Kathy Willens, AP
Los Angeles Angels catcher Bobby Wilson catches New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez stealing in a third-inning double play during their baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, July 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The players, coaches, managers — we are all 100 percent behind MLB cleaning up this game and just try to eliminate any kind of drugs that these players get involved with. —San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy

There’s a high, inside fastball headed right at Major League Baseball’s chin, and it’s got the suspicious acronym “PED” written all over it.

Yes, right when MLB takes its annual midseason break for the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, there are a couple dozen major league players out there who are squirming in their seats because of their apparent involvement with the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami, where performance-enhancing drugs were allegedly distributed to them.

All of their names have not yet been released, but among those who are rumored to be sweating out possible suspensions are former Most Valuable Players Alex Rodriguez (hey, what a surprise!) of the Yankees and Ryan Braun of the Brewers, along with at least four players — Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz, Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon and shortstops Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers and Everth Cabrera of the Padres — who were selected to play in this week’s All-Star Game.

“The players, coaches, managers — we are all 100 percent behind MLB cleaning up this game and just try to eliminate any kind of drugs that these players get involved with,” San Francisco Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy told media members during Monday’s All-Star Game press conference. “Hopefully, when this investigation is over, we can move on, and it’s a shame we are having to deal with this now.”

Yes, it certainly is. After all, the All-Star Game is supposed to be a celebration of the game’s greatest players, but this Biogenesis mess has cast a bit of a dark cloud over this week’s festivities. Now, with the rumor mill working overtime, we find ourselves waiting for the other cleat to drop.

Just when we thought the sport had finally gotten past those dark days of the “Steroids Era” — when former stars Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, among others, were busy denying steroids-use allegations despite evidence to the contrary — it looks like another performance-enhancing drug-related beanball is about to tarnish the sport’s reputation once again.

On Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig proudly proclaimed “this sport is cleaner than it’s ever been,” and it appears MLB is about to bring the hammer down on the latest bunch of offenders after several weeks of speculation since the story first broke.

For A-Rod, Braun and the 40-year-old Colon, who served a 50-game suspension last year after testing positive for synthetic testosterone, their link to the Biogenesis lab could possibly cost them a 100-game suspension for being second-time offenders.

But the players’ association announced Tuesday that any possible suspensions resulting from involvement with the now-defunct Miami clinic wouldn’t likely be served until next year, depending on arbitration, grievance hearings, appeals and blah … blah … blah.

That's how the system works — or doesn't work.

Unfortunately, when players like the Orioles’ Chris Davis burst into the spotlight after hitting 37 home runs like he did before this year’s All-Star break, PED suspicions inevitably start to surround them now, too.

“It’s affecting the masses that are innocent, it’s affecting the integrity of the game, and we have to look at that,” agent Scott Boras said in a story written by David Lennon of Newsday. “Do we allow the witch hunts? Do we allow the early speculation? That creates a circumstantial window that there is no limit, there is no boundary, and then we have this.”

Geez, wouldn’t it be great if, someday, we didn’t ever have to hear the words “steroids” or “performance-enhancing drugs” associated with not just baseball, but football, cycling, the Olympics and every other sport, too.

Sure it would. But let’s face it — I’ve got a better chance of dropping enough weight (80 pounds, give or take a couple of cream puffs) to fit back into my wedding-day pinstriped suit. Or regrowing some lovely locks of hair on that “island of flesh” on the back of my head. Or performing my poor man’s impression of Elvis Presley all the way to the finals of “American Idol.”

Yes, any or all of those things will happen before that day comes when we no longer hear about athletes’ involvement in steroids or PEDs ever again.

(OK, so maybe I’ve got a much better shot at a spot on “The Biggest Loser” instead).

But still, we as fans have to wonder if the sports world will ever be completely clean.

Sadly, that prospect seems highly doubtful if not downright impossible.

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com