Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 1/31/13
Rangers-nelson-cruz-misses
The worst offseason in the history of the Texas Rangers took another ugly turn Tuesday when slugger Nelson Cruz's name showed up in a Miami New Times report linking major leaguers to performance-enhancing drugs. Two of the players on this list, Alex Rodriguez and Nationals ace Gio Gonzalez have issued strong denials. Cruz, who apparently was in the Dominican Republic, hasn't issued a statement at this point. Just by coincidence, Rangers GM Jon Daniels and several members of the organization were on a working trip in the Dominican when the news broke. They had not been tipped off that a report was forthcoming and were only beginning to process the news. But at this point, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Cruz isn't suspended for at least 50 games during the upcoming season. MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the players' union has proudly moved forward with one of the most comprehensive testing programs in professional sports. This will give them another opportunity to prove how serious they are about cleaning up a sport that has been sullied by PEDs. Cruz hasn't failed a drug test under MLB's program, but he can be suspended if investigators show "just cause." The likely suspension of Cruz puts even more of a spotlight on the Rangers' rocky offseason. If the team had landed someone of Zack Greinke's stature in free agency, perhaps this Cruz situation wouldn't pack so much of a punch. The Rangers were forced to sign aging free agents just to fill out a lineup. Now, they could lose one of their top run producers for a significant portion of the season. This was already being billed, by some, as a transitional season. But with a shaky starting rotation and the potential loss of Cruz, this could be a disaster. A source told me Wednesday that it's highly unlikely the Rangers will go outside the organization for a contingency plan. I'm also told the club will resist the urge to request (again) Ian Kinsler moving to first base in order to make room for Jurickson Profar to play second base. In that scenario, Mike Olt and Mitch Moreland would likely platoon in right field during Cruz's absence. What's more likely to happen is Olt replacing Cruz in right, and Lance Berkman seeing more time than expected at first base. Honk if that last part sounds completely absurd. Berkman's had two knee surgeries in the past year and he only appeared in 31 games for the Cardinals in 2012. I'm not sure it's a great idea to have him stretching for throws. It's still beyond me how Kinsler has so much leverage in this organization. I understand that he doesn't want to end up switching positions like his friend and mentor Michael Young was asked to do three times. It's been explained to me that Kinsler needs to be in a good frame of mind if he's going to help replace Young as a leader in the clubhouse. But if his moving to first base gives the Rangers the best chance to win, shouldn't that trump everything else? I've been amazed at how Kinsler and his agent have been able to flex so much muscle, especially on the heels of such a poor individual season. But at this point the Rangers have promised Kinsler he can stay at second base, and they don't intend to renege. It's also important to recall that manager Ron Washington didn't roll out the red carpet for Profar when he was called up last summer. No matter what he says now, Washington felt like Profar and Olt were being forced upon him. He took one for the team when he admitted that he may have run his players into the ground last season. Even to this day, I'm not sure he believes that had much to do with his team's shocking collapse. If Cruz is going to skate on this allegation, he better have a wonderful alibi. The problem is that two of the names that showed up in the newspaper's report, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, are both coming off 50-game suspensions. Selig was embarrassed by how former NL MVP Ryan Braun beat the system on a technicality. The commissioner is determined not to let that happen again. The Rangers can't afford to wait around for a ruling on Cruz. They're already discussing several scenarios. Maybe this will force them to tap into farm system that has been hailed as one of the best in baseball for several years. I just hope Kinsler doesn't get the final say this time around.
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