SBD/July 23, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB's Suspension Of Braun Heralded As First Major Step In Cleaning Up The Sport

MLB yesterday suspended Brewers LF Ryan Braun for the remainder of the '13 season and it was "a great day for the commissioner's office, a great day for the players' union, a great day for the Joint Drug Agreement and, yes, a great day for all of those players who want the sport cleaned up once and for all," according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. MLB demonstrated that it will "not be bound solely by the testing program in its pursuit of PED users." The MLBPA demonstrated that it "no longer will be obstructionist in baseball's efforts to eliminate PEDs, but a willing and effective partner, even at the expense of a highly paid star." Instead of "mounting a vigorous defense of Braun, the union reacted not only to the evidence against him, but also the wishes of its members -- the silent majority turned vocal, the players who are tired of being cheated by people like Ryan Braun" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/23). ESPN's Buster Olney said people in MLB "in general are very complimentary tonight of the strides" the league has taken in the PED issue. Olney: "This is a home run for them and it looks like there's more home runs to come" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 7/22). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes this is "a great day for baseball." The suspension of Braun is "just the beginning of a drug bust of significant magnitude, a painful yet encouraging sign that someday -- perhaps in the distant future, but someday -- Major League Baseball will be able to say it is clean, or almost clean" (USA TODAY, 7/23).

THIS IS HOW IT ALL BEGINS
: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has "taken a huge step toward erasing what he considered to be a blight on his reign and on baseball’s drug-testing plan; he landed the one that got away" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan writes with Braun, MLB had its "proof that even the boy next door can run afoul of the league's drug program -- and that MLB, for so many years having profited on the backs of PED users, had grown enough spine to spend millions of dollars in pursuing and punishing those who violate it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/22). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes it "might be an awful day for Braun, his family and the Brewers, but it's a day MLB will celebrate, knowing it just sent a message that will reverberate forever" (USA TODAY, 7/23). SportsNet N.Y.'s Sal Licata said, "It's one good thing that Major League Baseball has the gumption to be able to do this and take down one of their superstars like Ryan Braun" ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 7/22). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote the Braun suspension "should silence anybody who thinks this investigation is a P.R. game" by MLB (SI.com, 7/22). In Illinois, Mike Imrem writes the "impression is that MLB really is trying to catch and punish cheaters as opposed to when McGwire and Sosa chased Roger Maris" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/23).

CHANGING TIDES: CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller wrote the "most significant change in the players' union over the past decade is this: Today's players are fully behind a comprehensive performance-enhancing drug testing program." The players a decade ago "sat silent as Don Fehr refused to even think about consenting to testing." So today's "enlightened players deserve a lot of credit for attempting to root out the cheats and clean up the game" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/22). MLB Network’s Tom Verducci said that the “evidence that the MLB investigators obtained” in the Biogenesis investigation is “the game changer here.” That helped facilitate a "sea change in position from the union in just the last couple of weeks.” Verducci: “When presented with that evidence now you have the union saying, ‘You know, it’s a good thing for the game. If you're caught you should pay a penalty. That justifies the agreement that we have with the owners to keep the game clean.'” MLB Net's Harold Reynolds: “We have a different conversation now with the ownership and the union and this, tonight, is a mark of how far that has come to be able to clean the game up” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 7/22).

DOMINO EFFECT? In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes what MLB "really got out of this deal" is a "warning shot fired at all the other players -- more than a dozen, probably -- implicated in the Biogenesis scandal." That should tell Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez "something, and that is not 'deny and fight'" (L.A. TIMES, 7/23). CBSSPORTS.com's Danny Knobler wrote MLB officials were "no doubt thrilled that Braun was willing to go down with so little fight this time." MLB likely is hoping that Braun's deal "will help push other players to do the same, avoiding a lengthy appeals process and the possibility of any suspensions being overturned" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/22). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote, "Credit baseball for assembling a strong enough case to make him cave without a fight, and possibly setting the dominoes in motion for further deals" (ESPN.com, 7/22). However, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote MLB "cannot make sweeping statements about its juicing era sliding into the past, or get too overconfident about its testing regimen or its aggression in cases like Biogenesis." Corners have "been cut and will continue to be cut; it's the nature of business" (WSJ.com, 7/22).

PLAYERS, MANAGERS REACT: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Braun's deal is "another black eye for our game." Girardi: "He's guilty. You don't accept a deal unless you're guilty. And it's disappointing." Mariners P Joe Saunders: "It should have been a year's suspension, at least. ... I don't get why guys have to do that stuff. It's almost like, really just a slap on the wrist." Marlins manager Mike Redmond: "It baffles me that this continues to be a black cloud over the game. I know Major League Baseball's done a great job of cleaning up the game and the testing policy and all that. And it's working. But at the same time, too, it seems like we'll go through a lull and then, bam, here comes another guy that gets suspended. It's got to stop." Marlins P Kevin Slowey: "Guys I think are glad to know that the process we have in place and the policy we have in place is working" (JSONLINE.com, 7/23). Dodgers CF Skip Schumaker: “He should be suspended -- a lifetime ban. One strike, you’re out. It’s enough. It’s ridiculous.” Angels manager Mike Scioscia: “It’s a black eye when something like this happens” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/23). Rangers P Joe Nathan: “We want this game clean. We want this game played on a level playing field and the process is working. This definitely lets guys know that if you’re going to do something you’re going to get caught. The program is working” (ESPN.com, 7/22). Mets 3B David Wright: “It just proves that the system that we have in place is working. It shows that guys are going to be punished to the fullest extent if you get caught” (NEWSDAY, 7/23). D'Backs P J.J. Putz: “All we can do is look to the future and hopefully have a cleaner, better brand of baseball for the fans” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/23).
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