The Seattle Mariners Have A Steroid Problem


A couple days ago news broke that Nelson Cruz and the Seattle Mariners had a deal in place last winter, but that the front office was overruled by ownership and the pact was nixed. There were said to be rumblings that Cruz’s involvement with the Biogenesis scandal was at the heart of the issue. A new report seems to confirm that.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that after the end of the 2013 season, Mariners ownership decreed that the team would not be signing any players with PED connections. This is, obviously, a strong stance to take. Biogenesis was a big, far-reaching deal, but as far as we know Seattle is the first club to have adopted this stance. They weren’t likely alone, but they’re the one we know about so far.

We know this affected the team’s negotiations with Cruz, as the deal was all but agreed to until ownership said “nope, steroids.” But Cruz wasn’t the only player on the free agent market with steroid ties. Jhonny Peralta, who was arguably the best player on a St. Louis Cardinals team currently playing in the NLCS, was suspended along with Cruz. Bartolo Colon, who many saw as an obvious rotation target, missed fifty games after getting popped for testosterone. That’s three big names off the table.

Jack Zduriencik won’t comment on this, or at least he hasn’t yet, but one must assume he was frustrated by this. After all, it sure appeared that the M’s were going hard after Cruz, and there’s no reason to make an offer unless you’re not interested. So the offer was made, and possibly accepted, but ownership took a hard stance. Cruz hit 40 home runs for the first place Baltimore Orioles, and the rest is history.

Who knows what was going on behind the scenes. Maybe the lobbying efforts of Robinson Cano at least made ownership stop and think for a minute before saying, “no way, not now, not ever.” Maybe it was a tug-of-war between management and ownership. Whatever the case, it’s an ugly outcome that cost the Mariners a player they really could have used. But worse is what this stance means long term.

Point is, people make a big fuss of steroids. “We don’t want no stinkin’ cheaters on our team!” yelled Orioles fans, before one of those stinkin’ cheaters led their team to the ALCS. Not a big anti-Cruz crowd in Baltimore these days, and rightfully so: Nellie’s been helping the Orioles win, and winning is what fans care most about. It’s always nicer to have guys with clean personal histories, of course. But there are bad decision makers on every roster. But if he’s hitting, it’s all forgiven.

The Mariners hard stance on steroids comes in spite of a league where things like DUI’s and domestic violence are seen as a darn shame and nothing more. Steroids are the thing that’s “tainting the game,” or whatever, so those are the guys who the league comes down on the hardest. There isn’t even a proven, discernable link between PEDs and an actual boost in performance. It’s not like the M’s were trying to protect themselves from a poor rebound campaign from Cruz: this was all a misguided ploy to avoid backlash from fans who were never really going to unleash any backlash at all.

Cruz is a free agent again this year. Melky Cabrera is a free agent this year. Either of those two guys could help the Mariners, but are they even interested? It seems not. The M’s should be looking far and wide for upgrades, not shunning potential acquisitions for reasons that are ultimately rather petty. Colon’s going to be a trade candidate this winter, but apparently the M’s won’t be getting involved because, you know, PEDs. The decision to stonewall this group of players is going to make it harder for the M’s to improve.

The Seattle Mariners have a steroid problem, in that the team’s owners have decided there’d be nothing worse than to employ a past user. This has already hurt the front office’s ability to build the team they want to build, and for all we know it may again this winter. It’s an outdated and shell-shocked view, and should be done away with going forward.