WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (AP/ABC7) - Alex Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players in a drug case.
The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. His suspension covers 211 games, starting Thursday, and he is expected to appeal.
The New York Yankees slugger admitted four years ago that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since.
The Yankees' slugger will appeal the decision and is eligible to play in games as early as Monday night until his appeal is heard.
Rodriguez was suspended under both the drug agreement and labor contract.
MLB said the drug penalty was for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years."
His penalty under the labor contract was "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."
A dozen other players earlier Monday accepted 50-game drug suspensions from the league, MLB officials say. They include:
- Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers outfielder
- Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers shortstop
- Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher
- Jordany Valdespin, New York Mets outfielder
- Evereth Cabrera, San Diego Padres shortstop
- Jordan Norberto, free agent pitcher
- Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees catcher
- Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners catcher
- Cesar Puello, New York Mets outfielder
- Sergio Escalona, Houston Astros pitcher
- Fautino De Los Santos, San Diego Padres pitcher
- Fernando Martinez, New York Yankees Fernando Martinez
The penalties are considered the most sweeping punishment in baseball since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago.
The MLB Players Association has already thrown its support behind Rodriguez and his appeal. In a statement, union chief Michael Weiner said that Commissioner Bud Selig "has not acted appropriately" under the league's collective bargaining agreement.
As for Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was originally linked to Biogenesis, the Florida-based clinic that supplied players with steroids, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and was not punished after months of proclaiming innocence.
Hours before the gates to the Nationals stadium even opened for the showdown with the division-leading Braves, there was a victory of sorts for hometown fans.
"With this process now complete, I have no lingering sense of animosity, as I quickly realized that the objective of this investigation was to clean up our game," Gonzalez said in a statement issued by the Nationals.
Tommy Valentine welcomes the news about Gonzales, but thinks baseball should have been harder on the players involved. ABC 7 learned on Monday that 12 agreed to 50 game suspensions.
A-Rod's suspension has divided fans. The Yankees store in New York has stopped selling his tee-shirts, but fans continue to support and look up to him.
Meanwhile on Monday night, fans heading to the Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves game were looking for a turnaround. They fought past the traffic, the cost, and the crowds to watch a game they love and players they admire.
But on this bright night, the scandal still hung over Major League Baseball and one of the game's greatest players.
Nats fans spoke with ABC 7 and say it's time for Rodriguez to give up baseball - for the good of the game.
Mike Nardella and his son Travis are diehard Yankee supporters. Here in D.C. on a tour of league stadiums, even they agree that it's time for Rodriguez to bow out:
"It seems like they've got overwhelming evidence on him. I'm totally disgusted."
UPDATE: According to ESPN, Rodriguez is set to play third base and bat cleanup in Chicago on Monday.