As a baseball fan, I’m angry this morning, but probably not for the same reason that you're angry.
Although his actions are indefensible, I'm not angry at Ryan Braun. He used PEDs, lied about it, then admitted guilt with a canned statement. This wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last time that this exact situation plays itself out again.
Braun probably did use (he got off on a technicality last year), but that isn’t the point. The point is that a player was forced to admit guilt based on the suspicion of involvement with Anthony Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic, while knowing that he didn’t have the backing of his own union.
I don’t like the precedent this sets.
I’ve had an eternal struggle with PEDs and baseball, a sport that I love, for years. When the bubble first burst in the early 2000s, I joined the torch and pitchfork-wielding mob demanding that MLB clean up their game. However, over the last decade, my anger has slowly eroded away. I’m fine with PED testing, but I’ve come to accept that much like the War on Drugs, this is a battle that is never going to fully be won. Players will always be searching for an edge, and as long as the reward continues to outweigh the risk, some will use. Instead of targeting eradication (a pipe dream), I would rather baseball ramp up the testing and the consequences to discourage usage as much as possible.
I want what’s fair. Players are entitled to due process. I have zero issue with punishments for players with positive tests, as long as legitimate proof and due process are requirements. But, Bud Selig & Co. clearly aren’t happy with that. They want to go beyond their testing system, strip the right of due process, and finger anyone who even has a whiff of PED use. As Dave Zirin said in his fantastic piece this morning, a player “carrying the mere appearance of impropriety now carries the Orwellian stigma of being guilty of a ‘non-analytical positive’.” The burden of proof is now on the players – and they don’t even have a union willing to put up a fight for them.
Sadly, by making this his personal crusade, Selig has allowed performance enhancing drugs to dominate baseball. Instead of talking about rising superstars like Manny Machado and Mike Trout, we’re asking if Chris Davis is using. Instead of discussing the Trade Deadline and the wide open pennant races in both leagues, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Biogenesis fiasco. Selig may think he’s helping the game, but he’s potentially going to cause more harm than good. The ends don’t justify the means. Guilty players might be caught, but how many non-users will be torn down in their wake? Every successful player now has to prove their legitimacy. Sorry, Jeff Bagwell. You were muscular, played in the 1990s, and were teammates with Ken Caminiti. No Hall of Fame for you! Sorry, Mike Piazza. A reporter said he once saw acne on your back in 2003, but not in 2004 once baseball started testing for PEDs. Cheater! You went to the same clinic as Braun and Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz. Prepare for the consequences!
McCarthyism meets Seligism.
Braun may have gotten his, but Major League Baseball is opening up Pandora’s Box with these Biogenesis suspensions. Do we want witch-hunts, unfounded reports, and extortion of information with the elimination of due process and the dissolution of the players union? Even with that, are you ever really going to clean up baseball entirely when users like Braun and Melky Cabrera still earn millions after the fact?
Many are applauding the message that Major League Baseball sent yesterday. I’m not. If baseball has to tear down its players and burn down its game in order to be cleaned up, then I’m not grabbing my torch, nor am I setting any fires.