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Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) delivers against the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) delivers against the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

performance-enhancing drugs

Blair: Selig’s suspensions could throw pennant races for a loop Add to ...

It will be a mere nuisance for the Toronto Blue Jays if Bud Selig’s Biogenesis net lands Melky Cabrera an additional suspension.

Given Cabrera’s balky hamstring and the team’s flickering postseason chances, it might be time to look ahead to 2014, anyhow.

But if the baseball commissioner is as ready to levy 50- and maybe 100-game suspensions after next week’s All-Star Game as ESPN investigative program Outside the Lines suggests, there must surely be shivers felt throughout club offices this morning.

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The big names on the list of 20 players who are in danger of being suspended are Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, but there are several players reported to be under investigation who have or figure to play significant roles in their teams’ playoff chances.

Three of those – pitcher Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics, outfielder Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and shortstop Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers – will take part in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. Another all-star, San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, would make a tantalizing trade target for a contending team.

ESPN has suggested other players are involved whose names have not yet been made public.

No wonder, then, the Rangers signed Manny Ramirez to a shot-in-the-dark minor-league deal after his stint in Taiwan – how delicious is that: Ramirez, suspended once upon a time for using performance-enhancing substances, is now insurance against the very same thing – or why the Rangers are all over the Chicago White Sox about Alex Rios.

Suddenly, Selig’s personal vendetta against Rodriguez and Braun has much wider implications than simply a settling of scores.

It should not come as a surprise the commissioner has thrown considerable legal and financial resources at the so-called Biogenesis scandal, which resulted from a Miami New Times investigation into a Coral Gables, Fla.-based anti-aging clinic.

Braun had a suspension for PED use overturned on a technicality and was too care-free in his demeanour for the commissioner’s liking.

Rodriguez has acknowledged using PEDs while with the Rangers but has essentially claimed he has been clean for the past 10 seasons. (Nobody believes him.)

This is a legacy issue for Selig, especially with the game on financial cruise control. What is now important to the commissioner is being able to say that, on his watch, Rodriguez, Braun and other alleged cheaters have been dealt with formally and successfully. It’s first-and-goal for Selig, and he’s facing a defence – the MLB Players Association – composed of a membership more prone to supporting his cause than at any other time in its history. This is a pliant, conservative group, well-fed and well-financed and tired of being asked about PEDs.

Baseball is scheduled to meet with Rodriguez on Friday, and he will likely follow Braun’s tack and fall back on his Fifth Amendment right. (ESPN reported that was the approach taken by at least 10 players thus far investigated.)

Opinion around the game is Selig will be able to navigate his way through any appeals launched by any suspended players; that as long as his office is above-board in how it collects evidence and executes its approach, the players association – which for many of us has been far too ready to open the collective agreement when it comes to enhanced drug testing – will offer mostly token resistance.

And so the all-star break approaches with a new and mostly unwanted narrative.

Cabrera won the most-valuable-player award in last year’s All-Star Game and was subsequently suspended and became persona non grata around the San Francisco Giants during their run to the World Series title.

Not only is Selig at risk of taking attention away from the on-field product, he is threatening to interfere with the pennant races. Baseball’s trade deadline is two weeks after the All-Star Game and, suddenly, general managers find themselves confronted by a whole new dynamic.

Selig would be better off waiting until the off-season to burnish his legacy.

@GloBlair

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