By now everybody in the sports world has likely offered their two cents on Ryan Braun’s season-ending suspension due to his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. Topics like this are why sportswriters and television talking heads get out of bed in the morning. A high-profile baseball player suspended for his admission of potential PED use is the reddest of red meats. This is thick-cut, aged Kobe beef with perfect marbling so delectable it nearly cooks (or writes) itself.
Tuesday morning the sanctimony from the Baseball Writers Association of America — our self-appointed ‘guardians of the game’ — is at an all-time high. Not even the reinstatement of Pete Rose from the banned list would produce as much ‘blood in the water’ for our humble baseball scribes. (When word of the Biogenesis suspension broke in June, we offered this take on the ‘Faux-rage’ over it.)
As a person who happily toiled for nearly a decade in the newspaper industry before moving to this site earlier this year, it pains me to pick apart reporters who are in the trenches, working the clubhouses, trading texts with GMs and agents. Perhaps they do feel a personal animosity toward Braun and his arrogant approach to defending himself after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels after the 2011 season where the BWAA voted him the National League MVP. It makes sense you’d feel more outraged by Braun if he lied directly to your face on numerous occasions rather than if you’re a fan who only saw him in the occasional highlight.
If you want to quietly raise a glass and toast to Braun’s suspension, go right ahead. Yet some of the stuff being written about Braun in the wake of his admission Monday afternoon would make you think he sold state secrets to the Chinese or threw a newborn baby in a dumpster. Let’s get some perspective and remember he’s nothing more than a baseball player who bent the rules. Realistically, if anyone should be offended by Braun’s actions its his fellow players and peers who are directly affected by his use of foreign substances to gain an edge. The pitcher who gives up a homer in September to Braun that nudges his ERA from 3.98 to 4.09, he’s got a legit beef. The writers? A little less so.
Here’s a smattering of some of the words being written about Braun:
What we know of Braun today is no different than what we knew of him before: He is a cockroach.
We live in a forgiving country — especially if you are a superstar athlete. But it will be hard to forget hubris like this.
Go away and serve your time, but understand that you’re never going to escape this. You’ll always be the guy who stood there in the Arizona desert, smugly believing you could play us all for fools.
If you’re interested, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Mike Hunt is hung up, like many, on the apologies Braun needs to make.
The irony here is that whatever the baseball writers or critics want to say about Braun in the wake of his Biogenesis suspension, he’ll end up with the last laugh. He still won the appeal and gets to keep his MVP. He might forfeit about $3.5 million this year, but he’s still locked into a contract that will pay him well over $100 million to play for the Brewers through the 2020 season. He’s even engaged to a model. Life probably isn’t going to be too bad for Braun going forward, even if his admission on Monday likely bars him from any consideration from Cooperstown.
As history has shown, Milwaukee fans will find it easy to embrace their hometown star. Sure he might get booed on his first couple road trips in 2014, but it’s doubtful it’ll cause him to sob quietly in the dugout between innings.
Realistically, the columns that should be getting more traction is how easy Braun got off, only having to miss around two months on a team that’s in last place and going nowhere. Instead there are many applauding him for seeking out MLB and accepting his punishment, as if to set an example for Alex Rodriguez and the other dozen or so players connected to Biogenesis.
Another bit of irony before closing. Isn’t it possible all the high-horse moralizing from the BWWA and its brethren about PEDs in baseball could be part of the reason for the drop in baseball’s popularity as much as the usual culprits blamed like the slow pace of the game? The disconnect most baseball fans and most baseball writers have over steroids is jarring.
We’ve now been retroactively trying to purge, rewrite or frame the “steroid era” for nearly a decade. We’ve seen guys like Mark McGwire publicly shamed in front of Congress. We’ve had to see both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds defending themselves in court. Add it all up and baseball fans are increasingly numb to it, aside from cracking the occasional joke that Chris Davis has to be juiced if he’s hitting all these home runs. (Baseball fans are getting much more like NFL fans, who barely bat an eye when a player gets a four-game ban for testing positive for a banned substance.)
Here’s something else to consider: Monday night over 31,000 turned out to Miller Park to watch the last-place Brewers lose to the Padres. Not bad for a team that saw its ‘cockroach’ left fielder suspended for the rest of the season only hours earlier.
Related: Aaron Rodgers Told a Guy on Twitter He’d Bet His 2012 Salary That Ryan Braun Wasn’t Using PEDs
Related: Ryan Braun in 2012: “I’m a Victim of a Process That Completely Broke Down and Failed” [Video]