Nelson Cruz retired Thursday after 19 years in the bigs. What followed was a steady stream of stories recalling Cruz’s clout and clubhouse presence – both undeniable facts. But what serves as a side note – if anything – in most reporting was his involvement in the 2013 Biogenesis steroid scandal. And even in the stories that mention his 50-game suspension, conspicuously missing is the fact that Cruz enjoyed the best years of his career after returning from his PED suspension.
Before his suspension midway through the 2013 season with the Texas Rangers, Cruz had once hit 30 home runs in a season (33 in 2009 for Texas). After his suspension, Cruz posted three consecutive 40-plus home run seasons (one with Baltimore, two with Seattle) from 2014 to 2016 – and from age 33 to 38 – and added a fourth in six years for Minnesota in 2019. In the two seasons in which he didn’t reach the 40 mark, he hit 39 and 37 long balls, respectively.
Not bad for an aging slugger who is supposedly “clean,” don’t you think?
Of course, no one is talking about that anymore because Cruz, who played for eight teams, takes his 464 career home runs and rides off into the sunset. We learned a long time ago that no one in baseball – be it MLB managers, team officials, players, media or fans – really puts a lot of emphasis on juicing in the game. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never heard a good explanation of how a player of Cruz’s caliber could come back from a PED suspension and perform at a higher level than before the doping case.
Probably because there isn’t one. Other than, well, you know.
Most players who have returned after being arrested for PEDs have seen their production drop sharply. In the best case scenario (I’m thinking of you, Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez) they manage to put up respectable numbers for a short period of time, but well below the ones they probably posted because of doping. Which leads us to one of three possible assumptions when it comes to Cruz. I’ll let readers choose:
1. PEDs do not improve performance. (Editor’s note: they do.)
2. Cruz is the greatest hitter in the history of the game and his raw talent was so overwhelming that he was able to do what almost no one has been able to do at the highest level: get better clean scores than on PEDs. (Editor’s Note: If this is your selection, we would like to know if you are interested in this bridge we have for sale.)
3. Cruz didn’t stop using PEDs, he just stopped getting caught using PEDs.
I won’t spoil it – or risk a libel suit – by revealing what my preferred answer to this conundrum is. I’ll leave that to the Baseball Writers of America if Cruz and his eye-popping numbers – the longtime DH compiled a .274/.343/.513 slash line for 2,053 hits and 1,325 RBI – are inducted into the Hall of Fame in 5 years .
It will be interesting to see what that conversation looks like and whether all the hosannas will have withered by then. Let’s put it this way: As one of the few people who still struggles with the idea of athlete doping, I’m not optimistic.
https://deadspin.com/nelson-cruz-steroids-mlb-padres-rangers-retirement-1850991067 Nelson Cruz put up his best stats after the PED ban