Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ryan Braun, Others Targeted by Angry Bud Selig

Bud Selig is mad. I mean, he's pissed, man. He's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.

Selig is tired of his sport being torn down by steroid cheats.

If you don't believe he's mad, look at what he's reportedly about to do.

Commissioner Bud Selig's office is expected to suspend (Ryan) Braun and (Alex) Rodriguez, along with as many as 20 players sometime after next week's All-Star break, for their roles in the Biogenesis case, several sources told "Outside the Lines." As OTL reported, MLB started building cases against the players last month after Bosch agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The question is the length of the suspensions.

Sources said the commissioner's office was considering 100-game bans for Braun and Rodriguez, the punishment for a second offense, even though neither player was previously suspended for violating MLB's drug policy.

The argument, one source said, would be that they -- and possibly other players -- committed multiple offenses by receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Bosch and by lying about it.

Yeah, he's going to do that.

(I'm not going to touch the 100-game bit. Hardball Talk already nailed that.)

Listen, I'm not in favor of steroids or steroid users. I think PEDs should be pushed out of sports, but I'm also not stupid. It isn't going to happen.

But let's not hide from what's going on here. Selig wants to catch high-profile PED users in his sport (no, Melky Cabrera doesn't qualify), and his testing system is apparently antiquated to the point where any advanced user is able to beat the system.

In other words, baseball has -- before our very eyes -- turned into cycling, another sport where it seems participants are assumed guilty until proven innocent because no one can believe in the athlete being clean anymore.

It no longer matters if the athlete looks everyone in the eye and denies using anything, and it sure as hell doesn't matter if the athlete passes drug test after drug test. Just ask Lance Armstrong. Or Barry Bonds.


No Brewers fan wants to believe Braun juiced. But the facts make it impossible to believe he didn't juice. Yes, Braun has been betrayed by the system that was supposed to protect him. He's faced endless scrutiny since word leaked that he failed a test and was facing a suspension.

If anything is worse than MLB's handling of the Biogenesis case, it's MLB's inability to keep this stuff secret, despite a policy that clearly calls for confidentiality.

The Biogenesis case is Selig's opportunity to punish people he's been dying to punish. He's wanted to punish Braun and Rodriguez for years, to set an example for players and fans that this stuff isn't going to be tolerated. But he's doing so in this case without either player failing a properly-administered drug test under MLB's policy, a policy Selig helped write and get approved.

Milwaukee scribe Michael Hunt offers this on the situation.

Once you might have asked why Braun would risk his good reputation here by using banned substances. The answer, at least for now, is that he likely stands to lose little locally. If — more likely, when — the 100-game suspension is done, he will return sometime next season as if nothing had happened. Certainly, no one is going to blame him for taking down a season that is already lost.

But beyond the five-county area that finances the house in which he plays, Braun is going to take a nasty hit.

He is somewhat fortunate that the national story will always be led with Alex Rodriguez's name, but the damage will be in the fact his accomplishments from 2011, one of the greatest in franchise history, always will be tainted by the public court Triple Crown of suspicion, disbelief and mistrust.

Baseball is to be applauded for its belated crackdown on cheaters, but this whole slimy Biogenesis affair doesn't exactly have credible sources on either side. Whom to believe? I don't even think that's a legitimate question anymore. Braun has twice been in situations he should have avoided. If he is innocent as he claims of putting banned substances in his body, he certainly is guilty of placing himself in circumstances that project more than a veneer of guilt.

This is well-done by Hunt. It's spot on.

No one wants to take the side of Braun and Rodriguez, especially the latter. Cheaters are the scourge of sports, the guys who make it impossible to truly believe in athletes the way that people used to. But I don't want Braun and Rodriguez suspended because two guys -- Tony Bosch and his partner -- who have virtually zero credibility (they've lied to MLB and other investigators, as well as the media, and now MLB is taking their testimony as gospel to the point that players will be suspended based off it) decided to talk to avoid federal lawsuits. Basically, MLB made a deal with these guys so they could nab the players they want to nab.

This is a personal vendetta by Bud Selig. He doesn't care how he catches players. He wants them caught. CBA and drug policy be damned. By going this route, Selig is unknowingly delegitimizing his own drug policy and testing program.

Braun and Rodriguez (and the others implicated) are hardly innocent here. In fact, they are more than likely guilty of this and probably other drug-type crimes. That's not the point. The point is that MLB crafted rules designed to catch the cheaters. Unable to do so within the auspices of the system, Selig and his cohorts have resorted to means that can't be reasonably justified.

This is a sad time for baseball, for many reasons. He doesn't understand why, but Selig is a huge part of it.

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