Saturday night was a full sports day– both good and bad. Amid the excitement of Indiana’s buzzer-beating upset of No. 1 Kentucky in basketball and Robert Griffin III’s selection as the best player in college football, came news that Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger and franchise player Ryan Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, though he has appealed the ruling.
According to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Braun is facing a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone sometime during the 2011 postseason. For all the details, you can find the news report from ESPN, here. That article is complete with previous statements Braun made about PEDs, making him appear a hypocrite, at best, and a liar, at worst.
Braun can’t make an official statement about the case because it is before an arbitrator, but, according to various reports, he vehemently denies any wrongdoing and thinks his name will be cleared after the investigation.
Whether or not he is found guilty, the first thing Braun needs to do before appearing in public is cut his hair. After earning the NL MVP, he appeared on ESPN looking like a slob, and any resemblance to Ben Roethlisberger during the allegations of sexual assault he faced in 2010, would be a bad thing for Braun at this point.
That may be a trivial matter, but in all seriousness, Braun will have to deal with a tarnished reputation when he returns next season whether at the start or after 50 games, and he will face jeers from opposing fans and persistent questions from the media. It will help that he has done nothing majorly wrong in the past, and the foundation he has built in Milwaukee with his business ventures and charity work will certainly help sustain his reputation. Probably the best way he can regain any respect he loses from this is to do what he has always done on the field– diving for balls in the outfield, smashing home runs, and going all-out on the base paths.
The Brewers also take a big loss with this because they’ve built everything around Braun. They have him signed through 2020, and have rightfully anointed him as the franchise player, using his star-power to attract more talent. Milwaukee already faced the likelihood that Prince Fielder, another cornerstone of the organization, would leave in free agency this offseason, and it looks more and more difficult for the Brewers to repeat the success they had in making it to the NLCS last season. We won’t fully know how much of an impact this will have on the franchise, but possibly losing its best player for a third of the season would obviously hurt, and the effect this will have on Braun and the team mentally could stick around even longer. The Brewers’ owner, Mark Attanasio, and the organization have released a statement in full support of Braun, which is a good sign for fans and for Braun.
What does this mean for Major League Baseball to have its NL MVP associated with drug use in what is supposed to be the post-PEDs era? MLB officials haven’t commented on the story yet because Braun is fighting the ruling and hoping to have his name cleared. But the story is out there now, and people– especially Brewers’ fans– are looking for the truth. Baseball fans would like to think that the game is clean now and that the young stars we see bashing home runs are doing it because of natural skill and hard work. But even the suspicion that one of the League’s best players is using illegal substances could bring baseball right back to where it was during the Congressional hearings in 2005 and the Mitchell report in 2007, and have everybody facing the same old questions.
I think a majority of this could go away if Braun’s appeal is successful and his name is cleared of any intentional wrongdoing. Personally, I think he is innocent. He doesn’t seem overly muscular, like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and the like, were, and he’s not even close to the biggest guy in baseball right now. In my time watching him as a Brewers fan, he has seemed like an honest, stand-up guy who never tried to place the blame of any losses or hitting slumps on anybody else. His people also say that he took another test shortly after he failed the first one, and the results came back negative. So, right now, if he believes he is innocent, I believe he is innocent. We’ve heard denials in just about every case of alleged steroid use in the past, but even if I’m just being an ignorantly optimistic Milwaukee fan, I think Braun’s name will be cleared. I just can’t take the report as fully true until MLB officially announces his suspension, and I think the worst part is that ESPN can run wild with this story while Braun can’t even defend himself.
What do you think? Is Braun innocent? Did ESPN handle this properly? Let me know in the comments section below.