Sunday, December 11, 2011

Braun positive test a black eye for baseball

Taking a break from Syracuse’s bashing of George Washington on the basketball court, I turned to ESPN for the start of the Heisman Trophy presentation. To my complete shock and distress, ESPN was reporting that Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. I couldn’t help but think two things: “are you freaking kidding me” and “here we go again.”

I'm kind of surprised to see one of baseball’s young stars getting caught up in the PED issue, having been trained on what to look out for and enduring years of PED testing in the minors. I fully expected to see some older veterans from the steroids era still trying to game the system, ala Manny Ramirez, who seems to be getting over yet again as his second suspension is reduced to 50 games. But Braun, who Bud Selig personally mentioned as a shining example of a clean player, testing positive is really a black eye for baseball.

Not that I thought baseball would ever completely get past the PED issue, which is very much a part of the sport’s legacy. I just thought that young guys like Braun, who came up under a very different system, would understand that using PEDs is not worth the risk. But in truth, there is no real downside, not when suspensions get reduced, not when players get to keep their $150 million contracts and MVP trophies (yes Braun should have the decency to give his back if he fails to prove his innocence), not when the only true punishment is that a group of writers down the line will not let you anywhere near the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I’d love to believe that Braun is completely innocent, but the cynic in me takes over when it comes to the issue of PED use in baseball. And truthfully, I worry that the possibility of Braun being cleared could mean that there is a major hole in the system and every single player that tests positive from now on will vigorously challenge the results.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a Braun fan, but when it comes to PEDs, that means nothing to me. I want to see PED users held accountable for their actions. I was not even willing to give Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, who I completely adored, a pass for that behavior. So Braun doesn’t get a pass either, unless he can somehow prove that the result was just flat-out wrong and he should be cleared of the PED accusations. But I seriously doubt that will happen. My beloved sport takes another ugly hit.

Thanks to the Dana Files for the Wikipedia photo.

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