Bill Plaschke: Ryan Braun needs to follow his own advice
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In the winter of 2009, when news leaked that the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, he was faced with a decision.
Fight it or admit it?
Before Rodriguez made his choice, he was publicly given some unsolicited advice by one of the leaders of the baseball’s new generation of clean young stars.
Ryan Braun told A-Rod to fess up.
“The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest,’’ Braun said of Rodriguez in an interview with mlb.com. “The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.”
Nearly three years later, Braun needs to heed his own words.
If the Milwaukee Brewers slugger did indeed use performance-enhancing drugs -– two positive tests during the playoffs were revealed and confirmed this weekend -– he needs to admit it.
And if he admits it, he needs to give up the National League MVP award he should not have won in the first place.
He would need to give it up because the Baseball Writers Association of America has no policy by which it can strip it. He would need to give it up because, unlike past cheaters who have kept their awards, he would have been caught and admitted it in the same calendar year he won the prize.
No, this is not about doing the right thing by the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, who finished second in the voting despite being better than Braun in nearly every important statistical category except victories. Yes, I’ve written about the injustice dealt to Kemp, but this is much bigger than two men. Kemp should not win if Braun gives up the award.
Baseball wins if Braun gives up the award.
The National League MVP should forever remain vacant for the 2011 season, serving as an eternal reminder of the cost of cheating while representing the only real punishment for an active cheater.
Braun would need to give up the award because, really, he won’t have to give up much else.
He won’t have to give up much baseball. The 50-game suspension he is facing is not real punishment. That’s not even one-third of a season that will end long after the suspension is old news. A couple of summers ago Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games with the Dodgers, yet by the time he was playing in the National League Championship Series in October, everyone had forgotten about it.
Braun also won’t have to give up much money other than the missed salary during those 50 games. In April, Braun signed a five-year contract extension worth $105 million. That should cover his losses. If he was indeed doing steroids, who says cheating doesn’t pay?
Braun’s positive tests are scary because he made his major-league debut in 2007, one season after the institution of baseball’s drug testing policy. He had become a star example of the success of this policy, and was even cited by Commissioner Bud Selig as an example of the new generation of pristine stars.
If Braun is proven dirty, it shows that the new era is still succumbing to the temptations of the old one. It’s a huge blow to baseball’s best efforts. It’s an even bigger blow to the public’s trust in those efforts.
Braun told USA Today that the two failed tests, which occurred during the playoffs and after the MVP voting, were ‘B.S.’ Folks close to him are saying that the current arbitration process will exonerate him.
We’ve heard such claims countless times before, yet not once under baseball’s current policy has a steroid test proven false.
If Braun is the cheater that the evidence says he is, he needs to listen to himself from three years ago, face himself today, and finally become the real MVP by giving it up.
-- Bill Plaschke