Paul White, USA TODAY Sports
Alex Rodriguez was suspended effective Thursday through the 2014 season and 12 other major and minor leaguers for 50 games in the most sweeping sanctions in Major League Baseball's decade-long battle against performance-enhancing drugs -- but the New York Yankees third baseman expects to be in the lineup for tonight's game in Chicago.
The most significant other names on the list announced today by MLB as part of its investigation into the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic include Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera. They follow Milwaukee Brewers All-Star Ryan Braun, who agreed to a 65-game suspension two weeks ago.
While the others accepted their punishment, Rodriguez can continue to play because he is appealing his suspension, which amounts to 211 games. Rodriguez is scheduled to play his first major league game of the season tonight after offseason hip surgery.
The appeal will be heard within 10 days by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, and he has 25 days to render a decision.
Among the other players suspended for 50 games were: Philadelphia Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo, New York Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Seattle Mariners minor league catcher Jesus Montero, Mets minor league outfielder Cesar Puello, San Diego Padres minor league pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, Houston Astros minor league pitcher Sergio Escalona, Yankees minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez and free-agent pitcher Jordan Norberto.
Cruz's acceptance stunned the playoff-contending Rangers, who trail the Oakland Athletics by 2 1/2 games in the American League West and have no ready replacement for their right fielder. Cruz ranks fourth in the American League in home runs (27) and fifth in RBI (76).
Cruz would be eligible for the postseason but most significant for the 33-year-old is that he can enter this winter's free-agent market with his punishment behind him.
Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was suspended 50 games during last season while leading the National League in batting for the San Francisco Giants, got a two-year, $16 million deal from the Blue Jays before this season -- a raise from his one-year, $6 million contract with San Francisco.
Rodriguez, a three-time MVP who ranks fifth on the career home run list with 647, is in a considerably higher salary bracket, with a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees that runs through the 2017 season.
Rodriguez had been at the heart of an investigation MLB launched after the Miami New Times published a story in late January detailing his ties to Biogenesis in South Florida, which the report accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs to players.
According to the New Times, citing documents, Rodriguez was paying $12,000 a month and received 19 different drugs and supplements.
Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch agreed to cooperate with MLB investigators after baseball sued him, and his records became a key part of the case against players accused of obtaining PEDs from his clinic.
Rodriguez, who last played for the Yankees during last year's American League Championship Series loss to the Tigers, has had two hip surgeries in four years. On Sunday, manager Joe Girardi said he was penciling Rodriguez into his lineup tonight in Chicago.
Rodriguez, who turned 38 last week, has denied being involved with Biogenesis and vowed to continue his career and return to the Yankees, telling USA TODAY Sports last month:
"I know people think I'm nuts. I know most people wouldn't want the confrontation. Most people would say, 'Get me out of here. Trade me. Do anything.'
"But I'm the (expletive) crazy man who goes, 'I want to compete. I want to stay in New York. I refuse to quit.''
Once regarded as baseball's best hope for a clean successor to the steroid-tainted Barry Bonds as the all-time home run king, Rodriguez has been dogged by allegations of steroid use since Sports Illustrated reported in February 2009 that he failed a drug test during survey testing in 2003.
Shortly afterward, A-Rod admitted using PEDs but said it was only during his three seasons with the Texas Rangers, from 2001-03, after he signed a landmark 10-year, $252 million contract with them.
A spring training news conference in 2009 in which Rodriguez spoke about his PED use was the first step in the process of restoring his sullied image, and A-Rod further ingratiated himself to Yankees fans with his 12th consecutive season of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, followed by an even bigger postseason.
Long derided for his playoff failures, Rodriguez powered the Yankees to the 2009 World Series - so far the only one of his career - by batting a combined .438 with five homers and 12 RBI in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
New York won its first World Series since 2000 by beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, with A-Rod driving in six runs and contributing the go-ahead double in the ninth inning of the pivotal Game 4 victory.
Postseason redemption was his at last, but it was fleeting.
Rodriguez has zero home runs and six RBI in 21 playoffs games since then, and reached a low point last postseason when he was benched and pinch-hit for as he struggled against the Baltimore Orioles and Tigers. He finished the postseason with three hits in 25 at-bats (.120) and struck out 12 times.
With age and injury taking their toll, Rodriguez has seen his regular-season production decline significantly as well. His on-base plus slugging percentage plummeted to .783 last year - more than a 150-point drop from his career .945 mark - and he hasn't hit more than 18 homers or driven in more than 62 runs since 2010.