Ryan Braun Suspended for 65 Games
Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger Ryan Braun was suspended today by MLB for the remainder of the 2013 season, which is effectively a 65 game suspension, since that is how many games the Brewers have left to play. This suspension is all but certainly a negotiated settlement between MLB, Braun and the Players’ Union, given that Braun will not be contesting the suspension and that none of the many other players named in the Biogenesis American investigation, most notably Alex Rodriguez, has yet had a suspension announced.
To the extent that this suspension can constitute a win for anyone, it is a win for everyone. MLB gets a suspension longer than the 50 games set forth in the collective bargaining agreement for a first-time steroid suspension, which allows MLB to claim that it is serious about getting performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) out of baseball. Braun had been facing a possible 100 game suspension, which whether or not so long a suspension would have been upheld in post-season arbitration, would have been hanging over his head as he tried to play out the remainder of the 2013 season until an arbitration decision eventually issued.
Finally, the Players’ Union gets a negotiated settlement which, I suspect, will look a lot like the penalty for a first-time steroids suspension when the parties next re-negotiate the issue of PED suspensions. Such a renegotiation is likely to happen fairly soon, since the number of players who have tested positive for PEDs has been pretty high since the 50-game first offense penalty went into effect.
My guess is that MLB will request an 80 to 100 game suspension for a first offense, and at least 150 games for a second offense up to a permanent ban. My guess is that the Players’ Union, which on the one hand has a membership the majority of whom probably want to get PEDs out of the game (if players are getting away with PED use, it puts pressure on all the clean players to use PEDs too, because PEDs improve performance; many players don’t want to be put in that position because PED use has proven long-term detrimental health effects) but on the other hand is opposed to letting MLB crack down too hard on players who do the wrong thing one time at some point in their careers, will agree to 60 to 75 games for a first offense and 125 to 150 games for a second offense.
The downside for everyone is, of course, the fact that one of the biggest stars in baseball, a former MVP, has been shown to be a cheat and a lying sack of s@#$. While that may sound harsh, Braun deserves no sympathy at all. It’s bad enough he tested positive for PEDs last year but got off on a technicality because MLB had not followed its own testing procedure.
Even worse, Braun and his representatives strongly suggested that the test-taker, some average joe who makes a tiny fraction of what Braun makes, had somehow tampered with the samples in order to frame Braun. Let’s hope a lawsuit soon follows by the test-taker against Braun and his representatives for slandering his good name.
Braun made a big confession/apology today, but it’s too-little-too-late, in my opinion. I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way — on ESPN today, Curt Schilling said that Braun’s two years of denials and blaming others descends into Lance Armstrong territory.
Braun’s only hope now is that he’s thick-enough-skinned to put up with all the well-deserved abuse he’s going to get from fans throughout baseball next year and goes back to hitting among the National League’s best. If he hits like a fool for two or three seasons, people may forget what a louse he is.
As for Alex Rodriguez, I don’t think the Braun suspension exactly creates a precedent for him, mainly because Rodriguez is currently hurt again, this time with a grade-1 quadriceps strain. It seems clear that a 65-game suspension is out there if ARod is willing to accept it, but that no final agreement will be concluded or suspension begun until ARod is healthy enough to have played three or four games for the Yankees. This necessarily means ARod will be suspended for at least some portion of 2014.
As for the other players involved with Biogenesis America, if MLB has the quality of evidence it had against Ryan Braun and appears to have against ARod, 65 game suspensions seem in order for those agreeing not to challenge their suspensions.
P.S. Braun will be none too popular with fellow players once he comes back. Aside from the Diamondbacks, who the Brewers knocked out of the play-offs in 2011 in no small part due to Braun’s enhanced hitting, and Matt Kemp, who lost an MVP award that same year, no player is ever going to get the benefit of the doubt again when he dies allegations that he used steroids, given the stridency of Braun’s past untruthful denials.