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Athletics' Colon may not be in imminent danger

Posted: July 25, 2013 - 12:09am

Bartolo Colon is not Alex Rodriguez, he definitely is not Ryan Braun, and for very pragmatic reasons, the Athletics should be relieved by that.

There are other broader worries for everybody, of course.

The Biogenesis PED punishment phase is here, kicked off by Braun’s 65-game plea deal, and Colon eventually might face a similar penalty.

But the practical question for the Athletics and Colon is this: Will the Athletics ace make it through the 2013 stretch run and into the postseason without being suspended?

The best guess: Colon probably will remain eligible and remain throwing darts through most if not all of 2013.

Baseball might not like it, but this is an easy conclusion when you examine the drastic differences between Colon’s case, Rodriguez’s and especially Braun’s.

Yes, all three players (among others) have been tied to the Biogenesis clinic, according to various reports.

And, yes, baseball officials seem determined to punish as many of the guilty parties as they can, as soon as they can.

Braun’s suspension/capitulation Monday was the first large public step.

But Braun and Colon are not even close to PED parallels.

For now, let’s skip the conversation about ethics and morality (all argued out last year during the Melky Cabrera episode) and just boil it down to the basic baseball essence:

Colon is 11 years older, $127 million in future payments poorer and a billion times less likely to cut the kind of deal that Braun just accepted.

There was incredible motivation for Braun, 29, to take his penalty, forgo the appeals process, dive into hiding, then re-emerge next spring, still under a hefty contract through 2020, thank you very much.

Players can get punished for only the length of the suspension, according to their labor deal, so any future contracted money remains guaranteed.

And there was a major inclination for baseball officials to establish that they could nail a high-profile cheater — and recent N.L. MVP — who only last year slipped from their grasp on a technicality.

Therefore, the Braun suspension deal.

More differences: Colon is having a great season on a probable playoff team, while Braun just ended his own mediocre campaign for the dead-in-the-water Brewers.

Braun had every bit of self-interest directing him to take the deal, with a clean slate for 2014, technically if not metaphorically.

On the flip side, there is no true motivation for Colon to do any quick bargaining with authorities under the shadow of Biogenesis.

In some ways, Colon is in a similar situation to A-Rod — a long suspension for either player could cut severely into whatever remains of their careers beyond 2013.

In fact, there are reports that Major League Baseball is looking at a lifetime ban for Rodriguez; he would have to fight that, and fighting prolongs the process.

Colon has his own procedural reasons to delay the timeline for potential punishment.

Remember, baseball already suspended Colon once, for 50 games last season (the final five games served this season), and it is not clear whether there will be new PED charges against him.

Is Colon being investigated on potential new PED charges, or is this involving the same situation that led to last year’s suspension, or is this just his name thrown around wildly?

All unknown.

Right now, the unknown protects Colon, at least through the heart of this season.

Colon is a leading candidate for the A.L. Cy Young Award and is presumably set up to lead the Athletics’ staff in the postseason, if they get there.

He also is a pending free agent who has every reason to fight any potential suspension, to stay on the field in 2013 and to appeal any punishment when and if it comes down.

As MLB Players Association chief Michael Weiner said last week, it is likely that any suspension that is appealed probably would not take effect until the 2014 season.

To take this at its most basic baseball point, the Athletics probably don’t have to worry about losing Colon immediately.

They might lose him at some point. They probably have known and thought about this for weeks — and they have Sonny Gray waiting in the wings, just in case.

But Colon’s motivation is to stay on the roster for as long as possible.

These could be the best days of his career right now, and Colon won’t be giving that up without due process ... and a fight.

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