Braun First Player to Face New Era of MLB Punishment

The other day it was announced that Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a suspension that will last until the start of spring training next year.

By most accounts the suspension will be for 65 games since it is unlikely that the Brewers will make the postseason this year. Since he is suspended without pay it will cost him around $3.5 million in salary.

The suspension comes as a result of Braun being linked to the use of banned performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs and other suspension for several other players implicated in the probe  of a South Florida clinic are expected to follow.

Braun was first facing a suspension of 50 games in 2011 when he failed a random drug test. He was able to get the suspension overturned on a technicality by blaming the way the sample was handled after it left his body so to speak and before it reached the testing center.

A few stern denials and a rooftop proclamation of his innocence and the former National League MVP was welcomed back with open arms and the man responsible for delivering the sample to the testing facility was considered public enemy number one in Milwaukee and even received death threats.

The fans embraced Braun again following his successful appeal of the suspension and none other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers staked a year’s salary on the fact that Braun was innocent of the charges against him.

Now it appears that Braun was guilty in 2011 and 2013 and the world waits to see if Aaron Rogers will give up a year’s salary to the fan on twitter that he made the wager with.

While the fate of Ryan Braun has been settled, at least for the remainder of this season, the jury is still out on what the rest of the implicated players will face. There are even rumblings that perhaps Alex Rodriguez who has been found guilty of steroid use time and time again will actually face a lifetime ban of some sort as a result of this latest breaking of the rules.

The recent round of suspensions, while much more wide in its scope, is also interesting in that many of the players being implicated do not have the “steroid” physique of some of the previous tainted players Like Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. In each of the previous cases it was fairly easy to look at the player and assume that they were on something since they were so much larger than the rest of the team and their offensive numbers were through the roof.

In the more recent cases the implicated players do not look that much different than the rest of the team making it less obvious that they were using banned substances. This could be the result of players using less of a substance or could also be the chemist merely staying one step ahead of detection and getting production gains without massive muscle gain.

When the Brewers and Astros were both members of the National League Central Division I had many opportunities to see Ryan Braun play. In all of those games never once did I think he was a steroid user.

With Braun having so many games each year against the Astros and the Pirates, with neither one really knocking the cover off of the ball, it was easy to think that Braun’s numbers were simply based on talent and the fact that a quarter of his opponents had losing records.

Of course now with his apology and veiled admission of guilt it has become obvious that Braun’s numbers, while still aided by a weak schedule, were also helped by PEDs.

Players are always looking for an edge that makes them better than their opponents. Most players stay within the rules and merely work harder at their craft to be the best they can be.

Unfortunately there is a small set of players that abuse the system and can also make clean players look dirty by association since the current assumptions seem to be that any player having more success than the rest must be using something illegal to gain that mush of an advantage.

Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is on pace to hit over 60 home runs this season. And despite never showing up on any lists of steroid users there is a small set of people convinced that the pop in his bat has to be the result of some sort of PED.  Davis denies the allegations of PED use and I tend to believe him.

Of course there were those who believed Ryan Braun as well so I guess one never really knows which players are dirty or clean but I don’t get the PED abuser feel from Davis and think that there are times when a player is simply in the zone and hits more home runs than anyone else. And from his days in the Rangers farm system Davis was always projected to be a power hitter so the recent production is not that odd when that is taken into account.

So baseball will look to make a statement with the latest suspensions and hope to restore some credibility back to the game while the chemists of the world will continue to work on making undetectable drugs that boost performance for their clients.

It is a cat and mouse game and the stakes are too high for both sides to stop now. Sometimes the Commissioner’s office wins in detecting the abuse, and sometimes the players win in keeping the abuse a secret.  The only constant loser in all of this is the fans who lose a little trust in the sanctity of the game with use passing admission of guilt.

Of course there are those who say that there were always performance enhancers of one kind or another in the game. And if you think about it Gatorade, Energy drinks and caffeine can be considered performance enhancers as well when used to excess.

So there will probably never be a way to totally clean up the game but I applaud Major League Baseball for trying and showing that no player is above the law not even a former League MVP.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for me to enhance my performance with some more Dr. Pepper.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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