Tuesday, July 23, 2013

MLB Update: Braun Suspended...

[Our previous take on Biogenesis: here]


Quote of the Day

 "I realize now that I have made some mistakes.  I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions."  

-- excerpt of  Ryan Braun's statement yesterday.  


In early June, back when the idea of Biogenesis started to look like it could become more than a rumor on the back page of a Miami newpaper, we wrote about our thoughts and went as in-depth as possible with what we knew, what the facts were according to what sources were saying, and what we could expect to happen.  

 Here is one of the possible outcomes that we mentioned...
"Scenario #3: All the digging at Biogenesis uncovered a widespread PED operation, complete with detail records and evidence that implications all or more of the players listed. Essentially, there actually is widespread PED use by players with ties to the Biogenesis clininc, and not just that but there is enough sufficient and credible evidence that the MLB needed to move forward with it. This is obviously not the most ideal case for us baseball fans but it has to be considered since I just can't believe that the MLB would be willing to risk everything like this for a phantom accusation..."  [link]
Today, 2011 MVP and the face of the Milwaukee Brewer's franchise, Ryan Braun was suspended, effective immediately for the remainder of the season.  We won't need to go over the details now as I'm sure that you will find out about those in the mainstream sports sites if you haven't already.  The short story is that the suspension will be for the rest of the 2013 season and playoffs.  Braun will lose approximately $3.5 million in salary.


Braun's statement:
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect.  I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization.
I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country.
Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed -- all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

MLB's Statement 
“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions. We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”
-- Rob Manfield, MLB Official 



REACTIONS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE



INITIAL THOUGHTS


  • Not good news for baseball.  But at the same time, probably the best news for baseball.  While a player of that caliber getting suspended for PEDs is never great for our sport as fans, it is also means that the MLB is getting serious about cleaning up the game.  Had this happened in 1998 to a McGwire or Sosa, everyone probably would have turned the other way.  In 2013, it means that the MLB isn't afraid to not only suspend but also take the initiative when the Biogenesis case first started making noise.
  • Speaking of taking the initiative, did MLB ever take the initiative on this one.  If this proves anything, it's that MLB is serious and it's ready to do whatever it takes to bust PED users, going beyond the "failed test" and actually doing a complete investigation into the Biogenesis clinic.  Whether you believe that to be a sincere change on the part of Bud Selig or not is your prerogative.    
  • What were Bud Selig's intentions?  Is he actually serious about cracking down on PEDs?  While many (including us) thought that such dogged pursuit of players tied to a clinic with a shady, unreliable and compromised owner/witness was just a Selig-led witchhunt to improve his legacy, there was apparently evidence to both convict and suspend Braun with potentially more names to come. Whatever Selig's true intentions are, we will likely never know.  
  • Braun?  Seriously, I don't know what to think.  Part of me wants to side with the Baseball Tonight or MLB Network analysts that are saying (and if not yet, definitely going to be saying) things like: "Braun is the Lance Armstrong of baseball" or "He's the type of lying liar that symbolizes all that's wrong with the game."
  • The other part of me, thought, is trying to be empathetic.  Not necessarily to Ryan Braun but more to the fans of Milwaukee.  I can't imagine the feeling that Brewer's fans are experiencing right now as the face of their franchise stares at a implacable situation that both condemns the icon of a team and his legacy.  It has to suck and I'm not sure how I would feel if someone like Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera was facing the same situation.  From a Brewer's fan perspective, it's clearly different and we'll have a post later in the week from a Brewer's fan's perspective that everyone will want to check out.  
  •  It's clear now that Braun and his attorneys realized the gravity of the charges and requested a second meeting with MLB to make a plea deal.  That screams "guilty."  In addition to the reduced suspension (MLB was aiming for something higher than 50 games), part of the plea bargain likely includes Major League Baseball's agreement to keep whatever substance(s) Braun used confidential.  We'll likely never know exactly what Braun did until an investigative journalist gets on that assignment.


WHO SHOULD BE WORRIED


  • Any player who is using PEDs right now.  You're going to get caught.  MLB is serious now and whether it's in a season or several season, you will be found and will be caught.  If the fallout from Biogenesis is any indication, it won't be pretty for your career or your legacy.

  • The 20+ other players that are linked to Biogenesis.  Their time is coming very soon and suspensions are inevitable.  It will be interesting to see the route that players take when suspensions are handed down.  I'm sure that each case will be different.  Some could appeal, some will accept, some will try to get some sort of plea deal like Braun.  
  • Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon.  Both are players that have already served 50 game suspensions for PED use.  If Biogenesis implicates them for a second offense, they could be facing 100 game suspensions....or worse.
  • The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.  Both Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta are having fine, All-Star-caliber seasons in the middle of a playoff run for their respective teams.  If either are suspended, it would be a huge loss for each team.  While the Ranger's have a deep farm system and could probably field a capable replacement, the Tiger's don't have many viable options to replace Peralta.
  • Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta  Both are having big seasons in the middle of contract years.  If either are suspended, they'll need to decide if they want to start the suspension immediately, in hopes of returning for the last few weeks of September and possible the postseason.  The other alternative is to appeal but that could hurt their value in free agency with a cloud of a potential suspension hanging over them.
WHO SHOULD BE RELIEVED?

  • Fans of baseball  Whatever Selig's true intentions are, it appears that the MLB is finally serious about eradicating PEDs from the game...and that they are also willing to go through whatever lengths they can to do so.  While players will always find a way to get an edge and will always go to lengths to stay ahead of the system, deterrents must be in place and this move signals that the MLB is toughing up their steroid policies and will enforce the rules regardless of a player's stature or star power. 

WHO SHOULD BE LIKE, REALLY, REALLY WORRIED


  • Alex Rodriguez  The rumors are that the evidence that baseball has against A-Rod is even more damning than the evidence that they had against Braun.  If this is true, we may have seen the last of Alex Rodriguez.  The aging slugger is currently on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues and scouting reports say that he looks old, slow and a fraction of what he used to be.  While he'd still probably be an upgrade over the scabs New York has been throwing out at the hot corner this season, if he's suspended for a long amount of time, we should expect the Yankees to try and unload him in any way they can, even if they owe him an insane amount of money over the next couple of years.  

We'll have more on Braun over the next few days.  I can't really say much more without being repetitive or say anything that most columnists are already saying.  I'm personally surprised that everything has happened this swiftly.  The punishment handed down sounds severe but actually work out well for both Braun and the Brewers.  Milwaukee is spiraling down, well out of playoff contention and returns a solid, young nucleus next season.  They will not miss Ryan Braun, at least this season.  While he loses $3.5 million this season, Braun will stand to actually receive a pay increase over the next few seasons.

As for his reputation, well, it will be repaired as much as he wants it to go.   It obviously has taken a major hit and he can't recover from that.  But he can take steps to repair his relationship with the Milwaukee Brewers gradually over time.  Reports are that his teammates are pissed.  The fans are probably just confused.  He should apologize to them in some way.  

He should also probably do something extra nice for Dino Lorenzi, the ex-MLB urine handler who's career Braun conveniently threw under the bus during the previous accusation.  The history in steroids in baseball has taught that we are forgiving fans as long as we feel that a player is truly penitent (e.g. Jason Giambi, Andy Pettite).  If Braun approaches this like Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, you can probably forget about fans ever forgiving him.    

It will also be interesting to see what develops when Braun returns to the field.  Unlike previous players busted for steroids that were either fading stars (Palmiero, A-Rod, Manny Ramirez) or ironically not all that good, Braun is a MVP-caliber player in his prime.  This is an unprecedented situation.  He can probably expect to be booed most places but over time, who knows how the fans will react?  

It's a sad time for baseball fans right now but it's also an important time.  No matter what your thoughts are on  Braun, it appears that for whatever reasons, baseball is serious about getting its act together on PEDs.  This can and should mark the last time that a big name player like this is busted for PEDs.  If players have any sort of intelligence, they should look at the Biogenesis example and think twice before deciding to juice.  Or your career will end up like Ryan Braun's.  MLB will come and find you; that's a fact.