ST. LOUIS -- When Mark McGwire sat down in the Dodgers dugout at Busch Stadium to talk with reporters Monday, he joked that he hoped the first question would be about his return to St. Louis, where he played five seasons and was the hitting coach for three years.
But the focus was, instead, on the story that is reverberating throughout baseball. Major League Baseball on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season.
"I wish I was never part of it," McGwire said. "Just really hoping and praying that this is the end of it. Just everybody, especially the players, they don't want any more part of it. And let's just hope it's the end of it."
Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is set to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years.
Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"It really doesn't matter what I think, I think it matters what the players think," McGwire said. "And what I hear every day in the clubhouse, they're just happy it's coming to an end, they're happy that Major League Baseball is taking care of it.
"I just hope it's over with. I just hope we don't have to sit here and talk about this anymore."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has a personal connection to Rodriguez, whom he knows from his time as a coach with the Yankees.
"I like Alex and I'd just like to see what the process ends up being. You never really know the whole story," Mattingly said. "I hate seeing anybody's name involved with it. It's disappointing. It was disappointing last year for Melky [Cabrera]. I loved Melky and really liked him as a player. It's disappointing when you see anybody's name that you know."
Chris Capuano, one of the Dodgers' player representatives, said the suspensions marked a good day for baseball.
"I think the vast majority of guys, any guy you talk to in here, is incredulous that guys would even try to get around it, because we get tested so often and because the tests are so sophisticated," Capuano said. "I think this is a good day. I think the guys that are cheating and trying to gain an unfair advantage are getting punished today."
Over the years, Capuano said he has noticed a shift in players' attitudes toward drug testing with most now overwhelmingly in favor of the league cracking down on the issue.
"I think once we got the testing procedures in place, guys kind of said, 'OK, it seems like it's fair now,'" Capuano said. "But then you had Melky Cabrera, Ryan Braun, you had certain guys, and all of a sudden, you got the sense that there are actually still guys trying to subvert the system, still trying to cheat to gain an advantage, and I think that outrage is a lot of guys who work hard and are trying to compete out here."
In wake of what he believes is another step in the right direction, Capuano said he could envision a future in which the cloud of drug use isn't lingering as strongly over the game.
"There's always people who are going to lack the integrity, there's always people that are going to try to seek an advantage," he said. "But with that, every time this happens, our testing gets more sophisticated, we learn about new ways people are trying to cheat, new methods, new substances, and it makes our testing that much stronger. I envision our testing procedures getting better and better along with this."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.