Nelson Cruz represents the kind of power bat the Diamondbacks want in their lineup next season. He might not be a perfect fit — he’s not a left-handed hitter — but he could conceivably fill the void the team believes it had. Only he won’t be coming here. Cruz, a free agent, probably will cost more than the Diamondbacks can afford, but there’s a much simpler reason why it’ll never happen. Cruz has a performance-enhancing drug history, and the Diamondbacks tend to avoid those kinds of players, or at least the high-profile ones. PEDs are back in the baseball news cycle this week following the St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to give shortstop Jhonny Peralta a four-year, $53 million contract less than two months after he finished serving a 50-game drug-related suspension. One of the more outspoken critics was Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler, who is also their players union representative. “It pays to cheat,” Ziegler tweeted. “Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.” In subsequent tweets, Ziegler said the players union pushed for harsher penalties in the most recent collectively bargained drug agreement, but the owners did not believe they were necessary. “Him having a job isn’t the problem – him getting a massive raise is,” Ziegler wrote. Reached for further comment, Ziegler declined to elaborate, but he told one person on Twitter that he plans to push for tougher penalties at the next round of union meetings. While baseball deserves credit for its already tough testing system, it’s certainly fair to ask if more can be done. Judging by the fact that players continue to get caught, it would appear 50-game suspensions for first-time offenders aren’t severe enough. In a column this week, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal laid out some ideas from people around the game, including one- or even two-year suspensions for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second. He also mentioned a “two-tiered penalty system that distinguishes between players who intentionally cheat and players who do not.” Other ideas: financial penalties for teams that sign PED users; a player’s free agency delayed by a positive test; or punishments for the teams and not just the players, a la NCAA sanctions. As far as the Diamondbacks are concerned, their hardline stance appears to be spearheaded by Ken Kendrick, the club’s managing general partner and a longtime critic of PED users. When Jason Grimsley’s house was raided in 2006, Kendrick made sure the Diamondbacks immediately cut ties with the reliever — and even tried to have his contract voided. Team sources say Kendrick continues to discourage the acquisition of players, or even the hiring of coaches, who have ties to PEDs. But the club apparently doesn’t have a zero-tolerance policy. Former player and coach Matt Williams was named in the Mitchell Report, as was then minor league manager Mike Bell. Williams remained in the organization until taking the Nationals’ manager job last month; Bell has advanced to be the club’s director of player development. And first baseman Mike Jacobs, who was suspended for human growth hormone in 2011 while with the Rockies, got back to the majors with the Diamondbacks in 2012.
Diamondbacks saying no to drug-linked free agents
Arizona Republic | Nov 27