Woe Nellie: Cruz and the Rangers will pay for his mistake

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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engel Don’t blame baseball boss Bud Selig for needlessly prolonging this investigation. Don’t blame the dirt bag that is Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch for rolling on his clients. The blame falls squarely on the broad shoulders of one Mr. Nelson Cruz.

He took something, which he kinda denies.

He was busted, which is what matters.

Now it’s time to sit down, which is going to cripple his team.

He had the most potent bat on a team that needs another one; the earliest he will be back is the playoffs. If the Rangers make it that far or still want him (they will).

On Monday afternoon, MLB suspended Cruz and 12 other players for their involvement in the infamous and now-defunct “anti-aging” clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., which supplied performance enhancing drugs to athletes.

The biggest name to go down is former Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who as a New York Yankee is suspended through 2014. He is playing while appealing this ruling.

Cruz will lose roughly $3 million of his 2013 salary as a result of his suspension.

He could also have appealed the suspension, thus allowing him to play while the ruling played out. And while he debated whether to appeal, the decision to sit now was a no-brainer — taking PEDs is all about self-interests, even if it at times it benefited the club.

“We’re disappointed,” Rangers President Nolan Ryan said.

Cruz was never going to appeal because, in the issue of self-interest, to do so would hurt his value as a potential free agent. In doing this Cruz put his team in a serious bind.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he was not aware of Cruz’s decision to take the punishment until Sunday night. He also said that a few weeks ago, specifically leading up to MLB’s trade deadline, he and Cruz spoke in an effort to get some idea of what direction Cruz was leaning. Perhaps had Cruz known for sure that Daniels would have traded for a bat.

“We weren’t blindsided,” Daniels said. “We’re disappointed he violated [MLB’s drug agreement]. It is what it is. We knew this was out there. There was not a lot we could do about it. I’m not sure if he made up his mind any sooner it would have changed much. … We knew we weren’t going to know in time.”

In January, shortly after this story broke, Cruz issued the following statement: “We are aware of certain allegations and inferences. To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied.”

On Monday, Cruz said in a new statement that from November 2011 to January 2012 he was ill with a “gastrointestinal infection, Helicobacter pylori.” He said, “I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error.”

H. pylori is bacteria that cause ulcers and can be treated with a few drugs.

Like you, I don’t believe Cruz, either.

If it’s true, why not fight?

Despite baseball’s improved attempt to clean up the rampant drug use that marked the early part of this century, guys are still looking for an advantage to hit a few more home runs, thus driving up their asking price.

Cruz can be a free agent at the end of a season in which he leads the team in home runs (27) and runs batted in (76). He is 32, and the Rangers never planned to offer Cruz a contract beyond the normal tender free agents can be offered, which would have been a one-year, $11 million deal.

There was a thought the Rangers would negotiate with Cruz early, asking him to appeal the suspension with the carrot that they would offer him an extension. That was never going to happen, and it is doubtful Cruz would have been dumb enough to believe them.

Had Cruz dragged out an appeal only to eventually lose, he was going to have to sit the first 50 games of the 2014 season. Clubs interested in signing Cruz would have adjusted their offer, down, accordingly.

He told the Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson he wants to return. There is no way he is coming back to the Rangers now other than to accept a lesser offer. They don’t pay age and they aren’t likely to forget this parting gesture of self-preservation.

Now the Rangers head into the final two months of the regular season trailing the Oakland Athletics by 21/2 games in the American League West.

“We’re not going to replace his production with any one player,” Daniels said. “It’s a challenge for us with his history of production and the year he’s having.”

Cruz, known affectionately as “Boomstick,” has been vital during the franchise’s most successful run, which includes two World Series appearances and three postseason berths.

Cruz has provided the team many highlights since he arrived in 2007, but his tenure will also be marked by that missed fly ball that would have won the 2011 World Series in Game 6. And now this.

Game 6 can be excused, albeit painfully. Using PEDs is at its core selfish. It’s too bad because he’s a good guy who screwed up.

He cheated.

He was caught.

Now he will sit and both he and the Rangers will pay for it.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof

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