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A 65-Game Suspension Not Enough for Ryan Braun


As news broke yesterday of Ryan Braun’s suspension, I am reminded that when cheating and performance-enhancing drugs are involved, there are many more losers than winners. The fans, the Brewers’ organization, MLB, the Players Association, Braun’s teammates, his opponents, Braun and his family — and even Aaron Rodgers — are all losers in this scenario.

While this is a step in the right direction, and potentially a sizeable step, this is not a win for Major League Baseball. Just as pennant fever is beginning to catch on in cities around the country, fans are reminded of a sordid underbelly of professional sports. And now fans must question how rampant PED use is in MLB. Fans have been told that the game is cleaner than it has been since the 1980s, and we want to believe that, but now there is doubt.

I do believe the game is much cleaner now, and that a vast majority of players want to continue vigorous efforts to rid the sport of PEDs. I believe the process is working. But as we’ve seen from this entire Biogenesis affair, there is still much work to do. As has always been the case — and will unfortunately always be the case — there’s more money in cheating than there is in testing, so for MLB, like the Olympics, cycling, the NFL and other governing bodies, the chase will never end.

I don’t think Braun received due punishment. I think he got off light. However, I understand why MLB is interested in quickly resolving this latest PED issue.

Neither MLB nor Braun has presented any evidence to me (shocker). So any evaluation on my part is a bit presumptive. Having said that, if Braun is guilty of PED use — and by accepting this penalty it is reasonable to assume that he is indeed guilty — a 65-game suspension right now is letting him off too easy.

So why would MLB agree to such a light sentence?

A quick and absolute resolution is good for MLB. Lingering questions and doubt cloud an already murky issue. MLB is likely willing to shorten suspensions in exchange for speedy resolutions.

This first domino in the Biogenesis case will be the standard for the remainder of MLB’s cases against other players. From the physical evidence collected from Biogenesis and, perhaps, the information provided by Tony Bosch, a former employee, MLB had enough to convince Braun that the situation could be worse. Now Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and others face similar dilemmas. How hard do they fight these allegations?

So, with one suspension in the books, MLB can move quickly to close this ugly chapter before the 2013 pennant races heat up, which is what this time of year should be about.

But here’s why this punishment is not enough. Here’s why I don’t feel sorry for Ryan Braun.

Braun will lose close to $3.5 million, a little more than a third of a season’s worth of stats, the trust of the fans, his reputation, and likely any chance of a legacy as one of the great hitters in the game. But let’s take a look at what Braun has left in his wake along the way.

With what will be a 65-game suspension, Braun will forfeit close to $3.5 million, which is his salary for 65 games. That’s not a small sum. However, he cheated and lied his way into a long-term contract that guarantees him close to $120 million through 2020. No suspension for drug use can void that deal. So, $3.5 million is a pittance to pay. A few years ago, the Brewers’ organization with limited resources, could not afford to pay two superstars like Braun and Prince Fielder. The Brewers chose Braun and this is the thanks they get?

So, why would Braun accept a suspension without a fight that costs him more than $3 million? Because it could be that he doesn’t want to fight a losing battle. Or it could be that risking a longer suspension that would drag into next season would cost him even more. This season, Braun loses about $52,400 per game. Beginning next season the tab grows to about $61,700 per game. Besides, aside from the money, this season is a loss already for the Brewers, and with a nagging wrist injury, Braun would be able to return healthy, rested and fresh for spring training. So the time and money lost could be much worse.

He has tarnished his reputation. But if we remember his last altercation with MLB over illicit substance use, Braun’s defense was based on the handling of his specimen. The outfielder and his camp called into question the integrity of the collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr., attempting to tarnish his reputation. There is no sympathy here for anyone who chooses to unfairly question another’s integrity merely in the name of self-preservation.

Braun has lost the trust of baseball fans in Milwaukee and across the country. Poor guy. Again, it’s difficult to feel bad for a guy who accepted the 2011 NL MVP award at the BBWAA dinner with the following statements: “I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity. I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind. And that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight.”

And what about that 2011 MVP award? How would you expect Matt Kemp to react? Braun is not being asked to give that trophy back. And how do the members of the Arizona Diamondbacks that season feel? Braun, after testing positive to grossly inflated testosterone levels at the end of the season, was allowed to play in the postseason and batted .500 in the five games vs. Arizona. Do any of those guys feel cheated? You bet they do.

So, 65 games during a season going nowhere in Milwaukee and $3.5 million just doesn’t seem like much to pay for robbing baseball, lying to teammates and fans, challenging an innocent man’s integrity and building a career based on a lie.