Article first published as Braun Free Pass on Technicality Is Bad for Baseball on Blogcritics.
So now we know how it goes in regard to Major League Baseball testing a player for a PED (performance enhancing drug). You get a really good lawyer, you find a loophole, and you get away with it. If Commissioner Bud Selig doesn't realize that this is bad for baseball, then he is hiding behind a curtain somewhere like the Wizard of Oz, hoping that people will fear his altered voice and the smoke and mirrors about there being zero tolerance for drugs that make one hundred pound weaklings into sultans of swat. Yeah, right.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun professed his innocence during a press conference after reporting to spring training in Phoenix on Friday, February 24. Braun said that MLB's testing program is "Absolutely fatally flawed." He also blamed the media, the process for collecting urine samples, the guy who collected it, and everyone else except the most glaringly obvious person: himself. He said, "I would bet my life this substance never entered my body." Okay, Ryan, don't go near Vegas anytime soon.
The problem here is not that a guy got past the process for the first time after being ruled a violator, but with the guy who got the pass. This isn't just a lowly shortstop playing for any team, but rather the National League MVP and star of the Milwaukee Brewers, a team which Selig once owned. If these things start to make you uncomfortable, think about how Selig was going to make steroids and other PEDs a big issue, but somehow allowed the Barry Bonds drama to stay on the back burner until Bonds hit his record breaking homers.
The question is in essence what is good for baseball? Guys pumped up with drugs hitting homers, winning championships, and filling the seats, or MLB taking a stand and shutting them down? Now, with Braun's free pass, I think the answer should be obvious.
Braun is a poster boy for the feel-good image Selig wants baseball to project. He is good looking, talented, and knows how to play the game. He is not the angry Barry Bonds, the press unfriendly guy who ballooned into a swollen home run god. So the press didn't like Bonds and then it seemed to be that he was going to go to jail. That was it. Baseball couldn't or wouldn't protect him or any violator of the drug policy - until now.
I am certain Braun will have his defenders, and there are a lot of young ladies in Milwaukee (and elsewhere I imagine) that are relieved that he won't be suspended for 50 games. His team needs him; Milwaukee needs him, MLB needs him, right?
The sad part is that this opens a door, and Selig - that Wizard behind the curtain - is not going to be able to use any tricks to get it closed. One guy got away with it. Yes, he says he is innocent - as did Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and too many others to mention. They always say they are innocent. Always.
So forget talk about asterisks on Bonds' record. Forget talk about keeping guys out of the Hall of Fame because Braun doesn't miss one game. Either there is a policy and zero tolerance or there is not. At this point, other players are thinking about their home run totals, batting averages, earned run averages, and prospects for the Hall of Fame. They have options and now an open door. What happens next, Mr. Selig?
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