According to a Wednesday night report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale, commissioner Bud Selig is prepared to suspend nine players connected with the Biogenesis scandal "before the weekend." Alex Rodriguez, whom Nightengale confirmed could be facing a lifetime ban, was the primary focus of Nightengale's report, but among the three other players named as facing likely 50-game suspensions that would effectively end their seasons, shortstops Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers, Everth Cabrera of the Padres and Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, it is Cruz whose suspension could have the greatest impact on the current season and the pennant races.
There's little doubt that the Yankees would benefit from the return of even a diminished Rodriguez given their inability to field a productive third baseman this season, but there's plenty of doubt about just how productive Rodriguez could be over the season's final two months, how long he could stay healthy and whether or not he's really capable of playing third base on an everyday basis anymore. What's more, having not played at all this season, his suspension doesn't alter the Yankees' current lineup, which has benefited over the last week from the return of Derek Jeter and the acquisition of Alfonso Soriano. It's also doubtful that Rodriguez's impact would have been enough to help the Yankees overcome their growing deficits in the pennant chase as they are now three games behind in the wild card race, eight games out in the division and sinking.
Cruz, meanwhile, has been a key bat in the Rangers lineup for the last four months, hitting .274/.336/.510 and leading the team with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs. Unlike the Yankees and Tigers, the latter of whom hold a 2 1/2 game lead in the American League Central and traded for slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias to replace Peralta, the Rangers failed to acquire a player prior to Wednesday's non-waiver trading deadline who could help replace Cruz in their lineup. That sets up the Rangers, who are currently just a half-game out of the second wild card spot and four games behind the American League West-leading A's, for a fall in the wake of what now seems like the inevitable and imminent suspension of Cruz.
There have been reports that Cruz will appeal his suspension, which would allow him to remain on the field for the length of that process, but Nightengale makes no mention of that in his report, saying only that most of the players expected to received the 50-game bans are not expected to appeal.
Nightengale's report, based on information from "two people with knowledge of the negotiations" who were "unauthorized to speak publicly" prior to the official annoucements, largely confirms much of what has already been rumored, but the fact that Baseball only expects to ban nine players due to "lack of evidence" on the others is new information, as is, it seems, the Rodriguez quote with which Nightengale concludes his report.
The Rodriguez quote is attributed to "a July interview" with USA Today Sports, which seems to suggest it was taken from another source, but I can't find it anywhere other than in Nightengale's piece, which is indeed a USA Today Sports report filed in July. In it, Rodriguez proclaims his innocence:
"I have never failed a test, paid people, or done the things they're accusing me of," Rodriguez says. "Nobody is hiding anything. It's weird." Prior to reading that quote, I had assumed Rodriguez's expected appeal of his suspension was going to focus on the fact that it was excessive or on the methods that MLB used to acquire the evidence used against him. Instead, it seems he is going to stick to his story that he hasn't used illegal performance-enhancers since 2003. We may get resolution the other players in the scandal in the next two days, but it seems we're a long way from knowing Rodriguez's ultimate fate.