The 2013-2014 offseason features a deep class of quality talent ripe for the picking of any team willing to spend.
Based upon GM Sandy Alderson’s comments at year’s end as well as the Mets reported discussions, it appears clear that the major focus is to acquire at least two position players: a shortstop and an outfielder.
Conveniently enough, there are two free agents on the market capable of filling each of those positions with great success, and could very well come at significant discount.
The only issue; both of these candidates are fresh off of 50-game suspensions for their involvement with Biogenesis PED scandal.
Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz would be attractive additions to a New York lineup in desperate need of consistent production. Posting an OPS of .815 and .833 respectively in 2013 prior to serving their suspensions, the pair would provide a significant bolster to a squad that managed a team OPS figure of .672. The only Mets to eclipse those numbers put up by Peralta and Cruz were David Wright (.904) and Marlon Byrd (.848), who has since signed with the rival Philadelphia Phillies.
The question is not their ability to perform, but rather whether fans would be comfortable rooting for one of or both of these confirmed PED-users if brought to Flushing; and we all know what the overwhelming response would be: So long as they can produce, the common fan no longer cares.
Have baseball fans become desensitized to steroid-usage in MLB? Ten years ago, those caught doping were ostracized by baseball. Fans instead of cheering, had the standard of not wanting a cheater on their favorite team.
In 2013, that seemed to change. Alex Rodriguez had a roaring ovation from the Bleacher Creatures upon his return. Mets fans were thrilled to have Marlon Byrd in right field everyday, who despite having a legitimate reason for his positive test, served a 50-game suspension in 2012. Cruz was welcomed back to an offensively starved Rangers lineup, being penciled into the lineup for Game 163 after serving his time. Peralta who was used over rookie phenom Jose Iglesias on multiple occasions this past postseason, was hailed as an October hero in Detroit; not exactly facing the same public scrutiny of the 1990s or early 2000s.
In contrast, the players throughout the game were overwhelmingly vocal in condemning the actions of their co-workers, both opponents and teammates alike. They called for stricter penalties; Mike Trout went on Boomer and Carton calling for a one-and-done MLB policy, meaning a first time offender would receive a lifetime ban. Ryan Dempster struck Alex Rodriguez with a pitch under the lights of Fenway presumably for his ongoing debacle with MLB as well as for ratting out the likes of Ryan Braun and teammate-Francisco Cervelli to draw the spotlight off of himself.
The cultures of fan bases and players alike have gone in opposite directions.
The common fan is no longer bothered by their team adding a presumed-former PED user; in fact, the presumption that said user could come at a reduced cost makes them appealing.
With the front office looking to find solid major-league talent in a cost effective method, the aforementioned free agent pair–in particular Peralta–has piqued the interest of the organization. Mets fans appear to get that, and are more than open to have a former steroid user play for ‘their team’, if it means competitive baseball.
How times have changed.