Right fielder Nelson Cruz seemingly faced a difficult decision — accept a 50-game suspension and abandon his Texas Rangers teammates in a pennant race, or appeal the penalty and potentially damage his free-agent value this offseason.
Well, maybe the decision wasn’t so difficult after all.
Cruz was one of 12 players who accepted a suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy on Monday, apparently believing that he had little choice.
Alex Rodriguez, the only player appealing his suspensions, is in baseball’s crosshairs. Cruz, by taking the same course, would have connected himself to Rodriguez, exposing himself to greater scrutiny.
For starters, Cruz might have gotten a penalty greater than 50 games. And, by going to arbitration, he would have risked details of his case becoming public; leaks have been common throughout baseball’s investigation of Biogenesis.
What’s more, if Cruz had lost his appeal, his suspension would have carried into next season, creating a disincentive for teams interested in him as a free agent. By accepting his suspension, he will be clear to play from the start of next season.
The only way for Cruz to appeal and salvage his market value would have been to quietly agree to a new deal with the Rangers, one that could have been announced at a later date.
The Rangers, though, could not risk such a move, which almost certainly would have been viewed by baseball as an attempt to circumvent the spirit of the Joint Drug Agreement.
Cruz released a statement through his attorneys on Monday, saying, "I have been notified by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball that I have been suspended for 50 games for violation of the Joint Drug Agreement. I have decided to accept this suspension and not exercise my rights under the Basic Agreement to appeal.
"From November, 2011 to January, 2012, I was seriously ill with a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, which went undiagnosed for over a month. By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play.
"Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers’ fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs."