The suspensions have all been served--except Alex Rodriguez, who is still serving his--and all those players who were suspended must be struggling without their chemical boosts, right? Well...not exactly. The "stars" that were caught are still thriving. Those caught from the fringes have not fared so well.
Ryan Braun was (besides A-Rod) perhaps the biggest star brought down by the
witch hunt investigation. His involvement really angered a lot of people because his denial and defense cost a guy his job the year before. Fair enough. But what about his performance this year without (we assume) his chemical dependency?
Braun's OPS thus far is .952 despite chronic problems with a thumb. That OPS is ahead of his career total and he is slugging like he did in 2011 and 2012. My guess is that he could have stayed off the stuff and done just as well as on it.
Then there is Nelson Cruz. Cruz is fitting nicely in the Orioles' lineup. His current OPS is .941, more than 100 points ahead of his career average and (to this point) his highest since 2010. I guess he didn't need that stuff either.
Everth Cabrera's OPS of .725 is 49 points than his career average. His current slugging percentage is the highest of his career. His fielding is as good as ever, if not better. He still doesn't walk enough, but hey, the chemists never said the stuff would make you more patient.
Jhonny Peralta was off to a really slow start, but even so, his OPS is eleven points higher than his career average. And he is coming around nicely with a 1.340 OPS over his last seven games. His defense at short has been good as well.
So far, if we assume that all these players are now off any performance enhancers, it appears they never needed any to begin with.
Antonio Bastardo might be a different case. According to his pitching data, he has lost a mile per hour off his fastball and his strikeout rate is down from 9.99 per nine last year to 9.00 this year. His FIP is at 4.99, which is pretty bad and his walk rate is way up. But his fastball velocity and strikeout rates have decreased every year since 2010. So is this a guy losing his stuff without the juice, or a guy losing his stuff due to the natural scheme of physiology?
Other than Bastardo, which had to be an awful last name to grow up with, the "stars" that were caught by the scandal are showing that they can thrive post scandal. The players really hurt by the whole thing were the fringe guys.
Two are in the minors, Jesus Montero and Cesar Puello. Montero is off to a fine start with the bat. I don't think the forty pounds he gained before Spring Training were a result of less juice in his system. Perhaps he was just lazy. Puello has struggled thus far to get going in his minor league start.
Francisco Cervelli won the backup catcher gig with the Yankees with a great spring. But he hurt himself (again) and is currently on the 60-day DL.
The rest seem to be out of baseball. Jordany Valdespin, Fernando Martinez, Sergio Escalona, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto all have no 2014 stats anywhere in the Majors or the Minors.
It should be noted that besides Braun, all of these players are Hispanic and the majority of them from the Dominican Republic. The latter is a mess that MLB created by the pressure of getting out of that depressed country for the promise of a paycheck playing baseball.
I am not excusing these players. They were caught with their shorts around their ankles. We can debate how MLB obtained the information. But the truth here is that good players are good players with or without so-called performance enhancers and those who have not made it yet in the Majors as established players have a lot more to lose and usually do in these kinds of scandals. To be sure, we still have a small sample size this year and we'll check in with these smudged players at the end of the season.