Nothing’s Ever As Simple As It Seems When It Comes to PED Suspensions

July 23, 2013 at 9:59 am | Posted in Suspensions | Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I attended the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia with my father. Just take a look at those rosters, won’t you? It’s like the entire steroid era come to life, with Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte and Mark McGwire and Ken Caminiti and probably 18 other guys all juiced up. That total may or may not include Mike Piazza, who had a double and a homer while winning the MVP and making 14-year-old me’s year. That game remains one of my fondest memories — I’m pretty sure I still have the giant Liberty Bell shaped ticket stub somewhere — and the fact that time has revealed that most of those guys were on something a bit more powerful than Flintstones vitamins hasn’t changed that one bit for me.

That’s why it really kills me when I see sanctimonious garbage like this:

Really, Jon? You probably couldn’t attend a baseball game between the years 1992-2004 without seeing at least one guy who was on something special; do you think that all the fathers and sons (and yes, mothers and daughters) who attended those games over the years regret their experiences? Do you think that all the people who went out and watched the Brewers last night deserved to have your pity for any other reason than that their team lost to San Diego? Have you fallen into the trap of thinking that baseball was ever entirely clean at any point in the last 80 years, when for decades — even pre-“steroids” as we know them now — clubhouses had coffee pots labeled “leaded” and “unleaded”?

It’s this kind of moralizing that kills me, because the level of hypocrisy here is just over the moon, and perhaps I’m just focusing on certain members of the media who inexplicably consider themselves the victims more than anyone else.

For examples of that hypocrisy, let’s let Twitter briefly tell the story:

Incredibly sad, yet 100% accurate, and you can add any number of other offenses to that, like domestic violence. Right, Brett Myers? Or Josh Lueke? Or Francisco Rodriguez? Taking something that may or may not aid your performance: BURN HIM! Imperil the lives of others by driving home loaded: nah, it’s cool.

Absolutely true. Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller got busted yesterday too — as an All-Pro and former #2 overall pick, he’s hardly a nameless scrub — yet the reaction to that is phenomenally different.

That probably gets me the most of all. I was at CitiField on Sunday afternoon when Marlon Byrd absolutely destroyed a Cliff Lee pitch well into the second deck in left field. That got him a wide round of cheers; I bet the majority of fans didn’t even know he’d missed 50 games last year for a bust of his own. Pettitte, for example, continues to be a fan favorite in the Bronx, and absolutely no one can explain just how it is that Bartolo Colon keeps on being so successful. Yet lord help you if you’re Alex Rodriguez, seemingly mostly because he’s a socially weird jerk who signed a contract that everyone knew was foolish from the team’s point of view form the second it happened.

For the record, I’m not at all defending Ryan Braun here. Though you will never, ever, convince me that the greatness a former #5 overall pick has shown since day one in the bigs is entirely due to any sort of extracurricular chemical — sorry, Curt Schilling, this is just wrong — his union agreed to collectively-bargained rules, and he has apparently broken them. If so, he deserves the punishment he gets, and he deserves the scorn that he’s receiving due to what appears to be something like two years of outright lies.

(Well, most of it, anyway; the charges that he “ruined the life” of the inspector who collected his tainted sample last year seem blown well out of proportion, because while you can argue that Braun got off “on a technicality”, the simple fact is that loophole wouldn’t have been there if the inspector had simply done his job properly in the first place. Also, the idea that he needs to “apologize to Arizona” for Milwaukee beating the Diamondbacks in the 2011 playoffs seems ludicrous to me, because A) baseball is a team sport, and Prince Fielder & Yovani Gallardo had just a bit to do with it, B) nothing Braun did caused guys like Gerardo Parra & Justin Upton to go 5-for-38, and C), most importantly, it acts like we’re suddenly sure that the Diamondbacks roster was 100% clean at the time.)

But the real problem I have here is with the outright joy that the Braun news appears to have generated from so many. They’re ignorant of just how unbelievably shady MLB’s investigation into this mess has been, paying for testimony, leaking supposedly-confidential information, relying on hand-written notes from an unreliable character, and using testimony from minor-leaguers — who are not protected by the union and have little recourse otherwise — to make their case.

Worst of all, they’re seemingly gleeful that a cheater got what was coming to him without any sense of irony at all that when the next set of names come out in this Biogenesis mess, players from their favorite team could be implicated as well. I mean, seriously, would anything surprise you at this point? I have no inside knowledge of any Dodger being involved and I pray they’re not, but look at the roster here. There’s bench players at the tail end of their careers, just trying to hang on; there’s superstars who just cannot seem to stay healthy; there’s players performing well above what you’d expect; there’s players with roots in Miami; there’s players attempting to live up to enormous contracts. In Triple-A, there’s guys who have had tastes of the bigs but can’t seem to make a career stick. You could probably say the same for most any team, really.

When the full list of busts comes out, it’s not just going to be Rodriguez and Nelson Cruz and the names we know. There’s going to be surprises, big ones, and we’ve been down that road before. It’s not fun. Again, I have no specific knowledge of any impending Dodger issues here, and I hope we never have to worry about such things — lord, how pissed off would Skip Schumaker be? —  just know that this looms.

Really, there’s no winners here. Braun’s reputation is shot — no sympathy for him, of course, because he’s made this bed — and the Brewers have to deal with the repercussions of having so much money still tied up in him. Major League Baseball might think they look good for “getting tough,” but they still have an MVP who has admitted cheating — and no, Matt Kemp should not retroactively get that 2011 award — they’ve pursued this whole thing in some incredibly underhanded ways, and if anything, they’ve proven that the game isn’t clean after all those years of testing. The media, most of it, looks terrible for acting so joyful when so many of them simply ignored this problem in the 1990s, and especially for continuing to push the unproven myth that “steroids make you a Hall of Famer!” It’s in large part why we’re going to have a mostly-ignored Hall of Fame ceremony this weekend because unproven accusations and suspicions meant that the writers couldn’t agree on a single player, when there’s at least ten deserving inductees.

It’s really a terrible day for baseball all around, and it’s taking over the news in a time when we should be talking about the Dodgers finally reaching first place or the reports that they may not have interest in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez or the Rangers trading for Matt Garza or the impending trade deadline. Unfortunately, there’s almost certainly going to be more than a few like it.

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