This article was originally published on the baseball blog PitchLikeBock.com. It was too fantastic to not steal for this site. You can read the article in its original format here.
By Bill MacKinnon
Ryan Braun’s suspension is something we’ve all seen coming for some time now. From the moment he was originally suspended in 2011, and subsequently won his appeal on a mishandled test result, the writing was on the wall. MLB has been dead-set on nailing its first true “superstar” steroid user ever since Barry Bonds gained a fifth hat size in 3 years. The suspensions we’ve seen doled out from Bud Selig & Co. on this massive quest to “cleanse the game” for the most part have been minor. Sure, you have your Melky Cabreras and your Bartolo Colons; but there has not yet been that one true superstar that’s been suspended whilst in his prime (you could make an argument for Manny Ramirez, but it is this writer’s opinion that he was already past his prime). On Monday, the MLB got their 5-cat buck.
The suspension itself does not bother me one way or the other. I’m of the belief that people being paid millions of dollars to provide entertainment should be allowed to do what they please with their bodies, so long as it does not harm others. Having said that, the MLB does have these rules put in place, and once agreed upon by the MLBPA, these rules become law. The suspension is just; Braun cheated, the MLB can prove it, and the suspension will be served. What bothers me is just how much of a jackass this has made Ryan Braun look like, and the subsequent effect it could have on his ballclub and fanbase.
When Lance Armstrong was one-nutting his way to seven Tour-de-France titles, more juiced up than a blood orange during harvest season, the public didn’t care. They saw an inspirational figure defying the odds and winning one of the most grueling endurance races in pure, dominating fashion. Sure, the steroid and blood doping allegations were always present, but Lance had famously never failed a drug test, and for the entirety of his reign in the cycling world he was revered. Then the hammer came. Irrefutable proof that Lance was all this time a cheater came crashing down on his head, and Lance turned into the biggest asshole that the American public had the displeasure to know. It wasn’t that he was caught; people get caught all the time. What mattered was that Lance lied to our faces for years, and to this day has a problem even seeming remotely remorseful for shaming what was one of the greatest American accomplishments ever.
Had Lance fessed up initially, the backlash would never have been as bad as it has become. Sure, he may be still stripped of his titles, but no one will care. The public craves honesty, especially when facing adversity. Hell, Derrick Rose “officially” never played college ball, but that didn’t stop him from going to the NBA and becoming Chicago’s most beloved sports icon. The point is, he did not try to sweep it all under the rug. I mean, I don’t even think he had commented on anything regarding his college career. Because Lance so vehemently denied any suggestion that he was doping, and buried anybody who came close to unearthing the fact, we all despise him. It wasn’t the dope, it was the lies.
The same is true of Braun. To quote an article I read today, Braun “did his best Rafael Palmeiro impression” back in 2011 when first sentenced to his 50-game suspension. He denied any and all use of PEDs, and (not unlike Lance) piled it all on the poor sap who mishandled his drug result. This lab rat now probably is out of a job, and Braun could keep mashing merrily away. With egg on his face, he delivered a half-hearted “OK so maybe I did it but I’m not gonna come right out and say it” apology and accepted his suspension, knowing full well that MLB could have come down even worse on him.
The backlash on Braun is as of yet unknown. MLB still has allegedly 19 more suspensions to hand out, with at least one *coughArodcough* that will push Braun to the wayside as this Biogenesis thing unfurls further. The national media, given their already sterling penchant for covering the Brewers, will bring it back up once he resumes baseball activities next season. That would be about it. It shouldn’t be that way. Braun pulled an Armstrong on the baseball world and he deserves every single dollar he loses. Not for doping, but for the lies and general jackassery that has become so prevalent when users are confronted with the consequences. Milwaukee won’t forget. The Hammerin’ Hebrew jersey sales will almost assuredly decline; attendance at Brewers games will be all but nothing for the rest of this year, causing who knows what effects on the state of the team next year. With this verdict, he’ll be dogged by questions for the remainder of his career, and despite his success will most likely enter the Bonds-Clemens wing of the Hall of Fame when his time comes.
I have no problem with athletes juicing, but if you get caught, own up to it and accept the consequences. If you don’t, then you deserve no less than what we’ve given Lance.
PS – Good thing you signed that extension, right Aaron?
Follow Bill on twitter: @BMac524