Apparently, it still pays off to cheat in Major League Baseball.
The ritual of pitchers and catchers reporting signals the coming of spring, warm weather, leaves on the trees, and a new season of baseball. For the past few seasons, there was an excitement about the game as the shroud of the 2004 PED debacle and the Barry Bonds steroids case faded.
That cloud has returned. Despite the increased testing and awareness of the performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), the game is still dealing with the issue in light of the recent events surrounding the games better known names.
To start the season, Braun faced a 50-game suspension for testing positive for illegal PEDs. The 2011 league MVP caused a lot of controversy when he accepted the award in December.
We all awaited the customary appeal that he and the other 30-or-so players pursued to prove the innocence that each one vehemently claimed. Not a single player ever won their appeal until now.
Yesterday's ruling on Braun's appeal overturning the suspension was a shock to say the least.
In December, ESPN's Outside the Lines reported that Braun was tested for the playoffs. He tested positive to what has been termed "insanely high" levels of testosterone. Another test on Braun's sample determined that it was synthetic, not natural, thus indicating that the substance was clearly added to his system.
He was notified in October and did not report it. Even though Braun claims that he passed over 25 tests, he failed this one.
He did get paid. Last April, Braun signed a five-year contract extension worth $105 million. He followed through with his best year ever batting .332 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs with 30 stolen bases. He was, in every sense, baseball's Most Valuable Player.
ESPN reported on SportsCenter that Braun's appeal was not on the science of the test. He did not appeal on the grounds that the test was in error. What he did do was appeal the handling and the process of his sample.
It was also reported that a courier in charge of sending samples to the lab for testing, held on to it for the weekend rather than sending it that day as he was supposed to. As ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reported last night, he tested positive but the suspension was overruled by the arbitrator due to the mishandling of the sample.
If this is the real reason for the ruling, then the Ryan Braun exoneration is hardly a win for anyone associated with baseball.
He was caught and not punished. He is free to hit and collect on the contract he signed last season. Worse yet, he still is the reigning MVP of the National League.
Major League Baseball is outraged at the ruling and Braun is claiming in his press release that "the truth is on our side" and that "the system works."
I find that hard to believe, especially in the case of Manny Ramirez.
An Associated Press found in the Washington Post online stated that 11 MVPs from the past four decades have been linked to PEDs during their careers but only Barry Bonds is paying the price through public opinion as well as baseball writers who have nothing nice to say about the man who I feel was one of the best and most complete players in the game before he became the record setting slugger.
Manny is back in baseball after signing this week with the Oakland A's. Ramirez was a viscous slugger for the Indians and the Red Sox. Before the 2011 season, Ramirez was busted in failing a test for a second time! He abruptly announced his retirement.
Ramirez sat out the entire 2011 season and faced a 100 game suspension if he returned to the league. For some unknown reason, MLB's front office reduced his suspension to just 50 games and that paved the way for the former MVP to sign a $500,000 contract with Oakland.
So, if no team is interested in signing you and you sit out a year, your suspension is decreased?
If this is a growing trend in baseball then fans should be outraged not at Commissioner Bud Selig and the front office, but the Major League Player's Association in their representing of their player in this manner.
We are still awaiting the appearance and explanation by the arbiters for their decision. When that happens, we will now for certain the details of what transpired behind closed doors.
If I am to place a wager on whom to believe, I'll bank on the accuracy of ESPN over the denials of Major League baseball player that has tested positive any day of the week.
Ryan Braun should take his own advice as reported by MLB.com on February 17, 2009. As Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez was under scrutiny for PED use, Braun offered this.
"…The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the truth."