"Hard work pays off." That's what Twins slugger Nelson Cruz tweeted Monday after Major League Baseball recognized him as the American League Player of the Week following Minnesota's season-opening series against the White Sox in which Cruz went 7-for-13 at the plate with three home runs, two doubles and 10 RBI.
It was a helluva three games for the 40-year-old, but ex-Twins pitcher Casey Fien made it very clear that he's not impressed with a player who was previously connected to baseball's performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
"Really... hard work pays off. Says a player that got caught using PEDs and blamed it on stomach infection," Fien tweeted. After getting countless responses from Twitter users defending Cruz, Fien didn't back down.
"Wow, I’m amazed at how many people can defend Cruz. We reward those who cut corners and cheat to get ahead," Fien tweeted, noting that Cruz has never had fewer than 37 homers in a season after turning 32, while before that he never hit more than 33 homers in a season.
In 2013 – Cruz's age-33 season – Cruz was playing for the Texas Rangers when he was suspended 50 games for violating the MLB's joint drug policy as part of the infamous Biogenesis scandal. He blamed it on an "error in judgement" after a stomach bug went undiagnosed and he lost 40 pounds before the season. His statement at the time:
"By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse."
"When I played it was a respect thing for me. Now coaching youth, what do I tell them about steroid use. Why do people get rewarded for it?" Fien added. "Why not take them if it can get me 14M a year? It’s ok if you apologize for it or make an excuse? More penalties and more accountability."
Regardless, Cruz is off to a blistering start and if he's able to keep it up it's not out of the question that the DH could contend for the MVP award. If he does win MVP – and that's a gigantic if this early in the season – he would join Barry Bonds (2004) as the only players over the age of 40 to win the award.