Fans tend to forgive star athletes who deliver an apology and perform for their team. They’re quick to forget a suspension for cheating as long as you score runs for their team. Fans of the Baltimore Orioles will have to decide whether or not they want to support Nelson Cruz following his 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, and if he performs, they most likely will.
The Orioles signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract in the offseason, strengthening their bench and giving them more depth in the outfield. At 33-years old, Cruz should have plenty of baseball left in him. It seemed like teams were hesitant to sign him, but the Orioles eventually pulled the trigger. Financially, they’re getting a good deal if he rebounds to his old form. The only question will be how he deals with the jeers he’ll receive that are inevitably associated with convicted steroid users.
From a baseball standpoint, Baltimore seems like an excellent fit. Cruz won’t be asked to play every day and will do more pinch-hitting. In 2012, Cruz played in 159 games and had one of his worst seasons of his career. He struck out 140 times and had a few extended rough patches. He has been better statistically in seasons where he makes between 100 and 130 appearances.
The Orioles have a couple of options at the corner outfield spots, including Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and David Lough, but none of them have a track record of hitting home runs like Cruz does. He could force his way onto the lineup card with a consistent start to the season, and fans will embrace him if he does.
There will always be people who will be steadfast in their disapproval of steroid users, but chances are they won’t feel strongly enough to let it keep them from supporting the team. They’ll keep buying tickets, jerseys and hot dogs to help pay for Cruz’s salary, even if they don’t like that he’s on their team.