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It sounds so Baseball, the sneak-sneak, slip-one-past-the-stupid-public-while-they're-looking-the-other-way latest steroid deception. I'm talking about the bust of not-a-household-name and Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Alex Sanchez. Sanchez got to go first; got to be the first major-league player punished for using, one assumes, steroids, since baseball instituted their latest bullshit rules on the subject.

Baseball announced that it has "Suspended Tampa Bay OF Alex Sanchez 10 days, effective April 4, for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program."

Note, by the way, that it's ten days, not ten games, which makes a difference of tens of thousands of dollars to Sanchez. Note also we don't know what substance Sanchez was using. Sanchez says it was milkshakes and multivitamins.

Funny, don't you think, that baseball announced Sanchez's suspension on Sunday, opening day, when the crush of baseball news was certain to tap down the story. Also, most fortuitous that Sanchez is a marginal player, picked up by Tampa Bay only last month. We have a player nobody follows on a team nobody follows. Not spotlight material.

Baseball lifer and Yankees manager Joe Torre opined that "...the fact that the testing evidently worked. That's what we all want to find out, that's what even the players want to make sure, that we get the fans' trust back, and that's the only way that can happen."

Yes, it's all about getting the fans' trust back. Baseball says, "We saw the problem, we took care of the problem; play ball."

Still, I would like to know the particulars, although it will take a subpoena to get them. Sanchez was drug tested while he was at spring training with Detroit. Detroit released him on March 15, so his test must have been given prior to that date. I would like to know the chain of custody. Exactly when and where was the test given to Sanchez? What, exactly, was he tested for? Where was his urine sample processed? When, exactly, did his sample arrive at that place? When was his sample processed, by what method, and by whom? When were his test results known? Who received a copy of those test results and when did he receive them?

To imagine that it all went one, two, three, and by happy coincidence, Sanchez's test results happened to land on Bud Selig's desk on Sunday, April 3, the very day baseball's season opened with Boston playing at New York on prime time national TV, is to believe baseball is telling the truth. That is not possible for anyone who knows where babies come from.

But, it worked. I must own that Baseball knows stupid when it sees it. No outcry from Congress or the media. In fact, as far as I know, no one has bothered to ask, "Who is this criminal athlete, Alex Sanchez?"

Well, he seems like an extraordinary person and a hanging-on-by-his-fingernails baseball player.

He was born in Havana, Cuba, in August 1976. At the age of 18 he left Cuba by way of raft, picked up by the Coast Guard after three days at sea, and spent the next 16 months in a Guantanamo Bay refugee camp. Then to Miami. He did a little time at Miami-Dade Community College, was drafted by the Devil Rays in the fifth round of the 1996 amateur draft, picked up off waivers by Milwaukee in April 2001, His first big-league game was with the Brewers, June 15, 2001. He's been employed in the bigs ever since.

It's a long way from Gitmo to major league baseball. He made it on his own.

Sanchez is 5 foot 10 inches tall, 179 pounds, and a left-hander. He lives in Miami with his wife, twin sons (Alexeis and Alexander), recently (February) joined by his mother Mercedes and brother Jorge. The pair defected from Cuba, landed in Mexico, entered the States through Texas, and made their way to him.

Although climbing up to the bigs and then staying there for four seasons, starting a fifth, means you're in that top one percent of everybody, Sanchez is on the bottom of that rarified list. Baseball is a world measured by money. Here are his stats: 2001 was a partial year; he earned $202,000 with Milwaukee in 2002; $340,000 with Milwaukee in 2003; and $385,000 with Detroit in 2004. The average salary for a major-league player is more than $2,500,000.

A March 15 AP story gives us a peak. "The Tigers released Alex Sanchez on Tuesday.... Sanchez frustrated Detroit with his sloppy play in the field -- as he did in Milwaukee before the Brewers traded him to the Tigers in May 2003... Sanchez also struggled to get on base when a bunt or single didn't get him to first -- a big problem for a leadoff hitter."

The Box will follow Sanchez for the remainder of the season and report back.

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