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It was amazing and troubling, a scene of the times. There was Jhonny Peralta at his locker, looking half-sad and half-confused as he politely answered questions without really answering them. And that’s where we are as baseball’s drug scandal spins deep into its second decade, with nobody knowing how to handle it.

It’s about to hit home now, striking the Tigers where it hurts. Reports indicate Peralta and as many as nine players will be suspended in the next day or so. And on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, sorry, no one gets selective sympathy. If Peralta cheated and is suspended 50 games, the Tigers should treat it as if he’s gone for good.

After they play the White Sox tonight, they’ll have 55 games remaining. Peralta might even start the game, although his replacement, Jose Iglesias, is expected in town. In typical dunderhead fashion, Major League Baseball officials have pushed this to the limit, primarily because of their obsession with Alex Rodriguez. Go ahead, ban that serial cheater for life, but can we please get on with it?

Fifty games is the projected punishment for most, and that essentially means the rest of the season. If Peralta gets 50, could the Tigers bring him back for the final few then use him in a possible playoff run? I’d never say never because who knows if the slick-fielding Iglesias will hit or if injuries will surface. But I wouldn’t do it, admittedly easier to say with Iglesias’ arrival.

The Tigers would miss Peralta’s bat, no doubt. He’s having the best season of his nine-year career, hitting .307 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. But if he were to return for the postseason, he’d be a tainted mercenary, a pending free-agent likely to leave anyhow. And who knows how effective he’d be after missing so much time.JHONNY

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