The Latin Link: Condemned Latinos leave their teams in limbo


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Jose Iglesias makes a leading throw.
Acquiring Jose Igesias helps the Tigers plug the hole left by Jhonny Peralta’s pending suspension. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The MLB trade deadline that expired on July 31 had a curious twist that presented a few teams with an added sense of urgency. Besides trying to improve their clubs for the stretch run, some of the “buyers” this season were forced to search and replace prominent Latino players expected to be suspended in the Biogenesis scandal. Only one team was successful in addressing that issue.

The Detroit Tigers, who are defending American League champions, were partners in a three-team trade and acquired slick fielding Jose Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox. The principal chip in the deal, ace right-handed pitcher Jake Peavy, changed his “sox” from white to red, while power-hitting Venezuelan Avisail Garcia ended up on the south side of Chicago.

Parting with Garcia, a corner outfielder who saw postseason action last year, wasn’t an easy decision for the Tigers. But Detroit General Manager Dave Dombrowski had to get an able candidate to fill the shoes of Jhonny Peralta, the All-Star shortstop who is one of the individuals facing a 50-game suspension for alleged PED use. I use the word “alleged” because baseball czar Bud Selig used his muscle to plan blanket sentences for the said players without them being convicted of anything. The circumstantial evidence was fairly damning, and most successful players are pretty good at math. A punishment of 50 games now means they start with a clean slate next season, or perhaps even participation in the playoffs. Appeals and litigation could drag on and be financially painful.

Personally, I think landing Jose Iglesias could be a blessing in disguise for the Tigers. The 23-year-old Cuban athlete is almost a decade younger than Peralta and his range will provide an upgrade defensively. Furthermore, the kid proved this year that he can hit, too, sporting a .320 batting average in 234 plate appearances for Boston.

“We feel well protected now (with Jose Iglesias),” noted Dombrowski. “We didn’t feel that way for a lengthy period with the guys we have internally.”

The Texas Rangers made a big splash by winning the Matt Garza sweepstakes, but who will replace Nelson Cruz when the Dominican outfielder goes down with the rest of the PED gang? Cruz is having a banner year with 25 bombs and 73 RBI, which are good numbers for most players over the entire season. There’s nobody around who can offer that production, least of all the new-look Manny Ramirez.

The New York Yankees could also feel the heat from this mess, but not necessarily because Alex Rodriguez is at the forefront of the controversy. Francisco Cervelli is on the condemned list and is currently on the shelf with a broken hand, but he is expected to be ready for action later on this month. A Cervelli suspension means the Yankees will have to carry on with Chris Stewart behind the dish, with weak-hitting Austin Romine as his backup.

San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera is also doomed and would leave his team holding the bag with no replacement. The Nicaraguan base thief would be advised to take his lumps and move forward, especially since the Padres are not likely to contend. Cabrera, however, has hinted in the past that he is only “guilty by association,” and immediately changed agents when the poop hit the fan. And I tend to agree with him. So, do guys like the 26-year-old phenom try to defend their reputation, or do they cave in for the betterment of their team and career? It’s a tough call, since each player’s case is a bit different. Washington Nationals star southpaw Gio Gonzalez was removed from the list because he claims the products he bought from Tony Bosch weren’t illegal. One thing for sure, though, is the MLB fraternity is growing weary of “cheaters” like Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera. The majority of players are pissed off because these guys break the rules and are then awarded lucrative contracts.

Kudos to the Detroit Tigers for retooling, and the best of luck to all teams who have been victims of employees on the PED list. But maybe it’s time for all 30 clubs to do some house cleaning so these problems don’t occur in the first place. In the blue or white collar business world, anyone guilty of illegal drug use is fired on the spot.

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