Only Nellie knows. Well, Nellie and a Miami PED guy named Tony Bosch. He also knows.
Based on national reports, Bosch will be flipping on Nellie, telling MLB investigators what he knows, when he knew it and how he documented it.
Our man, Mr. Cruz, is not alone, of course. Up to 20, if not more, major league players who had dealings with Bosch at his South Florida PED clinic have serious reasons to be worried.
But for the moment, let’s stick with Nelson Cruz and the impact it may or may not have on this Texas Rangers’ season.
If he’s guilty of buying the goods from Bosch — if Nellie was buying, we can assume he was using, and preliminary evidence says he was buying — should he plead out right now in the High Court of Selig?
Take 50 games on a plea bargain, sit it out and be back in early August, when the Rangers still figure to be in the thick of the AL West title race. Is that the way to go?
With all due respect to young Jurickson Profar, who according to what is now local legend, has one foot in Cooperstown and the other foot on the gas pedal, driving the Rangers’ World Series bus into late October, this still appears to be a batting order that absolutely cannot afford to lose Cruz.
It’s a batting order already sporadic enough without Ian Kinsler, and when Adrian Beltre, with his tricky hamstring issues, missed a couple of games lately, the bat bite has been gummy.
But would 50 games now for Cruz be better than 50 games in August? And will MLB have its case against the players totally in legal order by August?
That’s the gamble. Will the players named still be the players named by the end of the season, instead of the players with a case against them ready to go?
Would the players union, now gearing up for a huge fight in arbitration, even allow Nellie to take the 50 games immediately?
All those question marks are there for a reason.
MLB is not going to allow this “catch” to easily wiggle off the hook. Commissioner Bud Selig wants the heads of each player his investigators can prove a case on.
Let us have heavy applause for Selig and his aggressiveness. There is no other sport in the land, not even cycling, that’s currently as intent as baseball in attempting to bring down those who continue to juice.
If Cruz did it, he, of course, gets no sympathy from here. But I will add that you won’t find a nicer guy, and a better team guy, anywhere in the game. That’s not an excuse. Just a fact.
His case is hindered, however, by Ryan Braun of the Brewers and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, also reported to be clinic customers of Mr. Bosch.
A-Rod’s career has crashed to the point where he’s almost an afterthought and a comedic figure. But he’s also a big name, and MLB has shown it wants the big names in PED cases, and it wants the message big names in the headlines send to all other players, and to the fans.
But Braun is the bigger problem for Nellie and anyone else involved.
When a technicality allowed Braun to wiggle his way out of what appeared to be an airtight PED conviction before the 2012 season, the reigning (at the time) National League MVP became a marked man for the baseball hierarchy.
MLB knows he was using. They thought he was still using, and then, bingo, in late January there was Braun’s name front and center when a Miami newspaper broke the story on Bosch’s clinic. Nellie was also named.
At the time, with spring training opening in two weeks, an opinion in this column questioned if Cruz would even be around for the start of this season.
The case, however, moved both slowly and quietly after the big media push of January. Cruz, at age 33 and entering free agency after this season, has had a solid season for the Rangers thus far, and definitely leads the team in home runs that really mattered.
But the new twist came Tuesday night when the story came down that Bosch, being offered a variety of incentives by MLB, had decided to be a witness for baseball in the case against those 20, or more, players.
Nellie, among others, can officially begin to sweat. But the timetable for sweating remains the unknown. Two months, six months, whatever.
The irony was that Tuesday night at Fenway Park, Nellie hit a home run that didn’t matter in a blowout loss to the Red Sox. Nellie also went running into the short right-field fence, hopelessly chasing a home run, and then flipped headfirst into the bullpen.
His head survived that fall, but then his head seemed cloudy when he overran a pop fly in right field for a three-base error.
While all this strange adventure was going on Tuesday night, Cruz’s name was also being called out on national TV as one of the prime players involved in the breaking story in which Bosch was now an MLB ally.
For the Rangers, however, Cruz is an essential element of this batting order. Unless Jon Daniels has a big bat trade he can pull off, Nellie cannot be lost, and I say this with all due respect to the local chapter of the Profar Hall of Fame committee.
But only Nellie knows. Nellie and this guy in Miami.
If he’s guilty, what’s the best route? Take the 50 games now, or sweat it out for the remainder of the season? From a personal standpoint, it would be best if Cruz took the 50 right now, not wanting to take the chance of him being a free agent in the off-season and getting hit with a long ban.
Best guess from here: Sweat it out and hope the timetable is on the Rangers’ side. That’s probably the best option for the team.
MLB, however, wants a massive takedown in this case. And it wants it sooner rather than later. ASAP.