The Ryan Braun story is top news and rightfully so. There are many who are happy that Braun won his appeal and many who aren't. To me the main story has little to do with the decision by the arbitrator, it has everything to do with how did we get back to this point. I had hoped we were done with the steroid era and the suspicions of cheating in baseball. Gone are Rafael Palmiero, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and most of the others we associate with cheating the game.
You see, what makes baseball so special to me is its history and tradition. I know football is king now, but how many of you can name even 10 football players pre- 1970? Not many of you. But in baseball we know all about Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio etc…. So to me the worst part of the steroid era was having precious records broken by those who cheated the game. Having the single-season home-run record of Roger Maris, one of the great records in all of sports, demolished by cheaters hurt me and many baseball diehards.
So it was great to see Major League Baseball come up with a comprehensive drug testing policy that was going to keep the cheaters from cheating. Keep the records from being shattered by those not playing fair. We can't do anything about the numbers that Sosa, McGwire, Palmiero and Clemens put up now. Their doom is in the public perception of them now - their legacies are tarnished, they are branded as cheaters. Most of those cheaters will never get into the Hall of Fame without a ticket. And for that I am grateful.
What is Braun's end result? Why did he test positive? Why was his testosterone level 5x higher than normal? If there is an answer to that will he take it to the grave with him or someday tell us his secret? I thought Pete Rose would go to his grave with his secret, but eventually he spilled his guts and let the world know he was betting on baseball.
No matter what the end result is for Braun, the perception of him as a cheater will follow him throughout his career and beyond. And the belief that we had passed the era of players cheating is now gone. In some ways we are back to square one, not trusting the players and not trusting the testing policy.
And that is sad for baseball.