Jim Leyland was just a minute into his pregame interview when the first — and only — question about Jhonny Peralta was asked.
That was it. Detroit’s crusty manager booted all the reporters out of his office, saying they’d been told he wouldn’t talk about losing his All-Star shortstop to a 50-game suspension Monday.
But while Leyland was determined to keep his thoughts to himself, other major leaguers had plenty to say after 13 penalties in the Biogenesis drug scandal were finally handed down.
“Although today will be a day of infamy for MLB, it is a tremendous step in the right direction,” Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria posted on Twitter.
Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest discipline when he was banned through the 2014 season by Major League Baseball. But the three-time MVP said he’ll appeal, with support from the players’ union.
That keeps him eligible to play until a ruling by the arbitrator, which isn’t expected until at least November or December.
“This is a saga, and that’s the way it’s always been with him,” Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “He just has one of those polarizing personalities that people are going to be drawn to. I guess people are going to find him as a villain and stuff like that no matter what he does.
“This latest chapter just gives further fuel to the fire that he’s made bad decisions,” the left-hander added. “It’s good for the game that they’re finally getting him for something. This whole thing has been going on for too long — press conferences, ‘Good Morning America’, ‘20/20’ or whatever. I mean, come on. Enough of that. Let’s just play some baseball and stop trying to be a role model. All those quotes (from Rodriguez), they’re hilarious for everybody in our clubhouse.”
Peralta was one of three 2013 All-Stars who accepted 50-game suspensions and admitted using prohibited substances. The others were Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz, also on a pennant contender, and San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.
“If all the allegations are true, then I’m glad they got caught and I’m glad baseball is doing something about it,” Royals reliever Aaron Crow said. “It shocks me that people try to get away with it. I guess some people think the risk is worth it. It’s just unfortunate that it’s still going on. Hopefully this helps.”
Rodriguez, Cruz, Peralta and Cabrera had all been linked for months in media reports to Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
But there were a couple of surprises, too, including Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo and New York Mets second baseman Jordany Valdespin, who was demoted to the minors last month.
Washington reliever Tyler Clippard recalled a blown save in July 2012 when he gave up a tying homer to Valdespin in the ninth inning.
“That’s the kind of stuff you think about. You’re like, those guys are doing stuff that’s affecting my career and they’re not playing the game the right way,” Clippard said. “So that’s frustrating. I think anybody can relate to that. If they’re not doing things the right way, and they’re beating you, then it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So that’s why this is so important. Because nobody — players, ownership — nobody wants to see guys cheat.”
Several fed-up players were openly critical of Ryan Braun last month when the 2011 NL MVP agreed to a 65-game suspension, the first significant fallout from the Biogenesis case. His penalty came a year after the Milwaukee Brewers slugger avoided a 50-game ban when an arbitrator overturned his positive test for elevated testosterone because the urine sample had been improperly handled.
Braun had insisted he was innocent. Other players felt betrayed.
“We want these guys out of the game. We want all those drugs out of the game. I think there’s more guys who have done it the right way than not, so I think that’s why it’s turning that way,” Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson said. “We all knew this day was coming. But I think we’re glad that it’s happened.”
Players were sometimes surprised to see friends involved. Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton was Cruz’s teammate in Texas and said he enjoyed playing with him.
“Some guys keep certain parts of their lives to themselves. So you take them from what you see,” said Hamilton, suspended earlier in his career for recreational drug use.
“We’ve all made mistakes. Some mistakes are different than others, and some are the same. It’s just one of those things where he made a poor decision and now he’s having to deal with the consequences.”
Opinions around the majors were mixed.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said even though none of his players were implicated, “it’s a sad day for baseball” and “we are all affected by it.” Twins closer Glen Perkins said the game is “cleaner now than it was yesterday.”
“It’s a bad and a good day,” said Cleveland designated hitter Jason Giambi, who testified two years ago that Barry Bonds’ personal trainer supplied him with performance-enhancing drugs. “You’re dealing with human beings and they’re going to make mistakes, but the game is going in the right direction.”
And one thing was certain: Monday’s suspensions won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s a big day and it’s one of the days to be marked in baseball history — a monumental day,” St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “I think overall the guys are happy to see it kind of come to a head, be talked about today and get it over with, and just keep playing.”
With all that transpired recently, Indians manager Terry Francona said he felt for Commissioner Bud Selig and even called him Monday.
Around 10 minutes later, Selig called back.
“We spoke for about five or 10 minutes and he was like, this doesn’t need to be a dark day for baseball. This needs to be the beginning of the good stuff. He didn’t say it like that, but I don’t articulate as well as him,” Francona said. “But I agree with him. Major League Baseball did something really difficult today, but sometimes the right thing is the difficult thing.”