VIERA, Fla. -- It’s time to “move on,” Gio Gonzalez said. But the questions kept moving in, not moving on.
“You’ve got to turn the page already,” Gio Gonzalez said. But the pages weren’t turning fast enough.
He stood in the Washington Nationals' dugout Tuesday morning, surrounded by a group of media inquisitors with more on their minds than those 21 games he won last year. But that’s how fast life can change for a fellow like Gio Gonzalez -- in the snap of the fingers.
Or the posting of a headline.
It was the day pitchers and catchers report at spring training, a day this man said he’d been looking forward to for four long months, since a 6-0 lead began to melt in his hands in the biggest postseason game in Washington Nationals history.
But what unfolded in the dugout of Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday morning wasn’t what he had in mind.
He kept trying to steer the conversation toward happier topics -- toward his team’s World Series dreams, toward his invitation to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, toward his burgeoning Instagram fame.
But evidently, his steering wheel was busted, because the questions kept returning to the same dreaded topics:
Biogenesis PEDs and the ongoing investigation into both of them -- and him.
The questions kept coming for five solid minutes, until a Nationals media relations representative cut them off. Gonzalez answered them all affably, comfortably, assuredly. But that doesn’t mean he has answered them for the last time, even though his team says he’ll be discussing baseball only for the rest of the spring.
Oh, he may be through talking to the media about PEDs. But he has a lot more than five minutes of Q-and-A ahead with baseball’s investigators -- who aren’t known to have spoken with any of the players whose names showed up in Tony Bosch’s Biogenesis notebooks.
So what might those investigators want to know that Gonzalez didn’t fully explain Tuesday? Here are two answers he gave in that dugout that are likely to be viewed skeptically by the powers that be:
1. The old proud-father alibi: So how did Gio’s name mysteriously show up in those notebooks? Gonzalez’s best guess? You can pin it all on his dad, Max, “the most proud father in baseball,” said his son. Always bragging about his kid. To anyone. And everyone.
OK, we’re sure he was. But he bragged so often that an alleged PED supplier kept writing the kid’s name in his personal notes? Five different times? Including one entry that included Gio’s stats and the formula for something known as “pink cream,” the ingredients of which included testosterone, which is banned by Major League Baseball?
Heck, you never know. Maybe that’s exactly how this went down. But you can bet that when the lawyers and investigators arrive, they’ll have a few follow-up questions about that theory.
2. The old I-was-just-as-stunned-as-you-were alibi: Gonzalez described himself Tuesday as being “stunned” when his name popped up in that Miami New Times story. Showed up “out of nowhere,” he said. And then there was this:
How did he learn he’d been linked to this Biogenesis scandal? “Just like you guys [in the media] did,” Gonzalez said. “It was just posted out there.”
No additional questions were permitted on that topic Tuesday. But baseball’s investigators will have some additional questions. You can count on that.
How, for instance, can he claim that he didn’t learn of any of this until the New Times story was “posted,” when the newspaper has said repeatedly it sought comments and explanations from every player named, prior to the story’s publication? And ohbytheway, the newspaper submitted all of those questions in writing.
Maybe that was just a miscommunication. Maybe Gonzalez merely phrased his answer imprecisely Tuesday. But let’s just say that people who have been investigating Biogenesis for two years will be slightly skeptical of denials like that one.
As he stood in that dugout Tuesday morning, Gonzalez said he was “confident” he’d be exonerated by this investigation. And for baseball’s sake, you hope he’s right.
But let’s see now. There were six players named in the New Times story, and a seventh big name (Ryan Braun) connected to Biogenesis by Yahoo Sports. One of them (Nelson Cruz) hasn’t addressed this story yet. Three of them (Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal) have already been suspended for PED use. Now let’s look at the alibis of the other three:
There’s Braun, whose explanation, that Bosch was being used as a “consultant” for his PED hearing last year, has been widely questioned.
And now there’s Gio Gonzalez, who has chalked up his own brush with infamy to a proud papa.
Maybe that account will check out just fine. Maybe all of these accounts will check out just fine. But here’s what Gio Gonzalez needs to keep in mind as he goes along his merry way this spring:
No matter how hard he’d like to turn the page, the questions didn’t end in the dugout of Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday. Oh, no.
They’re really just beginning.