What has happened to baseball?

Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, has no reason to smile now.

Just when I thought that the steroids era in baseball had passed its climax, I was shocked to see the headline. NL MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for a performance enhancing drug that could cost him the first 50 games of the 2012 season. What a roller coaster offseason we’ve had, eh?

First we saw Tony La Russa retire, then former Mets shortstop José Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins for 6 years, worth $106 million. After that, just when we all thought the Marlins would become the next superteam as all signs pointed to Albert Pujols signing with the Marlins, he shocked the world when he signed a ten year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Again, I thought that this offseason had already had enough excitement for not even 2 months. But I was wrong. Braun had a tremendous season in Milwaukee for a Brewers team that nearly went all the way to the World Series, but their season, and their best player, one of the young faces of the MLB, is tarnished. Braun won the MVP almost unanimously because of a fantastic season, having a .332 batting average, 33 home runs and 111 runs batted in.

There are many questions you can ask about Braun now, who’s repeatedly saying he’s innocent since the news showed up around the web and the MLB. One of them is, should he give back his MVP award? Some people think so. Some don’t. Personally, I’m torn.

It never ends up feeling natural when an athlete wins something, but then has to give it back, whether it’s because of drug use, or another reason. Sure, you can give it to another athlete later and celebrate again, but it just doesn’t feel right, either way. You can live with the guilt from letting him/her keep the award, or you can not have guilt but there will be some awkwardness with keeping the award with its first winner.

What I find ironic is that for years, Bud Selig has marketed Ryan Braun as one of the young faces of baseball, and, at 28, Braun’s now in his prime. His season proved that even more so. When Selig has marketed Braun as one of the young faces of the game, he’s repeatedly said that he’s drug-free and a model for future players.

How bad does Bud Selig look now? If I were him, I’d seriously consider resigning and running off in shame if Braun turns out to use performance enhancers. It goes to show you that you never know in sports. Nobody’s perfect, even if they look that way.

Bud Selig is almost certainly hoping right now that Braun’s innocent after all and that it was a mistake in the testing. I think the whole league, including all the teams, even rivals of the Brewers, are hoping he’s innocent for the league’s sake and reputation.

The reputation of the MLB will be completely shot if Braun is guilty. Just when I thought that the MLB’s reputation was finally starting to get back to where it was pre-McGwire/Sosa/Bonds era, this happens.

I’m not going to rule out the notion that maybe Braun’s innocent. Remember WNBA player Diana Taurasi? She tested for a banned substance and was suspended while playing overseas in Turkey a year back, and after a lengthy battle, she won after it was found that the test was wrong and the lab made a mistake.

Right now, we can only hope that Ryan Braun’s innocent. Unfortunately, that’s a lot to hope for, especially considering the increased amount of drug use in the last 20 years.

My main question right now is what banned substance Braun took. From what I’m reading, it doesn’t seem to be steroids, but you never know. As a friend of mine pointed out, he didn’t appear this season to look any bigger than his normal size, unlike Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, among others.

So that raises another question. Should there be a major crackdown on PEDs in sports? I’m not sure it’s needed in other sports, but in baseball, if this allegation turns out to be true, I think Bud Selig’s last mission before he retires is to crack down and implement harsher rules, even harsher than the current 50-game policy. It shouldn’t be harsher in the suspension lasting, but in the amount of testing and the recurring players who have tested positive.

Now’s exactly the wrong time to have Manny Ramirez send in his unretirement papers. The last thing the MLB needs is a player who tested positive, was hit with the suspension, retired, missed the season, then came back after the season and played. Manny couldn’t have chosen a worse time, for himself and Major League Baseball. Players like him are a disgrace to the game, especially players with multiple violations.

Why are you possibly coming back, Manny? And why NOW?

Right now, the whole MLB and its fans are reduced to hoping that Braun turns out to be innocent. Because if these results and the failed drug test turn out to be true, the shadow of PEDs will have an even more lasting effect.

Besides Braun, fans and employees of the Brewers will suffer. So will the MLB. Braun has become one of the young faces of baseball, with his previously untarnished reputation, a sweet swing, and his all-around skills. What will his career become now? His 2012 season will suffer if he ends up keeping the 50-game suspension. His career might very well be impacted too.

But now, all hopes and fears- and eyes- are on the results of the drug test, and how this scandal ends.

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3 Responses to What has happened to baseball?

  1. Big setback for MLB. MVP on PED? Bad headline. This isn’t some journeyman Triple A player. Indeed, he has become one of the “faces” of baseball. No one should have let their guard down somebody wouldn’t test positive again – matter of time…but if this test holds true for this player…what a PR challenge for the franchise and the sport.

  2. brief22 says:

    This is one of the most disappointing things I have heard in a long time. Ryan Braun is one of the last players that I would associate with PED use, and I really hope that the MVP wasn’t aware of this horrible offense. Great post, Nik.

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