Manager Mike Matheny says he expects new shortstop Johnny Peralta will be a good fit with the Cardinals despite PED issues.(File)
By Rob Rains
In his first public comments since the Cardinals signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta, manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday there will always be a “cloud” over Peralta and his connection to performance-enhancing drugs which led to his 50-game suspension last year.
Matheny also said, however, he believes Peralta has paid the price for his mistake and does not expect his addition to create any problems or tension from his new teammates.
Speaking to media at the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., Matheny spent several minutes addressing Peralta’s situation. He was connected to the biogenesis scandal while playing last season for Detroit and served his suspension before becoming a free agent at the end of the season.
The signing last month created some controversy because of the size of the contract, $53 million, but Matheny said the Cardinals are convinced Peralta made a mistake and, once he served his suspension, should not continue to have that mistake held against him.
“I don't have all the details of Jhonny's life and none of us do around here, about Jhonny or anybody else that's been thrown in that mix,” Matheny said. “There is always going to be a cloud. It's part of the risk you take when you try to fight the system. It's not fun, it's not easy, and we're not going to try to cover up that that's not true. It is. There is negative that comes with those decisions.
“But, once again, at some point people pay and then they move. That's where we are. We're in the process of moving forward. There are other people out there that may not like our stance on that and think of us as hypocritical. So be it. But for us, we see a guy who made a decision that he regrets. He didn't fight to pay the price. He paid it. Now we're part of his future.”
Matheny also made clear that he is happy Peralta’s future for the next four years will be with the Cardinals, where he will provide a definite offensive upgrade at shortstop.
Matheny knows, however, the questions about Peralta will linger. He just does not want it to be a distraction for his team. Some players on his own team, including outfielder Matt Holliday, have been outspoken in the past about the suspensions for PED infractions not being long enough, but Matheny believes Peralta’s new teammates will welcome him into their mix and will be able to separate him from the larger-scale battle against increasing the length of suspensions.
“The league set out a rule and The Players Association agreed to that,” Matheny said. “People make decisions every day. A lot of us have regrets for the decisions we make, but you pay the repercussions and you move on.
“I believe Mo (general manager John Mozeliak) said it very well in the fact we don't claim to be the morality police. We also realize that we're dealing with people. People are faced with tough decisions every day. It might not match up with what we believe is right or wrong, but we're also not the ones that have the final authority on how those judgments come down.”
Matheny said once the Cardinals were convinced that Peralta was sincere in his apology, and that it was a one-time incident, the team was ready to accept him to their club.
“Our reconnaissance was more towards ‘tell us about the kind of person we're talking about here,’” Matheny said. “Is this the kind of person that's going to fit, not necessarily whether this guy measures up to somebody's level of, I guess, expectation.
“Jhonny has handled it extremely well. Been very proud just from the outside of him being part of our club now and watched how he's handled this. He's been very remorseful but taking it like a man. He made a mistake. This is what's happened. Now I'd like to move on. And I get that. I'd like to help him move on, but part of it is just sitting in stuff sometimes. Right now he's sitting in it. I think it's going to come out in the end with the kind of person he is. Hopefully he uses it in a positive way somehow. I think these trials in life sometimes present a great opportunity or a platform to make a great change.”
Matheny also understands, however, the reason fans and even some other players were upset with the team’s decision not only to sign Peralta, but to, in effect, reward him with a large contract. Those people are entitled to their opinions, he said, but it will not change the decisions by the team.
“You start bordering self righteousness when everybody sits up on a horse and starts looking down on people for the decisions they've made,” Matheny said. “We'd all like to see the game cleaned up, absolutely. But also to realize once again we don't know the entire stories of people. I'm not one that's going to be standing up and pointing my finger beyond what the judgments are that have been put on him. I want to help him move past this. But once again, that is something that's going to have to happen in due time. But he's handled it perfectly.
“I'm also proud to be part of an organization that doesn't necessarily sit on a high horse and throw judgment down on everybody else. There have been a lot of comments lately from even inside The Players Association. Some of those I understand where the guys have come from. They're being compared. Their salaries are going to be judged against some guys who did cheat.
“I've played my career through the exact same thing, but I always took the angle and truly believed that it wasn't just the company line. People are going to make the decisions they make, and they're going to have to look at them. Just because it's not right for me, I can't point a finger or accusation to others beyond they pay the price. It's time to move on.”
Matheny said he knows that is Peralta’s attitude as well, and he believes the Cardinals will be a good fit in allowing him to do just that.
“He's looking for a group of people that aren't necessarily looking down on him as much as understanding that he's going to get a fair shot,” Matheny said. “That's all I think anybody would want, and I know that's what our club will give him.”