Published July 23, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – After Major League Baseball sunk Ryan Braun's cruise ship, a general thought is that the league has now turned its full attention to Alex Rodriguez's battleship.
That's a mistake.
Remember, this isn't the A-Rod of the early millennium; the one who was bashing 50 home runs and driving in well over 100 runs with regularity.
The Rodriguez that baseball is currently trying to take down is a 37-year-old whose body is so broken that he can't even get back on the field.
In Braun, the league has a 29-year-old former NL Rookie of the Year who is just two seasons removed from an MVP award and had lied to the league, his team and all of his fans after "beating" a 50-game suspension in February of last year.
He was the big fish and any type of discipline levied on Braun would have a much bigger impact on a player still in his prime that one whose best days are far behind him.
I say beat loosely because it was only a technicality -- a questionable chain of custody with the outfielder's sample -- that allowed Braun to become the first major leaguer to have a suspension overturned by an arbitration panel.
Braun was on the defense from Day 1. After reports broke of his pending 50- game suspension, he began a plea of innocence.
"If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I'd be the first to step up and say I did it," Braun stated with conviction. "I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point."
When his suspension was overturned, Braun said in a statement he was pleased with the decision.
"It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side."
Seventeen months later, Braun has made all of the teammates and fans who came to his defense look like idiots. On Monday, the slugger accepted a 65-game suspension -- the rest of the 2013 season -- for what the league said was violations of Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Notice the plural on "violations."
A clean catch of a positive test nets an offender a 50-game suspension, per Major League Baseball's policy. A second violation is 100 games and a third instance results in the player being permanently suspended from major and minor league baseball.
The fact that Braun's suspension was greater than 50 games lends to speculation that he wasn't caught just once.
That makes his claim of innocence during the Biogenesis report, in which a number of players including Braun and Rodriguez were linked to the Biogenesis of America clinic that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to the players, even more disgusting.
His statement after accepting the suspension is pure garbage.
"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," began the statement.
"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," the statement continued.
"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."
While Bud Selig has to see this as a victory, getting Braun to agree to a suspension and admit he was wrong, thus proving that baseball's drug program works, the powers that be may kick themselves down the line for fully dropping the hammer on the Milwaukee slugger.
If there is any justice, Braun won't have any fans left when he comes back to the Brewers, who by the way will pay him $10 million next season and another $12 million in 2015 BEFORE his $105 million extension kicks in.
Yes, he was suspended without pay, but as Jay-Z would say, "dirt off your shoulder."
The greater impact will be the fallout and precedent set by this ban. The first should be felt by Rodriguez, who baseball has seemingly been in a crusade to punish even though he has already admitted to previously using steroids.
(Though, that would make his alleged involvement with Biogenesis even more of a slap in the face).
For the Brewers, they can finally move forward, as pointed out on Monday by Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.
Both Melvin and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said on Monday that they did not know what was going on with Braun's talks with baseball. So, to have Braun's fate finally decided has to be a relief to the club.
"Every year is challenging, but this has always been a cloud hanging over the ballclub, not knowing what's going to happen," noted Melvin. "(There was) a lot of speculation out there. You read about. You hear about it. I didn't have any idea what was going on at any time. I only knew what I read in the paper the next day."
And the stories that the Brewers faithful scanned through the next day should leave them incensed. Perhaps the backlash will be enough to truly impact Braun, but one has to figure that the amount of money set to come his way will be enough to soothe the soul of a man who told lie after lie.
Melvin himself isn't sure what kind of impact Braun's suspension will have with the fanbase.
"I don't. I guess we'll find that out here, after you guys (the media) are all done doing your job," he said.
And then there is Braun's teammates, who stood by and defended their fellow Brewer and choose to believe his story, only to be made to look like fools.
"Unexpected, to be honest. We were kind of surprised to hear the news. Like I said, we support him," said Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo.
"He's facing the consequences."
Said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of Braun's biggest defenders, "Obviously, we are not in his shoes. I would still defend my teammate and everybody in here is his teammate. We all would go do the same thing. That's the way it is. We're a family in here and we defend each other no matter what. Hey, he's human, people make mistakes and you've got to move on."
When asked, Lucroy said he did not need any sort of apology from Braun.
"Obviously he made some bad decisions and now he has to pay for them. Part of life. We all do things we've got to learn from."
The Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball are ready to move on, but it will be a lot tougher for those who were sucked in by Braun's lies.
And that is the biggest crime of all.
BRAUN AROUND THE LEAGUE
The suspension of Braun doesn't just impact the Brewers; it will send a ripple effect throughout the league.
The biggest is in the Bronx, where Rodriguez is sure to face similar discipline down the road. In fact, Braun's decision to accept his ban may force A-Rod's hands.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is among those who can't wait to put the talks behind him.
"I think I'm tired of steroids. I'm tired of that," Girardi said. "Just do things the right way, bottom line. Everyone should do things the right way, but that's not the world we live in. You know, you get tired of talking about it. There's a lot of guys that are doing it the right way, and I respect those guys."
If and when Rodriguez faces the music, his teammates will be in the same spot that Gallardo and Lucroy found themselves on Monday.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera decided to take some positive away from the Braun suspension rather than worry about his teammate.
"I don't know what happened with Alex. He's my teammate, and I have to support him 100 percent," Rivera said. "I really don't know until something different happens. We need to see what follows. The good thing about this is we're cleaning the game. That's the way it should be. I think this is a message for whoever tries to do this again, that it's going to be caught. He's going to be caught."
Then there are the other players whose names are not as big as A-Rod or Braun, but figure to face the guillotine themselves.
"I guess it is what it is. I don't have any comment," said Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, among those also linked to Biogenesis.
Then there are the other victims in baseball, those who had to face a player like Braun with an unfair disadvantage. Clubs like the Arizona Diamondbacks, who fell to the Braun-led Brewers in five games during the 2011 NLDS.
Braun hit .500 (9-for-18) in that series with four doubles, a homer and four RBI.
D'backs manager Kirk Gibson, a former player, wants punishment to be harsh for those caught.
"I don't think they should be in the All-Star Game. I don't think they should be in the Hall of Fame, for sure. Penalties should be more severe," said Gibson. "It should be much more of a deterrent. Monetarily things should be more severe, because I think you have to ask why they do it."