Braun suspension great for baseball

BY Ken Rosenthal • July 22, 2013

Anyone who suggests that Ryan Braun got off easy not only is wrong but also misses the point.

This notion that Braun will miss "only" 65 games and forfeit "only" about $3.4 million, or slightly more than 2 percent of his projected career earnings . . . please. Braun’s name is ruined. His reputation is shattered. He forever will be an object of scorn.

Baseball got Braun on Monday, got him but good. Some might view the day as a sad one for the game, another “black eye” for the sport. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Monday was a great day for the commissioner’s office, a great day for the players’ union, a great day for the Joint Drug Agreement and, yes, a great day for all of those players who want the sport cleaned up once and for all.

The developments — to those of us who remember how bitterly the union fought testing for performance-enhancing drugs — were nothing short of astonishing:

• Braun, the first player to have a positive test for PEDs overturned on appeal — and a player who repeatedly claimed he had “nothing to hide” — accepted a suspension without pay for the rest of the season.

• Union chief Michael Weiner reacted by saying, “I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” adding that Braun’s suspension “vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Agreement.”

• Baseball, after pursuing its own players in an aggressive, controversial investigation that I recently described as “unseemly,” proved that the end justified the means — and, rest assured, Braun was only the start.

The sport’s testing program obviously is not foolproof. Gaps exist, as evidenced by the fact that Braun and others were caught only through their association with Biogenesis, a now-defunct anti-aging clinic in South Florida.

But baseball, through its investigation of Biogenesis, demonstrated that it will not be bound solely by the testing program in its pursuit of PED users. It also demonstrated that its investigators are capable of breaking a player as defiant and lawyered-up as Braun.

The union, meanwhile, demonstrated that it no longer will be obstructionist in baseball’s efforts to eliminate PEDs, but a willing and effective partner, even at the expense of a highly paid star.

Instead of mounting a vigorous defense of Braun, the union reacted not only to the evidence against him, but also the wishes of its members — the silent majority turned vocal, the players who are tired of being cheated by people like Ryan Braun.

Alex Rodriguez is on deck for the Biogenesis All-Stars, and his penalty almost certainly will be stiffer than Braun’s, just based upon what is publicly known. The original Miami New Times report said that A-Rod’s name appeared 16 times in Biogenesis documents that were reviewed by its writers and editors. Braun, on the other hand, was not even mentioned in the original New Times article.

No, Braun’s name did not surface until eight days later, when Yahoo! Sports reported that it had obtained three Biogenesis records showing Braun’s name. Braun confirmed his involvement with Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch to Yahoo!, but said it was only through his attorneys, who consulted with Bosch while preparing Braun’s appeal of his positive test.

In his statement on Monday, Braun did not specify why he was suspended. Let’s just say this: He would not have accepted 65 games if his only offense was employing attorneys who had consulted with Bosch.

No, baseball had more on Braun — much more.

It is not clear how the two sides arrived at 65 games for his suspension, but one source said that baseball did not pursue a greater number and then compromise; such pressure wasn’t necessary.

Braun, by fighting discipline, would have risked details of his conduct becoming public. Instead, he issued a vague statement as part of baseball’s official announcement, saying, “I realize now I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”

The entire turn of events was stunning, even though for weeks reports have circulated about suspensions and even of players cutting deals with baseball.

In previous columns, I questioned whether Bosch would be a credible enough witness, whether baseball could overcome the usual vigorous defenses from players, whether the investigation would damage relations between the commissioner’s office and the union.

Those columns reflected a sensibility from a different era, an era when the two sides were almost always at the odds. Obviously, Braun is just one case, and maybe even an exception; Weiner has said that the union will fight for “players who don’t deserve suspensions.” But, my, how times have changed.

Baseball got Braun, got him but good, got him with the union’s blessing.

Monday was a great day, all right — a great day for everyone but Ryan Braun.