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Cards' All-Star has paid his debt to baseball

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ryan Franklin is my favorite 2009 All-Star. I say that for two reasons.
First, I like Ryan Franklin. I covered him as a newspaper beat writer during one of his seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He's one of the most affable players I've been around, cordial and competitive and family-oriented. Fans should acknowledge the perseverance that made him a first-time All-Star at the age of 36. Second, he is making All-Star history, in a way that brings uncommon perspective to baseball's Steroid Era. Wait, you forgot that Franklin was once suspended for violating Major League Baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drugs? It happened in 2005, when he was an ordinary, back-of-the-rotation starter for the last-place Mariners. On Sunday, following a standout first half with the St. Louis Cardinals, he became the first player named to an All-Star team after being suspended by MLB for a failed steroids test. National League manager Charlie Manuel used one of his selections to put Franklin on the roster. Among fans and media, the news created ... no discernible outrage at all. Maybe people forgot. Maybe people didn't care. Either way, maybe we just learned a little something about how we truly feel about PEDs, once you move past all the Hall of Fame bluster. We know the sportswriters who vote on the Hall of Fame have reservations about admitting known steroid users. And while the All-Star Game ranks below the Hall in the hierarchy of baseball institutions, it's a hallowed event for the sport. You might even argue that the Midsummer Classic is a test lap for Cooperstown, in the sense that a 15-time All-Star has a great chance to be enshrined. Franklin is not a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. But he's going to be there next Tuesday, getting one of the loudest ovations from the hometown crowd at Busch Stadium, enjoying a well-deserved reward for his perseverance since Seattle cut him after that 2005 season. How can anyone have a problem with that? Franklin served his suspension in 2005. He has passed every drug test since. He is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 20 saves this year. If Rafael Betancourt and Juan Rincon, relievers who were also among those suspended four years ago, were having similar seasons, I'd be happy to see them in the All-Star Game, too. "For anything, you get the ability to make a mistake, the ability to be forgiven, the ability to take advantage of your second chance," said Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, his team's union representative and a first-time All-Star. "It's one of those things that make sport, life, America great. "Josh Hamilton, case in point. With what he had gone through, to put on a display in the Home Run Derby — that impacted so many people. He got in (to the 2009 All-Star Game) as a starter, (even though) he didn't play much. That shows how much people forgive and reward you for taking advantage of your second chance." As usual, Granderson makes a very good point: Hamilton was hailed last year after becoming an All-Star following his battles with substance abuse and addiction. We can credit Franklin for making good on his second chance — just as we did with Hamilton — without condoning the transgression itself. And to state the obvious: We'll never know how many unpunished PED users participated in past All-Star Games ... or if some of them will be in St. Louis on Tuesday night. It should be noted that Franklin has never admitted to taking steroids. At the time of his suspension, he said, "There's got to be a flaw in the testing. I know, deep in my heart, I would never do anything like that." (More than two years later, the Mitchell Report stated that Kirk Radomski sent the steroids Anavar and Deca-Durabolin to Franklin.) Back in 2005, the suspensions lasted only 10 days. Franklin did his penance and rejoined the rotation. He made 10 more starts, going 2-4 with a 6.21 ERA. He was non-tendered after the season, ostensibly because the team felt his performance didn't justify a salary increase through arbitration. But the positive steroid test probably didn't help his cause. So there Franklin was, unemployed with shaky numbers and a wounded reputation. But he didn't quit. Late that offseason, he signed with the Manuel-managed Phillies. He returned to the big leagues as a reliever and performed well enough that the Reds traded for him to help with a playoff push. Franklin was a free agent again during the winter of 2006-2007. He joined the Cardinals — another January signing — and almost immediately became a stabilizing presence for the '07 St. Louis team that did its best to cope with the April death of reliever Josh Hancock. Franklin appeared in 69 games that season, third-most on the team. The next year, he led the team with 17 saves after inheriting the closer's role from the injured Jason Isringhausen. Now, he's one of the top ninth-inning guys in the NL. "He's had to earn his way back," one player agent said Tuesday. "He was shunned initially. He was a 'nobody' for a while." Now, he should be celebrated in the same way as Hamilton. That's the only way to avoid perpetuating the double standards that have thus far prevented complete healing in baseball. Drugs of abuse are forgivable, steroids are not. It's OK to return to the field after a steroid suspension, as long as you don't earn awards or make the Hall of Fame. Enough. Ryan Franklin paid his debt to baseball in 2005. No one — including Franklin — should forget that he made a mistake. But he should be honored on Tuesday night, along with the rest of our imperfect heroes, an ideally-flawed All-Star for these complicated times.
Tagged: Indians, Tigers, Reds, Cardinals, Rockies, Rays, Jason Isringhausen, Ryan Franklin, Rafael Betancourt, Curtis Granderson

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