By TJ Cotterill The News Tribune
The Seattle Mariners aren’t caught up in the same wreckage as the New York Yankees, but the announcement from the office of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig of a 50-game suspension for catcher Jesus Montero and 11 other players — as well as Alex Rodriguez’ suspension through the 2014 season — for violations of the league’s Joint Drug and Prevention Program sent a ripple that was felt throughout the league.
It was dubbed “Biogenesis Day.” It provided emotions of frustration, disgust, confusion and condemnation, but also of justice served on a day that will forever be remembered in MLB baseball history.
“I think it’s what needed to be done,” said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “There were so man people, players included, who wanted this thing to stop, wanted it cleaned up. We support the suspensions, we support what happened. Hopefully it will be a deterrent for anyone who wants to do this in the future.”
Montero, along with the others slapped with 50-game suspensions Monday, will go without pay and not play the rest of the regular season. He had been playing in the minor leagues with the Tacoma Rainiers since his demotion from the Mariners May 23.
Zduriencik didn’t count out Montero’s return to the club next season and said he plans to send him to the Arizona Rookie League. Montero cannot compete in any games or participate in on-field activities until the suspension is served, but he can use the batting cages and participate in simulated games.
Zduriencik said he still believes Montero can be a great player for the Mariners organization — sticking to the billing he’s had about Montero, 23, since he traded pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to the Yankees for him and pitcher Hector Noesi last year.
“He’s always been a really, really good hitter,” Zduriencik said, while also saying he doesn’t believe Montero’s power at the plate was solely because of PEDs. “That would beg the question, ‘Why would you do something like this at a very young age when you have such a promising future ahead of you?”
MLB suspended the 13 players Monday to signal the conclusion of its investigation into the now shut down Miami anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis, owned by Anthony Bosch. He had reportedly released documents to the league linking more than 80 players to his clinic, including Montero.
Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez was looking forward to discussing the Mariners matchup against reigning National League Cy Young pitcher R.A. Dickey before their game Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
But that was impossible. Not in the aftermath of the most suspensions in one day since the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox incident, when eight members of the team were first suspended then permanently banned for throwing the World Series against the Reds.
“Just terrible,” Ibanez said. “This is terrible for the game. It’s a sad thing that we have to spend so much time talking about this instead of all the great things that go on in the game. It’s terrible.”
He was clearly disgusted. Not with the league’s decision or the length of suspensions, though he said he would oppose heavier penalties, but how the suspensions have the potential to send a message that the league is littered with cheaters.
“It’s because of these few that a lot of the rest of us have to answer questions about what they’ve done wrong instead of the overwhelming majority of us who have done right,” Ibanez said.
“Of course, I think this is a great message to anybody who would be thinking about doing something wrong — that you are going to get caught and you are going to get penalized, as you should.”
Montero hit .208 in 29 games with the Mariners this season before they asked him to switch from catcher to a first baseman and designated hitter and demoted him in May. A week later, he was sent to the disabled list with a torn meniscus in his left knee and didn’t start playing with the Rainiers until July 18.
Mariners union representative and reliever Charlie Furbush said he doesn’t believe anyone on the team will have any hard feelings toward Montero.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s nothing that I think changes my feeling about a person as a whole. He just did something that he probably regrets.
“At the end of the day, we want to move on from this as much as they do. Once that process is over, you got to accept that person as a whole and try to win ball games with that person.”
Zduriencik echoed those words, and said he believes the clubhouse will be forgiving of him if he takes ownership for his mistakes.
“He is just going to have to make up time and figure out how to get in the good graces of everybody around him, and make up for the work that he’s lost,” Zduriencik said.