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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 5, 2013 at 9:13 AM

(UPDATE) It’s official: Jesus Montero accepts 50-game suspension

An already disastrous season for Jesus Montero clunked to rock bottom today when he accepted, without appeal, a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, MLB announced officially at noon, Seattle time. The suspension will be without pay, and effective immediately.

Montero was one of 12 players suspended 50 games without appeal. The others are Nelson Cruz (Rangers), Jhonny Peralta (Tigers), Everth Cabrera (Padres), Francisco Cervelli (Yankees), Cesar Puello (Mets), Fautino De Los Santos (Padres), Fernando Martinez (Yankees), Jordan Norberto (free agent), Antonio Bastardo (Phillies), Jordany Valdespin (Mets) and Sergio Escalona (Astros). The final three names had not been previously linked to Biogenesis.

Commissioner Bud Selig also announced that Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees has been suspended for the remainder of 2013, including the postseason, and all of 2014. MLB suspended A-Rod for violations of the drug policy, not under the “best interest of the game” clause, so he is allowed to appeal, and will do so. The suspension is scheduled to begin Thursday and will cover 211 games, but Rodriguez will be allowed to keep playing until his appeal is heart. MLB said in a release that Rodriguez’s suspension “is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years.  Rodriguez’s discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”

In addition, MLB noted that Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon, and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal would not be further disciplined. All were suspended 50 games last season for violating the drug program stemming from their connection to Biogenesis.

Here is a statement from the Mariners:

“The Seattle Mariners are disappointed that Jesus Montero has violated the terms of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  Our organization fully supports the Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

The Mariners said that will be their only comment on the matter. Commissioner Bud Selig  and union chief Michael Weiner also had lengthy statements which can be found at the end of this post. Weiner said of the 12 players who didn’t appeal (excluding A-Rod): “The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives.

The Mariners haven’t had a player on their 40-man roster suspended for PEDs since Ryan Franklin, Jamal Strong and current Mariner Mike Morse in 2005. One of the unique things about this case is that none of the players failed a drug test. However, baseball still has the power to suspend players based on a “non-analytical positive” — evidence other than a drug test. The 23-year-old Montero is currently playing in Tacoma. It is believed Montero will be able to serve his entire suspension this season even though Tacoma has just 28 games remaining this season.

Montero has been linked to the Biogenesis Anti-Aging clinic since Februry – an association he strongly and repeatedly denied when the story first broke in the New York Daily News on Feb. 6. The Daily News reported that Montero had been named in the records of Biogenesis, the clinic which is at the heart of MLB’s latest PED scandal.

When the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker talked to Montero at the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., the morning the Daily News story broke in February , Montero told him he had “no clue” how his name appeared in those documents.

“What can I tell you? I have no idea,” Montero said back then. “Like I said, I have no clue what happened. I feel like I’m caught in the middle of something, and I don’t know why.”

Montero also told the Times he had no knowledge of Anthony Bosch, the founder of the clinic, who ultimately cooperated with baseball’s investigation.

“I don’t even know who he is,” Montero said at the time. “I’ve never heard of him.”

Montero repeated those denials the following week to the Seattle media on the first official day of camp.

“I don’t really know what’s going on,’’ he said that morning. “I didn’t have anything to do with those people. I know my agent’s been handling everything. I don’t know anything about it. I just talked to my family, I told them ‘It’s nothing, don’t worry about.’

“We’re happy. I’m just doing my job over here trying to be ready for spring training and be ready for the season. What can I say? It surprised me too.”

Montero was asked if it was possible the Jesus Montero on the documents was his brother, a catcher in the Cardinals’ farm system also named Jesus Montero.

“No, we don’t have anything to do with that clinic,” he replied.

Later, Montero stated, I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”

A suspension further clouds what had already been a miserable season for Montero. He began the season as the Mariners’ regular catcher but was sent to the minors on May 23. At the time, he had a .208 batting average and an on-base-plus slugging mark of only .590, compounded by a poor defensive performance at catcher. He had thrown out just one of 24 attempted base-stealers.

The demotion essentially ended Montero’s catching career, which many observers had predicted would be the outcome when the Mariners made the blockbuster trade to acquire Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi from the Yankees for All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda and minor-league pitcher Jose Campos on Jan. 20, 2012.

Ranked as one of the best power-hitting prospects in the minors, Montero hit .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBI as a rookie in 2012, and the Mariners continued to state their belief that he could develop into a competent receiver. But when he was demoted in May, they announced he would begin to learn to play first base. Considering the emergence of Mike Zunino, a No. 3-overall draft pick who would shortly join the Mariners, it was clear his catching days were over.

That became even more clear in early June when Montero underwent surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. That put him out of action for more than a month. Montero has played a total of 19 games for Tacoma, hitting .247 with just one homer. Since returning to the Rainiers on July 18, he is 11-for-45.

It’s a far cry from the star-caliber power hitter the Mariners expected when they made the deal, and the fact Pineda has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees hardly mitigates the major disappointment of Montero’s Seattle career.  With a suspension wiping out the rest of this year, you have to wonder where he fits in the future, and what affect PEDs had on his initial evaluation as a player on the rise.

Here is Bud Selig’s statement on today’s suspensions:

“Major League Baseball has worked diligently with the Players Association for more than a decade to make our Joint Drug Program the best in all of professional sports.  I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts – not only with regard to random testing, groundbreaking blood testing for human Growth Hormone and one of the most significant longitudinal profiling programs in the world, but also our investigative capabilities, which proved vital to the Biogenesis case.  Upon learning that players were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, we vigorously pursued evidence that linked those individuals to violations of our Program.  We conducted a thorough, aggressive investigation guided by facts so that we could justly enforce our rules.

“Despite the challenges this situation has created during a great season on the field, we pursued this matter because it was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do.  For weeks, I have noted the many players throughout the game who have strongly voiced their support on this issue, and I thank them for it.  I appreciate the unwavering support of our owners and club personnel, who share my ardent desire to address this situation appropriately.  I am also grateful to the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society and our club physicians, who were instrumental in the banning of amphetamines and whose expertise remains invaluable to me.  As an institution, we have made unprecedented strides together.

“It is important to point out that 16,000 total urine and blood tests were conducted on players worldwide under MLB Drug Programs in 2012.  With the important additions of the hGH testing and longitudinal profiling this season, we are more confident than ever in the effectiveness of the testing program.  Those players who have violated the Program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way.

“This case resoundingly illustrates that the strength of our Program is not limited only to testing.  We continue to attack this issue on every front – from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills.  Major League Baseball is proud of the enormous progress we have made, and we look forward to working with the players to make the penalties for violations of the Drug Program even more stringent and a stronger deterrent.

“As a social institution with enormous social responsibilities, Baseball must do everything it can to maintain integrity, fairness and a level playing field.  We are committed to working together with players to reiterate that performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game.”

And here is the statement from Michael Weiner, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association:

“The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives.

For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. . Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.

The Union’s members have made it clear that they want a clean game.  They support efforts to discipline players, and harshly, to help ensure an even playing field for all.  The players support the Union’s efforts to uphold the JDA while at the same time guaranteeing that players receive the due process rights and confidentiality protections granted under the agreement.

Lastly, l want to close by stating our profound disappointment in the way individuals granted access to private and privileged information felt compelled to share that information publicly.  The manner in which confidential information was so freely exchanged is not only a threat to the success and credibility of our jointly administered program; it calls into question the level of trust required to administer such a program.   It is our view that when the bargaining parties hold their annual review of the program, we must revisit the JDA’s confidentiality provisions and consider implementing stricter rules for any breach by any individual involved in the process.”

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