“This is BS. I am completely innocent.” — Ryan Braun, December 2011.
“I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.” Braun, December 2012
“When you know you’re innocent of something, it’s extremely difficult to prove it in a process where you’re 100 percent guilty until you’re proven innocent.” — Braun, February 2012
“‘I realize now…’ and right there I checked out.” — Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy
“The sample collector that Braun bashed and tore apart should get the rest of Braun’s entire contract.” — former A’s pitcher and current ESPN analyst Mark Mulder
”Watching him talk right now makes me sick. I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I’ll be taking down. I don’t want my son identifying what I’ve worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have – I don’t want him comparing Braun to me.” — Dodgers outfield Skip Schumaker
Fifteen years ago, players like Ryan Braun ran rampant.
Too strong a statement? Probably. But you can’t deny the arrogance proudly on display from players like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and others who enhanced their performances chemically.
What is different now versus then is the outcry from Braun’s fellow players. You could expect former MLB greats to sound off on what Braun’s stern denials of drug use and what appears to be his Biogenesis line to all sorts of disallowed substances means to the game. But look at the comments from McCarthy, Schumaker and others.
This simply would not have happened when baseball — and many fans — essentially turned a blind eye to the obvious in the 1990s and early 2000s. Would not have happened, at least not for the media’s benefit.
Were players scared to step forward? Likely so. The union was continuing its defend-at-all-costs, baseball-be-damned approach, and the blowback from the media only seemed to steel the union’s backbone. As I remember, there was very little public support for the players who were clean, and especially for those who decided to speak up.
Man, how things have changed.
Personally, I love the fact Braun has largely (unfortunately, not universally) been blasted for his lies. I understand a lot of pundits and talking heads have taken to hyperbole to express their shock (!) and dismay about Braun. That’s wasted effort, especially now that players are finally stepping forward.
It’s a total change, and it’s the only one which can move the sport forward. It’s the change from within needed to start marginalizing the baseball drug culture.
The thing that’s needed now is a bigger stick. A 100-game suspension or the 65 games Braun is receiving simply won’t do. Players are increasingly calling for a no-strike policy — you’re busted, you’re confirmed, you’re done. You’re out of the game.
Another option likely won’t happen for years, but it’s worth considering. Listening to Kansas City’s 610 Sports this week, The Drive hosts Danny Parkins, Carrington Harrison and Jayice Pearson discussed linking a contract status to drug use. In short, you’re caught and your club can void your deal. After burying their heads in the closest sand for so long, and with the public tide on drug use dramatically turning — as evidenced by Braun — it only makes sense for owners to jump on the PR train before it leaves them behind. The union may balk, but I think you might be surprised to see how many players approve the idea if it can feasibly clean up the game even more.
I’m not stupid. The drug culture is simply going underground for now. But the response of players to Ryan Braun and the others likely doomed by Biogenesis is encouraging for baseball moving forward — and keeping that drug culture on the margins of the sport instead of near its heart.
“I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” — Braun, July 22.
“The truth still hasn’t changed.” — Braun, July 9.
No, Ryan, it hasn’t. You and every other cheater, regardless of the sport, need to be banned.