, the shortstop has hit .305 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs in 104 games.
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera -- the only position player left who was a teammate of Peralta's in Cleveland -- declined to comment.
"I don't want to talk about that," Cabrera said.
The Rangers, who entered Monday trailing the Indians by a half-game in the Wild Card race, lost a key piece to their offense with Cruz being hit with the 50-game suspension. Detroit, while now without Peralta, acquired young shortstop Jose Iglesias prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, providing some insurance in the event that this day came.
"The Tigers were kind of proactive to the situation when they brought in Iglesias," Kipnis said. "I think both teams are still intact with their core. Does this hurt them? Obviously. Are they still fielding great teams that are going to win a bunch of games down the road? Yes. I think each team's got enough veteran leadership where they should still be all right."
Indians veteran Jason Giambi, who admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career, did not feel that Texas or Detroit -- two teams in the thick of the postseason chase with the Indians -- would become overly distracted by the Biogenesis situation.
"There's not one guy that's going to be a distraction for a ballclub," Giambi said. "If you're playing well as a ballclub, you get around those distractions."
Giambi did not have much to say about Rodriguez, who was a teammate of his with the Yankees from 2004-08.
"Human beings are going to make mistakes," Giambi said. "That's really all I can say about it."
Francona -- the bench coach for the Rangers in 2002, when A-Rod played in Texas -- was also short in his response when asked about Rodriguez.
"I was actually with him in '02 -- saw how hard he worked," Francona said. "Maybe I was just naive. I don't know."
Kipnis was asked if Rodriguez's pending suspension strikes a crucial blow to what might be left of Rodriguez's legacy as one of the game's all-time great players.
"That's a good way of putting it: anything that was left. I don't know," Kipnis said. "Having never met the guy, I always reserve judgement until I get to meet him myself. But I know that on the field, he hasn't gone about the field the right way, and it sounds like off the field he hasn't gone about things the right way, but I can't speak for him.
"When you play in New York, when you're making that much money, he's facing a lot different demons and pressures than I can't even speak of, so I couldn't tell you how I'd respond to any of those situations."
What was clear is that the Indians -- from Francona to the players -- felt this day was a good step for baseball. Francona also believes his friend Selig is trying to do everything in his power to clean up the game that he loves.
"If you spent 30 seconds with him, you'd know how much he cares about the game," Francona said. "He loves the game of baseball. ... People make mistakes. I've made mistakes. We all make mistakes. Some are more severe than others, but the idea is trying to get it right. We have really good people trying to get it right."