Why PED Culture in Baseball Will Never Change

Ryan Braun denied any wrongdoing in connection to PED's.

Ryan Braun denied any wrongdoing in connection to PED’s.

Steroid use in professional baseball has been a hot button issue for the bulk of the last 15 years. The recent suspension of Brewers’ outfielder, Ryan Braun, has ramped up the discussion even more. It is safe to say that Braun’s suspension will be followed by more as several players including Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Bartolo Colon are facing suspicion as well.

Links to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida make it all but a certainty that these players will face penalties that will impact their teams and their wallets as well.

Major League Baseball is working quickly and diligently to get these players punished, evident through the fact that Braun’s 65 game suspension for the remainder of this season was reached in conjunction with the league. However, Major League Baseball is beginning to fight a battle with no clear end in sight.

You can continue to punish individuals who violate your drug policy after the fact, but how do you change the overall PED culture in baseball? If the presence of these punishments have not cleaned the game up in a significant way, what will?

Tony Bosch, the director of the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami, has been linked to several top name MLB players.

Tony Bosch, the director of the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami, has been linked to several top name MLB players.

The league should be commended for trying to clean up the game. Players who take PED’s are gaining an extra advantage over players who choose to remain clean and they are risking their own well being which could result in harm to the player and to teams that make huge investments in the player. With that said, the current approach is not working as well as the league would like and there needs to be some serious changes to the ways punishments are handed down.

I tend to side with players in most disputes with professional leagues because the players are the product and their shelf life is often way shorter than that of team owners, commissioners and executives. However, in this case, the players may have to make some serious concessions if they want their game cleaned up.

For example, the current rules exonerate players found to have used PED’s to disclose what exactly they did. If you look at Braun’s apology, you notice there is no clear admission of what he did. There is not even a mention of cheating.

“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.” – Ryan Braun following his suspension

Bud Selig and Major League Baseball may have to get tough when it comes to handing out punishments.

Bud Selig and Major League Baseball may have to get tough when it comes to handing out punishments.

There are obvious legal ramifications that explain why a player would not explicitly mention what he did, but the league should not be essentially covering up for these athletes. Some of the violations of the league’s drug policy just so happen to also be crimes punishable by law and the league should not allow a safety net for players to skirt the law and the scrutiny that comes along with their cheating.

Also, take note of how Braun mentioned that he “now” realizes that he made some mistakes. It took a suspension, a loss of over $3million and a serious shot to his credibility for him to finally get it. Braun stood before the world and lied. He then bolstered his lie by making himself out to be the victim. He characterized himself as a hero who was standing up for all the wrongly accused.

It was pathetic.

The fact that he is just now realizing the error of his ways is the essence of the league’s dilemma. How do you change the culture if players do not feel any remorse or hesitation until after they get caught? The reasons for that attitude are simple.

Why should players not cheat? Braun is suspended the rest of this season and is losing the remaining money on his salary for this season. His team is not in contention and he has been ailed by injuries anyway. When you really dig into it, Braun appears to be benefiting from the suspension.

Next season, Braun will have a clean slate and it just so happens he begins an 8-year extension with the Brewers. He will be paid $10million in 2014 and if he plays out the full deal he will make $133million. It looks like it pays to cheat.

Braun edged out Matt Kemp for the 2011 NL MVP Award.

Braun edged out Matt Kemp for the 2011 NL MVP Award.

It may sound harsh, but Major League Baseball may have no other choice than to drop the hammer hard on cheaters and even harder on liars.

Why not demand back Braun’s MVP award? Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was edged out by Braun for the MVP award in 2011, and while Braun was insisting that he was innocent, Kemp supported him. Kemp’s stance has now changed and for good reason.

How about working in provisions to allow the contract he signed to be voided or amended considering the fact that his previous performance, which is the basis for the contract, was essentially produced under false pretenses?

How about instead of 50 and 100 game suspensions, the league goes for a full season or more. Dare I say, a lifetime ban?

Implementing such harsh penalties will be difficult and damaging in some ways but if Major League Baseball is adamant about changing the PED culture of the sport, it is going to take more than suspensions and asterisks to drive the message home.

If I were a young player trying to make it in the Majors, I’d feel encouraged to take PED’s. The league protects me from full disclosure of my actions even if I get caught. One highly productive season can bring me awards and financial stability for life. So what if I do not go into the hall of fame?

You cannot help but feel for players that want to keep the sport clean and who want to do it the right way. Players like Braun make it almost impossible to marvel at the exploits of other players without being suspicious.

It appears that baseball will never shake it’s dirty image unless the league decides to get serious about punishing violators.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: