Let’s look back a little bit — how about Aug. 5?
Jhonny Peralta had officially accepted his 50-game suspension for PED use, the Tigers, expecting the Peralta suspension, had acquired shortstop Jose Iglesias just before the trade deadline passed — and everything was rolling smoothly.
The possibility of Peralta’s eventual return with three games left in the Tigers’ regular season was a monkey on the organization’s back; one that no one wanted to deal with for the time being because Dombrowski had his shortstop — Iglesias.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 11, Peralta was cleared to rejoin the team when the Tigers were in Chicago. But until his suspension is over, he can only work out prior to the stadium’s gates opening up of wherever the Tigers are playing.
Though Peralta’s back, the monkey hasn’t left. Everybody seems to have an opinion on what the organization’s stance should be on his eligibility to play. Dombrowski said that when Peralta comes back, if they’re going to play him, he could play shortstop, third base or maybe even a little outfield.
“No decision has been made if he will be activated or not,” Dombrowski told reporters in Chicago. “I will say he has been told, and we have cleared it up — he is not coming back as our shortstop. We have our shortstop at this point.”
The two debating sides in the play him or don’t play him argument are: “He cheated, and he should never play in a Tigers’ uniform again, let alone this season,” or “the Tigers need to win a World Series and if he can help accomplish that, play him.”
A similar example, at least from the surface, is Melky Cabrera when he was with the Giants, who, following his 50-game suspension last season, decided not to play him in the postseason.
MLB fans and players — those who didn’t know better —rejoiced that San Fran was taking this moral high ground against PEDs. In reality, though, he wasn’t eligible until the NL Championship and the Giants had come that far without him.
Peralta has served his time and 50 games was a pretty hefty suspension. Major League Baseball settled on 50 games as an adequate price for Peralta’s crime, so why is that not enough?
He wasn’t even cheating this year fergodsakes; he admitted to using PEDs before the 2012 season, a worse statistical season than he was on pace for this year.
The alternative approach — a stance that seems more reasonable and likely — is put him on the roster, unlike the Giants with Cabrera, using him on an as-needed basis. There’s this belief that fans everywhere will spurn the Tigers for playing him. Even if that happens, does it really matter?
I’m not saying start him — or even play him, necessarily. Dombrowski has made it clear that Iglesias is the shortstop, and justly so because he’s done a terrific job since arriving in Detroit.
Obviously Miguel Cabrera is a pretty sure thing at third base, so there’s not really a position to put Peralta at — even if he is taking fly balls in the outfield.
Realistically, Peralta will be a useful, maybe important asset off the bench. Right now, Matt Tuiasosopo’s currently the Tigers’ best right-handed pinch hitter late in games — yikes.
Peralta’s bat can only help. Despite the people saying that his presence will mess with locker-room camaraderie, ya-di, ya-di, ya-da — his teammates have seemed to take a clear stance of forgiveness and acceptance of his actions. And if it’s immoral to play someone who paid heavily for the crime he committed, are second chances not allowed anymore?
I don’t know if the Tigers are going to win a World Series or not. But I do know Peralta won’t hurt their cause. So if you’re out there, angry that the Tigers might play a former cheater, rebuffing any fan who accepts Peralta’s return — even though he’s served his time — well, talk to me when the Tigers are playing deeper into the playoffs than your team.
Michael Laurila writes about sports for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.