The first punitive shoe of the Biogenesis clinic investigation has finally dropped.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season. The ban, which was announced by Major League Baseball on Monday evening, totals 65 games and is the first handed down against any of the players who have been linked to the lab in South Florida that has reportedly been involved in the distribution of performance enhancing drugs.
The suspension was a settlement of sorts; the product of negotiation.
And by becoming the first player to come to the bargaining table, Braun has seemingly gotten off very, very easy.
Under the terms of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement and its joint drug prevention and treatment program, a first-time performance enhancing substance offense carries a mandatory 50-game suspension.
Technically speaking, this constitutes Braun’s first official offense. However, the commissioner’s office had previously sought to suspend the Brewers star in 2012 after a urine sample tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Braun challenged the integrity of the sample by attacking its chain of custody, and won on appeal.
Some reports had indicated that baseball would seek a 100-game suspension against the 2011 National League MVP. Others suggested Bud Selig wanted to pursue a lifetime ban. The idea was that Braun had, in fact, committed multiple violations of baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy – in one sense by his actions and in another by lying about his PED use and connection to Biogenesis.
In light of those reports, 65 games is definitely not as bad as it could be. And when you consider the current state of the Brewers as added context, 65 games looks more like a slap on the wrist than actual, substantive punishment.
Milwaukee’s 2013 season is, for all intents and purposes, over. The club is 41-57, the second worst team in the National League. They are 19 games out of first place in the NL Central, and 14.5 games back of the final Wild Card berth.
The Brewers, and Braun, really have nothing to play for this season. So sitting out the remainder of this wasted year is relatively meaningless.
Instead of what could have been a 100-game suspension that carried over into the 2014 season, Braun will serve out his 65 games and be ready to start back, fresh, at the beginning of next year.
Some writers have gotten a little over anxious and penned articles tabbing Braun as the biggest villain in baseball today. While Braun is no saint – he obviously lied about PED use, but find me one busted player who hasn’t – I don’t think his reputation will suffer much from Monday’s announced suspension.
After the 2012 incident with the urine sample, we all suspected Braun was guilty of PED use. That ended up having little impact on how we have viewed the All-Star this season. Fans still bought his jersey. Fans still sought his autograph. Fans still roared each time he lifted another long, fly ball into the seats of Miller Park.
Ours is a forgiving society, especially for players who produce on the field. Braun has done nothing but that throughout his career.
The excitement of next year’s Spring Training will wash away fans’ disappointment in Braun’s past decision making, just as it did to begin this season despite our suspicions. And at least while in the moment, all any of us will care about are the slugger’s OPS, his home run total, his WAR.
Sure, accepting this suspension may affect whether Braun is deemed worthy by the baseball writers of America for the Hall of Fame. But those discussions won’t be relevant for many years, and the climate and perception about performance enhancing drugs’ legacy in baseball might significantly change by then.
All of this begs one question. If the punishment, in truth, is so light, why would Major League Baseball be willing to cut Braun such a deal?
For one thing, Braun’s acceptance of the punishment bolsters the credibility of Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis and baseball’s key witness in this whole scandal. It makes us all realize that the evidence the MLB has collected against the players connected to the clinic is substantial – substantial enough to convince one of the players with the most to lose to accept his fate.
It also gives the commissioner’s office needed momentum to reenergize the public on this issue. After month’s of what has seemed liked endless investigation, Monday’s news was the first real indication that a payoff is in sight.
More than 80 players’ names appear in Biogenesis documents baseball has received from Bosch. Just how many are being targeted for suspension remains unclear.
What Braun’s negotiated suspension does tell us is that the evidence baseball has is real, and at least as it pertains to some of those players, is going to be damning.
Now we wait for the remaining shoes to begin dropping.