After facing PED cheat in ALCS, Red Sox carried battle into offseason
NEW YORK — Jhonny Peralta went 3 for 4 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series and drove in the only run in the Tigers’ 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.
Afterward, a number of Red Sox players seethed privately over getting beaten by a player who was coming off a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
How much conversation was there among the Red Sox?
"A lot," Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes said.
What was the tone of those conversations?
The Red Sox went on to win the series, 4 games to 2, and then the World Series over the Cardinals by the same margin.
The irritated Sox players, however, did not abandon their vow to contact the players union during the offseason and express their displeasure that a player coming off a suspension had competed against them in the ALCS.
Three of those players — Gomes, right-hander Jake Peavy and catcher David Ross — spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about their frustration and even anger about playing against Peralta, who batted .286 with a .747 OPS in the series.
Their voices, along with the voices of players on other clubs, were heard.
The revised Joint Drug Agreement announced on March 28 states that players suspended during a season for a PED violation will not be eligible for the postseason that year.
Call it the Peralta Rule — or the Nelson Cruz Rule, in honor of the former Texas Rangers (current Baltimore Orioles) slugger who appeared in a tiebreaker game that the Rangers lost to the Rays.
Yet even now, players are not entirely satisfied.
"It still makes guys mad," Ross said. "Nelson Cruz beat us with a home run on Opening Day (this year). You just have that sense of getting beat by a cheater. It hurts a little more than normally when you would just give a guy credit for doing something good. That’s on them, too. That’s something they’ll carry the rest of their playing career, and probably the rest of their lives."
No longer do players tolerate such conduct from their peers.
Both union and management officials acknowledge that players drove the changes to the JDA, which included an increase in the penalties for a first-time offense from 50 games to 80 and a second offense from 100 games to 162.
"The JDA proposals that were presented and agreed to represented the sentiment of most, if not all in every area of the agreement — not just a provision tied to postseason eligibility and not just the concerns of any one team," union chief Tony Clark said.
"That’s what makes our program as comprehensive as it is. The player engagement and input in this area and others throughout the offseason was tremendous and inevitably led to the agreement(s) that were finalized."
Clark said that Gomes and "a significant number of others" with the Red Sox had specific conversations with union officials, while Peavy and Ross were among those who communicated by text or email.
"The union came to us, too," Gomes said. "They do a great job these days. They say, ‘Vent to us, tell us what you feel, tell us what you want changed, and we’ll go fight for it.’ "
Each of the Red Sox players made a point of saying they had nothing personal against Peralta. But each made it clear that they were upset that the rules allowed Peralta to play in the postseason after he returned from his suspension on Sept. 27.
"Every time he got a hit, you were just mad," Ross said. "It wasn’t like something we dwelled upon. But there were remarks made here and there. It’s only natural to not like a guy you feel like is cheating, is on a different level than you are, whether he still is or not."
Said Peavy, "Of course we were (upset). We had every right to be. … We weren’t going to gripe and complain because they were rules we set in place. But at the end of the day, we all realized that there was some tweaking that needed to happen. And we made the necessary adjustments."
Peralta, who signed a four-year, $53 million free-agent contract with the Cardinals last Nov. 25, was one of 12 players suspended last August as part of baseball’s investigation of Biogenesis, a now-defunct anti-aging clinic that supplied PEDs to players.
Although Peralta did not test positive for PEDs, he accepted his suspension and admitted in a statement that he had made "a terrible mistake" in the spring of 2012, more than a full season before he was disciplined.
Gomes said that players, in seeking to close the postseason loophole, were concerned that a player who tested positive, served a suspension and then appeared in the playoffs would retain part of the competitive advantage that he gained from PEDs.
"You take a 50-game suspension, you’ve overhauled your body," Gomes said. "You’re still going to reap some benefits after a 50-game suspension, for sure. It’s not like you take a greenie (amphetamine), you’re all hyped up and tomorrow you’re tired again. This stuff stays in your system."
Of course, the possibility exists that the Sox unknowingly harbored a player who used PEDs on their 2013 postseason roster, even though none tested positive during the season.
(The New York Times reported in 2009 that Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was on a list of players who tested positive during survey testing in ’03, when players were not subject to discipline. Ortiz said he never bought or purchased steroids, but said that he had been “careless” in his use of supplements.)
Ross acknowledged the potential discrepancy.
"As human beings, we have a funny way of looking at it," Ross said. "If it happens to our family, we’ll console ’em. If it happens to an outsider’s family, we’ll condemn him.
"That’s just the nature of us as human beings, and teams. Same thing with military, firefighters, policemen. If one of your own makes a mistake, you’re OK with it, you’ll help ’em get through it, you’re a little more understanding than when it’s someone you’re going against, competing against. You don’t feel the same.
"I understand. I know (the Tigers’) Torii Hunter is a big advocate of clean baseball. I don’t know him really well, but listening to him talk, he seems like an upstanding guy. He’s good for the game, wants to do what’s right. But he had Peralta’s back."
Peavy, on the other hand, said he would have little patience for any teammate who used PEDs.
"If any guy is knowingly cheating the game of baseball, I don’t care if they’re on your team or not," Peavy said. "You can talk all you want about being a good teammate. But if you’re knowingly putting a substance in your body that is illegal in your game, you’re not being a good teammate. No one is going to have any sympathy for you, no matter what team you’re on.
"You may know the guy a little better personally because you spend time with him. But if there is a guy in here putting stuff in his body that is illegal, the majority in this room, I would say, is going to have a problem with that. I know I’m going to have a problem with it. I have a problem with anyone in the game doing it. I know the way the majority of us feel and the way we’re going about our business.
"It’s not acceptable anymore."