NEW YORK — 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 most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago.
Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous penalties bring to 18 the total number of players sanctioned for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.
The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. He said he will appeal his suspension, which covers 211 games, by Thursday's deadline. And since arbitrator Fredric Horowitz isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest, Rodriguez was free to make his season debut Monday night and play the rest of this season.
The other 12 players agreed to their 50-game penalties before they were announced, giving them a chance to return for the playoffs.
MLB said A-Rod's 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 punishment 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."
Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03, but has repeatedly denied using them since.
Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez was due to rejoin the Yankees five hours after the suspension, in a series opener at the Chicago White Sox. He was scheduled to play third base and bat fourth.
"I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process. I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight," Rodriguez said in a statement. He arrived at U.S. Cellular Field in a dark Cadillac, wearing a dark suit. A-Rod waved at fans about 100 feet away behind barricades, and went into a side entrance.
The suspensions are thought to be the most at once for off-the-field conduct since 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight Chicago White Sox players for life for throwing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsh, Chick Gandil, Fred McMullen, Charles "Swede" Risberg, Buck Weaver and Claude "Lefty" Williams. They had been suspended by the team the previous year and were penalized by baseball even though they had been acquitted of criminal charges.
As for the modern-day All-Stars, Cruz, an outfielder, leads Texas in RBIs and Peralta has been a top hitter and slick-fielding shortstop for Detroit, a pair of teams in the midst of pennant races. They will be eligible to return for the postseason.
Others agreeing to 50-game bans included Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez; Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Seattle catcher Jesus Montero; New York Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello; Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona; and free agent pitchers Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.