By Ashley Dunkak

By Ashley Dunkak

In Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz, baseball has the opposite of a cautionary tale. The same goes for St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

There must be players whose careers have been derailed by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but Cruz and Peralta are examples to the contrary. Odd as it may sound, their careers have flourished since they were suspended for PED use.

The latest milestone for both players came Sunday, when it was announced that Cruz and Peralta are among the starters in the upcoming Midsummer Classic.

That recognition is icing on the cake compared to the financial rewards they received despite accepting 50-game suspensions in August 2013. As free agents, Cruz and Peralta both received four-year contracts worth more than $50 million.

After being found guilty of cheating and forcing their respective teams to hurriedly fill the holes they left in their respective rosters during their lengthy absences, not only have Peralta and Cruz been forgiven, but they have been embraced.

Teams clearly did not hold their baseball sins against them, since they were willing to hand both of them lucrative deals instead of giving such contracts to other qualified players who had not been charged with breaking the rules of the game.

It does not appear the transgressions of Cruz and Peralta cost them much favor with fans, either – at least not the fans that contributed 10,632,184 votes for Cruz or 8,478,474 for Peralta and sent both players to the Midsummer Classic.

Cruz will be an All-Star for the third time in as many years. Two of those selections have come since his suspension for PEDs.

Given the willingness of teams to sign those charged with cheating and the willingness of fans to embrace those who have been found guilty, it appears the only people who actually care about PED use might be the players who are not using.

There is often discussion about whether players who have used steroids should be admitted to the Hall of Fame. Many believe they should not be eligible for inclusion. If people hold that opinion, one would think they would not approve of the same player representing the sport in its annual exhibition.

On the other hand, if fans value only statistics and do not care about what rules a player has broken, then theoretically they should have no problem with that player being in the All-Star Game or in the Hall of Fame.

Since fans appear to be leaning toward forgiveness rather than career-long accountability for players that have gone astray, it may be only a matter of time before those who have used steroids are declared eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Taking all this into consideration – the response of teams to PED use by a player, the response of fans to PED use by a player, and the long-term implications of those attitudes – what is the message to those who might be considering trying to gain an edge by breaking the rules?

It seems to be something like this: If you get caught, you will have to miss some games, but even so, as long as you can perform, you still have a bright future ahead.

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Originally from the Kansas City area, Ashley spent the last two years in Detroit covering the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons – and some Michigan and Michigan State – as the sports writer for CBS Detroit. She previously spent three years as a correspondent for the Associated Press, covering football and basketball at Kansas State. She grew up watching the Chiefs and the Royals, but her soon-to-be husband is the true Royals devotee. The light-hearted argument over where to put the bobbleheads in the new apartment has already begun.