Latest PED revelations no real surprise to MLB

Its investigative unit was nosing around Miami area because of so many positive tests

A reputation is a bad thing to lose. Just ask Manti Te'o.

While the Notre Dame icon reels under the weight of a strange soap opera, it is becoming clear he was the highly naive victim in one of the most bizarre, most cruel hoaxes ever played. The story of the week in baseball, on the other hand, qualifies as business as usual.

Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz, in the pursuit of athletic excellence and personal opulence, have seen their names make their way to the unethical side of the ledger. Both players denied the steroid allegations the Miami New Times presented after an investigation of a sleazy anti-aging clinic across the street from the University of Miami, but the reality is that's just what you do when you're caught cheating.

It doesn't help their case that they were named alongside Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal and Bartolo Colon. Unless they can somehow produce a Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who somehow set them up — and they won't — then Gonzalez and Cruz aren't regaining their standing among baseball's solid citizens.

The best they ever will be is like Ryan Braun, the Brewers slugger who succeeded in beating a steroid rap a year ago. They might hang on to many of the fans they have in their teams' home areas, but nothing that happens from here makes the ties to Biogenesis and the disgraced Anthony Bosch go away, even if Gonzalez's father was Bosch's client, not the 21-game winner himself.

While Braun avoided a suspension, he did it with a defense built around the procedures of how his urine was collected. He did not discredit the positive samples themselves, as even top leaders in the players union have acknowledged.

There's no shock value to any of this, of course. As Lance Armstrong so aptly demonstrated, it's how sports is played in the modern era.

Athletes can turn to shady chemists for help, so some will. Most of us are sophisticated enough to understand that.

This isn't to say most players cheat and get away with it. If that were the case, the players union wouldn't have stepped up alongside Major League Baseball to try to discourage use. Players certainly wouldn't have agreed to the expansions of the program, the latest being in-season blood tests for synthetic human growth hormone.

Late to the game largely because of union interference, MLB now has the best testing program in professional sports. The system that's in place will catch cheaters and deal with those who have been caught.

MLB established its own investigation unit after the Mitchell Report. It had boots on the ground in South Florida long before the Miami New Times story, trying to find out why Cabrera, Colon and so many others from that area continued to be found using performance enhancing drugs.

Biogenesis records obtained by the weekly newspaper tie Rodriguez to a variety of banned substances, including human growth hormone, synthetic testosterone creams and lozenges, insulin-like growth factor and DHEA. Gonzalez's name is listed next to a reference about "pink cream," which Bosch's records show is a testosterone-laden balm. The Washington Post has tied the Nationals' lefty to Jimmy Goins, a University of Miami strength coach whom Bosch also allegedly gave PEDs.

Because Cabrera, Colon and Grandal recently have had positive tests that led to suspensions, their part in this story seems limited. The intriguing aspect is whether MLB's investigation could lead to suspensions of Gonzalez and Cruz, which seriously could hurt the Nationals and Rangers.

The guess here is they will skate, as MLB would need an ironclad case to issue discipline without a positive test. Nevertheless, it's part of their permanent records. And unlike Te'o, there's almost no chance these guys were victimized.

Him again: This is Pablo Sandoval's world, and the rest of us just borrow his oxygen. The guy who had a three-homer World Series game in leading the Giants to a championship just did it again. He was the MVP of the Venezuelan finals, helping Magallanes beat Lara in Games 6 and 7 to rally from a 3-2 deficit.

Sandoval went 10-for-26 with three homers and nine RBIs in the series. He finished Magallanes' playoff run with a .313 average and seven home runs. In the wild 11-9 victory in Game 7, he had two doubles and a home run. The Navegantes claimed the final spot in the Caribbean World Series, which started Friday in Hermosillo, Mexico.

One of the best stories there is the Puerto Rico team, which is being run by first-year general manager Alex Cora. The former big-league infielder claimed a championship with the Caguas Criollos, the hometown team for him and his brother, former White Sox second baseman and coach Joey Cora.

He retired as a player a year ago and so far has declined all chances for a full-time job in baseball. He figures to be a great hire for someone when he's ready.

"I like what I'm doing right now, and we'll see about the future," Cora told MLB.com. "I had a few phone calls to jump in to play with a few teams, but I'm not ready for that. I just stopped playing a year ago and I want to spend time with my daughter. I feel like I owe that to her that with all the sacrifices she made without me around. I have aspirations, but right now I'm good. I'm concentrating on the Caribbean Series."

Obregon, led by infielder Alfredo Amezaga, is representing host Mexico. The Dominican Republic rep, Escogido, is favored to win a title.

Relationship continues: The Diamondbacks canned Mark Grace as a television voice after his second arrest for drunk driving but haven't abandoned him. Before pleading guilty and accepting a four-month jail sentence last week, the longtime Cub worked an Arizona fantasy camp, as he has every year since 2006.

Grace said Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall has remained in his corner. It shouldn't be a surprise to see him back in some role with the team in the near future.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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