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Take me out to the ball shame: A-Rod returns to boos

Updated: August 6, 2013 1:24PM

Major League Baseball’s crusade against performance-enhancing drugs played out front and center Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, where Alex Rodriguez took the stage — and the field in a major-league game for the first time this year — the same day he was suspended through the 2014 season.

After saying “the last seven months has been a nightmare, probably the worst time of my life, for sure,” Rodriguez played third base and batted cleanup for the Yankees hours after he was suspended by MLB. All-Stars Jhonny Peralta (Tigers), Nelson Cruz (Rangers) and Everth Cabrera (Padres) were banned 50 games each, with 13 players altogether punished for their relationship to the Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America.

And the White Sox, who took a 10-game losing streak into the game, thought they had problems. All of those were overshadowed by the sweeping punishments, which, as a group, are believed to be the most widespread penalties given since the 1919 Black Sox scandal. In that one, eight White Sox were suspended for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series.

In addition to Rodriguez and the aforementioned All-Stars, 50-game bans were agreed to by Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez; Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello; Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Mariners catcher Jesus Montero; Astros pitcher Sergio Escalona; and free-agent pitchers Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

“If you look at it from a macro standpoint, you see an extraordinarily strict drug policy that’s having its intended effect,’’ Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s ferreting out those who have cheated, and it’s punishing them accordingly. From that standpoint, I think it’s a positive for the game. Obviously, when you see this number of players suspended, it’s a dark day. But at least the system is working, and you can have faith in the product we see out there going forward.’’

Rodriguez, baseball’s highest-paid player, is appealing the decision and will be allowed to play out the season because the appeal won’t be ruled on until November at the earliest. The penalty, which amounts to 211 games, is 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,” MLB said.

He violated the labor contract by “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.’’

Most players are fed up with PED use and are voicing it freely.

“It’s been frustrating since Day 1, since the first guy got caught,’’ Sox slugger Adam Dunn said. “I don’t think anything’s changed other than guys getting caught multiple times. It’s not very smart.

“I don’t know what else you have to do. These guys are thinking that what they’re doing and all this stuff, they’re not going to get caught, and apparently they’re wrong. Hopefully, this is the last we’ll ever hear of things like this, but my guess is it probably won’t be.’’

“In some ways it’s a bad day, but in some ways it’s also a good day,’’ Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. “I think this game is getting closer and closer to cleaning itself up, and I think today is a good step in the right direction.’’

Rodriguez was booed when he took the field to loosen up shortly before the game and was booed when he came up to bat. Many fans were booing and smiling at the same time.

Before a packed interview room, Rodriguez denied using performance-enhancers.

“When the time is right, there will be an opportunity to [talk about] all of that,’’ he said. “I don’t think that time is right now.”

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